Everyone here has heard their grandparents say something racist at some point.
Or maybe something not even like completely racist, but very unsavory. Something that just doesn't sound right. Or something that is completely innocent, but is said in a way that just seems to be filled with racist subtext. As in, "Why is it whenever grandpa says rice I suddenly feel unclean?"
You're not alone.
Part of it is simply that times have changed. The way they view race is completely off by modern standards. So that even if they think they are saying something progressive it ends up being completely repugnant. They are stuck in an outdated paradigm.
Another part of it is simply that a greater percentage of people were just damn racists. While admitting racism was never in vogue, the social stigmas associated with racist acts, comments, and thoughts simply weren't around to pound out the racist teachings of the previous generation.
Not that racism is gone today. In fact, far too many (white) people underestimate the devastating effects that racism is still having on our society, but that isn't the point of this post.
The point is that in these situations, where grandparents say something we find reprehensible, we all react the same way. Sinking to the back of our chair, cringing silently, and shaking our heads, mixed with mortification and maybe some gentle prodding to be slightly more considerate in the future. But for the most part we are frozen.
We don't really call them on their BS because
1) At this point they've kinda earned it
2) There isn't anything we can say that's going to change things
3) We're shocked into submission (hearing something so unexpected can be jarring)
4) As the grandchild they spoiled us and let us have all the candy we wanted while our parents said "no." So if our parents said any of the things our grandparents say we'd go off on them, but out grandparents we spoil and let them have all the racism they want (while shaking our head in disbelief and sad)
We forgive situations like pulling up behind a car with Mexican plates and our grandfather saying that they should waterproof the car and when we ask "why," he says, "because it's full of wetbacks."
Even if my silence is tacit approval of saying something I find disturbing, I can't help it. What can I do?
What do you do when your grandparents say something racist?