Do Words Hurt If You Don’t Intend Them To?

This is the most difficult post I’ve written so far. And I am really struggling about how to deal with this with my mom. I was brought up in a very liberal Democrat household. I remember as kids we were brought up to be respectful of all people … black, white, Asian, Latino. We lived in an old mill town in RI with people from all incomes.

Heck, my grandparents both came over here from Europe — one from Portugal, the other from Poland. They lived among other immigrants. My dad had a funny sounding Polish name until he changed it. My mom’s family had olive skin. In fact, my grandfather on my mom’s side is also part Native American Indian.

So here’s what has me in a tizzy. My mom refers to any dark-skinned person as colored or Negroes. I never remember any member of my family saying this in my household. I’ve tried to tell her that it’s not kind or politically correct to use terms that might be hurtful or insensitive to other people. We have this discussion every week, week after week. I’m ready to pull my hair out because when she says something like this it literally makes my stomach turn.

I know she doesn’t mean it. But my worst fear is she’ll be out in public and say something offensive. How do you tell someone you love that words hurt, even if she doesn’t mean it? Any suggestions?  I’m sure I’m not the first person to deal with old-found prejudices, buried deep, now rearing their head.

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3 responses to “Do Words Hurt If You Don’t Intend Them To?

  1. Mary Ann, We were brought up Republican and were brought up to respect any and all people and also not to use hurtful names for anyone. I don’t think that trait is confined to liberal Democrats. I think these assumptions keep people apart. My grandmother lost (as her Dr said) “all her social screens”. Her ability to be polite just went away. Her cognitive functioning was impaired. I think your are blessed that she says colored. My 99 y/o grandmother kept saying they shouldn’t be on a certain side of the bridge in Palm Beach after dark. All of her caregivers were from all walks of life. It only made them angry if we said something, which made us more frustrated. We just tried to apologize to the people she said hurtful things too. It was all we could do because we couldn’t stop her! I really feel your pain in this issue!

  2. Mom has found your hot button! Mary Ann…. has it ever occurred to you that Mom has found a sure way to get your attention? You are having this discussion every week, week after week. And she’s loving every minute of it.

    • Joy,

      Got it. That makes perfect sense. I think Pam also makes sense with her comment about older folks losing their filter. But I think the attention factor is in play here. That helps me put this in better perspective. Now I have to think about how to better respond.

      M-A

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