DEAR MISS MANNERS: Should I let a family member know that her social media posts about her son are reading as negative? I know the written word isn’t always “heard” in the voice the author intends.
My niece-in-law is biracial. She and our nephew just had their first baby, and in her words, he ”really passes as white.” Her first post mentioned her surprise at how white he was, and some read it as negative. But subsequent posts explain her disappointment at his color by saying that she had hoped that she could share her biracial experience with him, and hoped maybe his color would change. These messages are tied up with other posts about Black Lives Matter.
I can’t know what it’s like to grow up biracial, but I know what it’s like to disappoint your parents at birth -- I was a girl, they wanted a boy. That was a single statement, spoken to me only once. I sit here imagining that I had had to read it as a public post, and see that my mother didn’t voice it once, but repeatedly. How would that feel? How much harder would it be to rationalize away?
Social media never goes away, and I don’t want these comments to hurt this child or his relationship with his mom down the road. I’m sure if asked, she’d say she loves her son unconditionally. But if he sees these statements, how can he believe it?
Should I (or someone) say something to her? Or to my nephew? (If my nephew’s mother, my sister-in-law, were still living, I think she’d say something to him. I don’t think his dad would want to rock the boat.)
Should I just stop following her on social media?
GENTLE READER: Yes, if that is the only way to save you from yourself. You are right about the danger of posting qualms about a child, but the damage is done.
So Miss Manners would recommend that you stay far, far away from this. It is personal, both in terms of the racial element and the mother-child relationship, and no good can come from your commenting on it.
Of course, you could argue that your niece started it by putting it out there for public consumption, but you are not the demographic from which she is looking for a response; yours will only exacerbate the situation. Telling a new mother that she is hurting her child will further alienate you from her.
Instead, bolster your grandnephew’s confidence throughout his life by telling him how wonderful, smart and handsome he is (while being careful not to equate any particular skin tone with beauty). Miss Manners feels certain that this is also his mother’s intention, and that what she was posting was not a reflection of her love for the boy.
You will do more good for the relationship and this child’s ultimate well-being this way, than from afar as an estranged family member. Which is what you will likely become if you confront her.