Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: My father does not like the guys I date usually, but he especially does not like my current boyfriend because he is black. I have dated all kinds of guys, but my dad has made it abundantly clear that he does not want to get to know this one. I would not say that my dad is prejudiced, because he seems to be very nice to other black people, but I think it is more that he doesn't want me, his daughter, to date an African-American. What should I do? It makes my boyfriend uncomfortable to be around my dad. -- Pleasing My Dad, Bronx, N.Y.

DEAR PLEASING MY DAD: Prejudice is a tricky thing. In theory, people can seem to be either tolerant or even embracing of those who are dissimilar from them. When it comes to a personal situation though, it can be totally different. There is a chance that your father does have some prejudice as it relates to your boyfriend being black. There is also the possibility that he may not realize he harbors any prejudice if it is indeed true.

I would be careful not to be so quick to make that judgment. Unless your father has essentially said as much to you, you may want to consider if there is any other reason that he may not like your boyfriend. When they met, did something happen that could have turned him off? Has your boyfriend ever mistreated you, that your father is aware of? Review your relationship with your boyfriend and the interactions between your father and him.

Go one step further and approach your father about this. Ask him why he is refusing to get to know your boyfriend. Remind him of how valuable you consider his opinion. Ask him if his dislike is because your boyfriend is black. Do your best to discuss the situation fully with him. If your father is being unknowingly prejudiced, he may be willing to reconsider his position if you present it in a way that he can hear.

DEAR HARRIETTE: Two of my siblings recently lost their jobs. We are very close, so I have done my best to support them through this tough period. It is getting hard on me, though. I have a good job, but I also have a family to care for. I have been giving my siblings money almost every month to help them get by, but I realize that I am going to have to stop. I do not want to desert them, but I'm at my limit. How can I break the news to them without creating a greater burden? -- Stretched Too Thin, Silver Spring, Md.

DEAR STRETCHED TOO THIN: Be direct with your siblings, and tell them that you will have to stop supplementing them. This does not mean, however, that you have to stop helping them in other ways. Make sure that they are signed up for unemployment insurance. If they were fired from their jobs, they should be eligible for that. Encourage them to dust off their resumes and actively look for work. Do your best to inspire them to take action.

If they lash out at you, stand your ground. Restate your limitations as you also express your love for them.