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How to Deal With Ignorant Comments From Loved Ones

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January 6, 2015

I celebrated my two week holiday break from school by going back home and spending time with my family. I loved seeing them and was happy to have some quality time with my sisters and parents.

Still, a lot of my time at home is spent biting my tongue, passive-aggressively sighing and angrily venting to my friends. You see, my parents aren’t the most well-versed in social justice issues.

I love my parents a lot. I am incredibly grateful of all that they have sacrificed and all the hard work that they have put forth to make sure that they have a great life. I recognize that having loving parents is a privilege that many do not have.

But sometimes, I don’t love my parents. Sometimes, they say ignorant remarks. Sometimes, they speak in a hateful manner. Sometimes, they are not the smart, nurturing, kind people who raised me.

My parents were raised in a totally different environment than I was. Where I had the opportunity to educate myself and learn new things around the people and issues that surround me—thank you, Internet—they did not (for reference, my parents both grew up in very poor, white, not-at-all-progressive communities).

A big issue that I’ve had to wrestle with is how do you love someone, or even just like someone, who makes ignorant and hateful comments? Do you cut ties? Do you confront? Do you sit in silence, because you don’t want to start an argument?

I think each person has to come to this decision on their own. How much does the offender mean to you? How bad or frequent are their comments? Does their presence hurt you more than it helps?

For me, it’s about the effort they put forth. Most friends and family know by now that I’m a feminist and that I believe in human rights and equality. They know not to poke the bear, for lack of a better phrase, or that I might launch into an argument or explanation.

If I see that they respect my beliefs and are making an effort to educate themselves, then a slip-up here or there is okay. We all make mistakes; we all had to start somewhere.

Here’s a confession: way back, a long time ago, before I knew anything about social justice and activism and being a good person, I probably used to say some bad things. But a big part of social justice is educating yourself and becoming a better person.

So if I see someone rejecting their past ignorance and embracing an idea or thought—even one that I told them in the first place—it makes loving them worth it. Progress is progress, no matter how small.

So how do you love someone who says things you hate? Here’s how:

The other night, I was riding in the car with my parents. My mom turned to me and asked, “What’s the deal with Taylor Swift? Why do people hate her?”

I mentioned that many people don’t like how she dates a “lot” of people. My mom replied—“But it’s not like she’s even sleeping with a lot of people…but I guess that wouldn’t even matter, would it?”

My parents make ignorant remarks, yes. But they try. Educating yourself and removing bad habits is a process. My mother has 53 years (don’t tell her I told you that) of ignorant thinking to get past. To me, some mistakes are worth it, as long as she’s trying.

The other night, she recognized that slut-shaming is a problem. We went on to have a discussion about how female celebrities—and non-celebrities too—are judged more harshly than men. I told her about “girl hate.” She listened. She responded.

I don’t think my trips home will ever be without some eye rolls or some arguments, but hey, we’re getting there.

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