Leibee: You have a responsibility to stand up to your family

Katrina Leibee

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

There is a generational difference between us, our parents and our grandparents. The holidays might be a time when we notice these differences because of things our family members say. As my colleague Kenia Ortiz said in January in her column “It’s okay to not want to go home in college,” many students feel their values and beliefs drifting from those of their family members after they have entered college. 

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While it’s extremely uncomfortable, if you have a spouse or friend that you bring home and your family says something racist, sexist, homophobic or offensive at all, you have a responsibility to stand up to them, especially if that spouse or friend is a person of color or identifies as LGBTQ+. It’s your responsibility to call out your family members.

you should never let anyone, no matter your relationship to them, get away with saying something insensitive or offensive.”

We often get the question: “What would you do if you were in a group setting and someone said something highly offensive, such as the R-word or the N-word?” Thinking about the situation, most of us say we would call the person out, but in the actual situation, we might feel uncomfortable or awkward. We might actually feel as though we don’t want to anger or argue with someone, especially if they are someone older who we respect.

However, feelings aside, you should never let anyone, no matter your relationship to them, get away with saying something insensitive or offensive. This may seem obvious, but standing up to family members can be really difficult, even in group settings.

Many older family members will use the excuse that it’s just their sense of humor or the typical excuse that millennials are snowflakes. It doesn’t matter what the excuse is or what argument it will cause — telling family members and friends where their thought patterns are flawed and where they might be offending others is important.

Family members may genuinely not know why what they are saying is offensive or insensitive. I have a family member that I often have to call out on things they say because they really don’t understand that what they are saying could be offensive. It’s about educating rather than just brushing it off.

As I said in a previous column titled “What ‘OK, boomer’ really means,” many people simply brush off offensive remarks from older generations because some people don’t seem to be open-minded about changing. While the phrase “OK, boomer” is humorous and can be used to end uncomfortable conversations, it should not be a replacement for trying to educate people on the nature of their comments.

Educating each other on what might be insensitive or offensive is how we grow. The R-word used to be considered OK until we began educating each other on why it’s not OK to use. 

You should attempt to educate your family members and friends simply because offensive remarks are inexcusable. Also, you don’t want someone you care about to feel uncomfortable around your family and friends. Not standing up for your friends of marginalized identities might make them feel as though you agree with, or are okay with, the comments being made.

Standing up to family and friends is never easy, but it’s necessary to not only educate them, but to make people of marginalized identities comfortable around you and your family. 

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Katrina Leibee can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @KatrinaLeibee.