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Interracial Outrage: In-Laws Cut Grandkids’ Hair

‘Tisn’t the season to be jolly in the Shi household, at least according to a mother’s plea on a crowdfunding site. H/T to “Love Life of an Asian Guy” who featured the link on his popular Facebook page.

Jade Shi took to social media pleading for support for new childcare from friends and strangers alike after her in-laws seemingly elected to shave the heads of  the concerned mom’s young sons — both boys are under the age of two — while babysitting. Shi, who is Black and says she is married to a Chinese man, alleges that her husband’s family cut the babies’ curly manes because, “they didn’t want to understand mixed/blasian hair.” She believes their actions are fueled by racism toward the interracial union. While Shi’s outcry on GoFundMe speaks to an immediate crisis regarding childcare, there is a larger issue looming: How do you deal with extended family members who aren’t respectful of interracial or intercultural relationships?

The unfortunate reality is that time — or adorable little ones — doesn’t heal all wounds. There are people who will not be accepting of change and differences, and will attempt to force their will upon others. Additionally, when it comes to parents welcoming the mates of adult their children, race isn’t the only issue. Though biases about looks or stereotypes may arise, there are also more substantive concerns about maintaining language and traditions. If we take a step back, we can see that most folks are likely operating with a mixture of both bias and concerns about losing their culture.  All of the above creates fear and when it isn’t discussed that leads to ignorant, divisive and disrespectful behavior.

While Shi’s story is sad, the good news is that her boys are young and she is being proactive about protecting them from family members who aren’t ready to accept that their clan is changing. But the Shis have a long road ahead. If they plan to maintain any type of relationship with their extended relatives they must determine how they will equip their nuclear family with the tools to ensure their emotional stability. Here are some things for the Shis, and couples in similar situations, to consider:

Create a new normal with mate. Determine what cultural traditions you want to maintain in your new household before speaking to extended relatives. Have a candid discussion of what holds value to each of you and how those priorities and rituals will play out in your new life together.

Take control of the familial relationship. While elders deserve respect and consideration, you don’t need their approval for decisions that will impact your new household. Obviously, this is challenging because if you grew up with decent parents their is an innate desire to please them. Unfortunately, your attempts to make them happy will only give them more perceived power and open the door for them to try to control two households — theirs and yours. Adult children must accept that the parent/child dynamic must change, which means your mother and father may become angry when you don’t obey their directives… and that’s alright.

Be open, honest and firm. Have a frank conversation with your parents/in-laws that thanks them for their love and support, then explains that while you understand that they do not accept some of your choices you cannot tolerate disrespect from them. Give examples of the types of behaviors that you find insulting (condescending remarks, taking liberties with little ones, etc…), share how they make you feel and explain that you cannot allow the emotional or verbal abuse to continue — and hit them with the consequence. Those actions will be addressed every time they occur and if your “loved ones” cannot be respectful you will be forced to distance yourself.

Protect your little ones’ self-esteem. Children are the innocent bystanders in the midst of adult chaos. Parents must be mindful of what is said to them in your presence because it is only a small indication of what is uttered when you are not around. That said, don’t leave your kids vulnerable to harsh, ignorant comments. If you have relatives that don’t support you, they will not be good or fair to your children. Don’t leave your youngsters alone with them.

Find a supportive community.While you continue to work on your familial relationships look for friends and support groups to create a village of people who can provide you with positive energy, role modeling and love.

Accept that there will be challenges. There will be good and bad times with family members. Be open to olive branches from relatives, but do not allow them to emotionally manipulate you into accepting behavior that you don’t deserve just because you miss them. Demand the respect you give.

S. Tia Brown is the Lifestyle Director at EBONY, a licensed therapist and believes in love and the promise that it gives. Follow her @tiabrowntalks.