DEAR HARRIETTE: I heard somebody who I thought was my friend use a slur about immigrants specific to my country of origin. He didn’t know I was listening, but I am shocked to learn he speaks this way about any immigrants, and specifically those from my home country, behind my back.
I haven’t spoken to my friend since. When he calls me, I let it go to voicemail. I have claimed that I'm too busy to hang out with him, but I’m afraid this excuse won't work much longer. Do I owe this person an explanation as to why I refuse to speak to him anymore? In my mind this isn’t a loss of a good friend, but I know he will be confused when he realizes I have iced him out. -- Cut Off, Savannah, Georgia
DEAR CUT OFF: The only way for us to turn the tide of xenophobia is to confront it. Walking away from your friend without letting him know why creates confusion without resolution. It is critical for you to contact your friend, sit with him face-to-face and let him know what you heard and how you feel about it. Tell him how hurt you are that he would speak in such a derogatory way about any immigrant group and that it was especially hurtful knowing that he was talking about your heritage.
Ask him to explain himself. Why would he speak like that? Does he realize how inappropriate his comments were? Ask him how he would feel if he heard you talking negatively about him or his people.
Yes, this conversation will be hard, but you need to remember that you have integrity on your side. Stand up for yourself, for your immigrant community, for humanity. Let your friend know that his words cut you to the core. You know now that he is not your friend. Make it clear to him why.