Care and Feeding

My Husband Thinks I’m Turning Our Kid Against His Culture

The country doesn’t have a great human rights record.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My husband and I are Americans. He immigrated from one of those countries that doesn’t have a great human rights record. Regardless, I think it’s important that our kids have pride in their cultural and ethnic background. When our first child was born, my husband did not contribute much to sharing his culture, which meant the job was left to me. I didn’t think too much of it, as he pulls his weight for the family in general and never seemed too into his background. Luckily, I had a friend with parents who immigrated from that same country and who runs a cultural center with a kids’ program. My friend and I are not fans of the country politically, and we often chat about this while we sit with my kid at a café after the cultural center programs.

My kid recently repeated some of what we had been talking about, critiquing the country, to my husband. He was pissed because he has family there and felt I was trying to turn our kid against their shared identity. I’m frustrated because my husband had many opportunities to discuss what he wanted our kid to learn. My kid is old enough to know the full picture. Do I have to play nice and claim there are two sides to human rights violations?

— Hawk That Wants to Squawk

Dear H.T.W.S.,

You don’t have to claim there are two sides to human rights violations; however, I’m confused by the fact that you, too, come from a country with a history of human rights violations dating back to when this land was first stolen from its indigenous inhabitants, continuing through the systems of chattel slavery and other forms of stolen labor used to build it, and still made evident by the deaths of unarmed citizens at the hands of the state and the measures taken to legislate the bodies of women and trans people, etc. You are throwing stones from inside a glass house, and as you do so, you fail to recognize that it is the ruling class of this other country that is responsible for the way it treats its citizens—just like here in the U.S.A. You thought highly enough of one of this nation’s sons to marry and have a child with him; how do you differentiate between him and his country? Do you think he’s special or different?

The tables could so easily be turned on you, honeybun. People across the globe look down their noses at Americans because we are a deep-fried shitshow with nearly half the population chomping at the bit to convince us that their fascist, disgraced former president is actually meant to still be in charge. Humble yourself fast, and remember that 1) Your son is as much of these people as he is of your background, and you need to have some respect for what he comes from—even if you disagree with the country’s prevailing politics, and 2) the people of your husband’s native land deserve to be understood for who they are and how they survive these violations—it sounds like there is a lack of empathy and concern for them beneath your contempt for the bad guys.

Sit with this. Apologize to your husband. Work with him to conceptualize an appropriate way to integrate his culture into your son’s life.

—Jamilah

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