Every week, Dear Prudence answers additional questions from readers, just for Slate Plus members.
Q. Want to speak up: I’m married to a Latino and we live in his country of origin. I am white and have had many conversations with my family about race, especially after my husband and I met. My sister-in-law just posted a racist, anti-vax talking point (migrants at the border not needing vaccines, yet hardworking Americans are mandated) and I saw red. My husband was upset by the post as well. I’m going to confront my sister-in-law, which I know will cause a rift as everyone tiptoes around her (she has the only grandchild). My husband wants me to leave it be and not say anything as he feels he would be the cause of turmoil.
So my question is what should I do? I feel that to have us respected as a couple and members of the family, I need to have this conversation. But on the other hand, I want to respect his perspective and feelings on how to handle this. He’s my person and I want to protect him, but what is the best way to do that in this situation?
A: Ask yourself honestly: Would you be having this confrontation because of your values around race and immigration, or to stand up for your husband? I realize those things might be intertwined—possibly, you feel more passionate about your views as a result of your marriage—but try to sort out whether you care about these issues separate from your relationship. If you do, I think you’re well within your rights to say something to your sister-in-law. And you should do it without mentioning your husband at all.
But your husband might be onto something. The tell is how you said you need to have this conversation “to have us respected as a couple and members of the family.” If your main motivation is to defend your husband and people who look like him, and he’s telling you he doesn’t want to be defended, listen.
My biological father was emotionally and verbally abusive to my sister and me when we were young, and my mother divorced him. Therapy helped us repair the relationship somewhat, but it’s become increasingly clear that my dad is a white supremacist. He makes comments to strangers like “This is America. You speak English here. If you’re coming here, at least have the decency to learn our language or go back to Mexico.” What kind of a father says these things in front of his Mexican-American daughters? (My mom’s family came from Mexico.) I’ve also heard him say “Black lives don’t matter” and “Homosexuality is wrong.”
I stopped talking to him last year. The last time we texted, I told him that I had recently been asked if I was “legal.” His response was simply, “Rights change.” That is the message I have had burned in my mind since June: “Rights change.” I’ve washed my hands of him, but he still wants to talk to me, I hear. Should I?