Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Family Racism


I am in an interracial marriage, and we have just been blessed with a baby. My problem is my wife’s family was trying to separate us, and now they won’t acknowledge our baby. What can I do?


Good marriages don’t just happen. The first few years of any marriage are challenging. Interracial marriages pose a unique set of challenges and you are facing one of the biggest ones. It’s very painful to be rejected by family members, especially when you are trying to love them and desire to be accepted by them. It’s even more difficult when you and your wife’s child is rejected.

Unfortunately, racism is still alive and well in our country and in some of our churches. Fortunately, God’s goodness and grace and the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit is more powerful than the fear and hatred that leads to discrimination. With God’s help, you can be an overcomer.

Obviously, you can’t just ignore their behavior, and it is impossible for it not to affect you and your marriage. At the same time, you don’t have to let it control you. We’ve seen many interracial marriages where the couple allowed God to use the adversity to draw them closer to Him and closer to each other. Your primary concern is your marriage and your precious child. According to Ephesians 5, your job is to love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her. Trust me, that’s a full time job.

It sounds like you have tried to reach out to her parents and to ask for their acceptance and they are unwilling to give that to you at this time. Notice the last three words of that last sentence, at this time. We’ve seen many couples in situations similar to yours where, over time and because of the healthy response of the couple, God was able to break down the barriers. As they see you loving your wife and your baby, as they see you taking care of their daughter and grandchild, as they see your involvement in your local church and the friendships you develop, they are more likely to see that this marriage is not only going to last, but it’s going to be a great marriage. Hopefully they will see that they are only robbing themselves of the pleasure of loving their son-in-law and grandchild.

One word of warning. Be careful about getting angry with them and allowing that anger to control you.

Anger is a secondary emotion that comes from hurt, fear, or frustration. If you spend more time focusing on how they treat you rather than on how with God’s help you can respond to them, you will be much more likely to allow the hurt to become bitterness, resentment, and unhealthy anger.

You can’t change years of racial prejudice and hardened hearts. You also can’t allow other people’s fears and unkindness to determine your character. You CAN choose to function Biblically. You can choose to find a group of men who will support you, encourage you, listen to you and pray with you. You can choose to repay coldness with kindness. You can choose to take the high road, the road less traveled. You can see this as an opportunity to learn and grow. During the next 30 days you can choose to read Matthew 5-7 (The Sermon on the Mount) and ask God to give you the wisdom and strength to apply at least one principle from that passage to your relationship with your in-laws.

If your wife's parents choose to be cold to you, that is their problem. Their behavior need not determine your level of joy and happiness. You can choose to love them regardless of their tacky behavior towards you. You will need to let go of your expectations of what this family “should” look like. You simply cannot control this. If you need to grieve the loss of a loving extended family, then do so but keep your heart hopeful for the possibility of change.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

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