My boyfriend has a white in-law, and now I’ve discovered their extreme ignorance. Am I obligated to protect him?

I have a white boyfriend’s parents. I love them and I have a lot of respect for my in-laws, but their worldview is narrow, and they contribute nothing of value to the conversation of diversity. When we’re around them they are surprisingly ignorant. I learned this when I first met them, and I’ve just gotten to a point in my relationship where I wish we could get past that. Why should I have to teach them this stuff?

I think this is a great question. Theirs is a white working-class American family, one that values conformity and culture, and hasn’t been exposed to many (if any) social innovators in pop culture, media, or politics. Who has taken these inroads and spun them into enlightenment? Unfortunately, this won’t get you very far if the home experience is purely model-white, and no society has been less open to outsiders than America.

Unfortunately, if you have to deal with this kind of ignorance, I don’t think your first step is to write him off. He’s not the cause, he’s just a representative of America. So maybe we’re not quite so different from him than we think we are. Perhaps he really is interested in the issues around race, and you just don’t have much of a relationship. Not every country deals with race as well, or indeed any prejudice, as America does. So you’ll have to direct your attention elsewhere.

It’s also possible that your boyfriend is concerned about his relationship, and has decided to dump you over his relatives. If you’re genuinely devoted to him, then you should figure out how to manage this without ending things. Tell him you’re not quite sure you can put up with this any longer. Then, while he’s in a few weeks’ time, watch him casually ask other kids the question that you’ve been asking him: Do you know where Canada is? Do you know where Belgium is?

He’ll then have to start organizing trips to your country. Alternatively, you could be a little less aggressive and start visiting him’s family on their side. You’ll probably have to put up with the occasional inconvenient exchange — you might have to field some remarks about how “my family are bad people” or “my family are racist,” for example — but you’ll have gotten a little more well-rounded in understanding other people’s perspectives. You’ll also have had time to develop a warmer connection with them.

And that does make you sound a bit more badass, I guess.

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