What if your family is racist and you’ve started interracial dating? Check out how you can break the news, play down the law, and even change their mind. 

It’s 2017 and racism is nothing like it used to be, but there are still some hardcore racists out there. What happens when your family is a pack of them, and you’ve fallen for someone who doesn’t share your skin color? 

It’s a powder keg of a situation. Whether it’s a disaster fraught with arguments and threats of disownmentor it turns out delightfully well depends on how you play your cards. Don’t give up on your significant other and don’t leave your family behind; here’s how you can handle having a interracial relationship if your family is racist.  

1. Keep Your Relationship Private At First

Even if your family would approve of your interracial dating,it’s wise to keep budding romance private for the first few weeks or months. You don’t need outside pressure or opinion getting in the way. In this unique situation, though, it’s even more important to build a strong foundation with your significant other before you take on the storm. If it doesn’t work out, there’s no need to rock the boat, and if it’s love, then you’ll need that strong bond to help you both through the trouble that’s about to come. 

2. Praise Them to Your Family Before They Meet – and Don’t Mention Their Race

Before you ever bring your special someone back home for dinner, build them up in your family’s eyes. When you’re shopping with your mom, mention that you’ve been seeing someone and how great they are. When you’re watching football with your dad, talk about how successful they are and how much they make you laugh. Never mention their race. Your family will naturally assume your partner shares your race and instead be endeared to the person they are, which will make it more difficult to dislike them once they discover their race. Now, you’ll be in hot water if your family specifically asks whether they’re black, white, Asian, etc. You know your family and what questions they’ll ask, so if you can, follow this tip. If not, skip ahead:

3. Break the News Before Bringing the Date Home for Dinner

Even after endearing your family to your new partner, don’t just bring them home. This’ll put your family on the spot and likely result in a huge blowup, one that will be more extreme than it may have been otherwise, and one that will definitely make your partner stressed, uncomfortable, or even feel threatened. Instead, it’s time to bite the bullet. Tell them about that wonderful person you’ve been seeing and how you’d like them to meet, but before they do, you have something to say: they’re [insert race].

4. Stress Your Happiness and How Much Your Value Your Family Relationship

The backlash will come – so it’s important to focus on a common ground you share with your family. They want your happiness, and you both want to keep a strong, happy, healthy relationship with each other. So emphasis how happy your significant other makes you, how much better your life has been since you met them, and if your family mentioned how much brighter you look, remind them – your partner is to thank. Then your soapbox to stand on is: you value your relationship with your family and don’t want it harmed. You love them and want them in your life, just as you want to share this other, fantastic part of your life with them. Make it clear that your choices aren’t harming the family, and in the same way, your family shouldn’t be harming you.  

5. Don’t Ask for Their Permission – Tell Them Your Decision

When you’re trying to convince your family of the above points, it can be easy to take on a submissive role. Especially when the yelling starts, if and when it does. You’ll end up pleading with them to understand. But this is key: you’re telling them your decision, not asking for permission. You’ve already made up your mind. You wouldn’t be doing this if you hadn’t. It’s not wise to phrase it as insensitively as “here’s the facts, jack, get used to it,” but don’t let your soft, loving approach be mistaken for submission. You are your own person and you’ve made your choice. If you present yourself like this, they’ll realize you’re no longer a child they can forbid from things. If they want a relationship with you, they need to learn how to accept things they don’t like in exchange for that relationship. 

6. Give it Time

No matter how well or how badly it goes, give your family time. It may take a few days, or it may take as much as weeks or months. Take a step back and allow them to process this new information. This will be the time where they weight the odds and decide if harming their relationship with you is worth sticking to their racist guns. It’s frustrating, but allowing them to work through this is the key to emerging on the other side with a solid way to move forward. 

7. Let Them Ask for You to Invite Your Significant Other

Even if your family accepts the relationship, don’t offer to bring your special someone home to meet them. They may accept that the relationship exists, but they may not want to be confronted with it. If you force them, it will only lead to a blowup and a negative effect on your significant other. Instead, let your family ask to meet them. This may take months longer than you’d like, but as standard dating procedures go, it’s expected for the family to ask after a while. When they do, it’s a sign they’re ready to act like adults and they’ll behave. If they don’t ask, then they’re avoiding the blowup that will occur as much as you are. It’s a painful realization, but it’s better than the fight. 

Revealing to your racist family that you’ve done what they see as unspeakable is difficult. But it has to be done, and will only get harder the longer you wait. In the worst case, you’ll be forced to choose your partner over your family. In the best case, you’ll change your family’s mindset and welcome them into the 21st century.