Dear Amy: About two years ago, my husband started using the "N-word" (we are white).
He mainly used it when watching something that upsets him or when he would drink. You get the picture.
He is now upset because some of the family (and I) say that using the N-word makes him look racist.
He says it's just a word, and it's OK because he used it all the time when he lived in California with his Black friends and that they all just said it.
He has mostly stopped using the word after I made a huge issue about it. Occasionally he'll say it when he is mad about a certain person and it's loud enough that our daughter can hear. Your opinion?
Amy says: Using the "N-word" doesn't make your husband "look" racist.It makes your husband an actual racist.
Racists seem to enjoy declaring that the "N-word" — or other racial or ethnic slurs — are "just words," but they never seem to use slurs directed at themselves.
Family rift continues
Dear Amy: My husband has two siblings and several nieces and nephews.
His brother's daughter, our niece, is pregnant and everyone is genuinely excited.
Our issue is that a few years ago my very generous kind father-in-law (her grandfather) gave her funds to attend college.
Eventually she stopped going and dropped out. Somehow this became a sore spot, and she refused to communicate with her grandfather.
She has not spoken to him in well over a year, which had to be hurtful for him at 97.
We are appalled by her behavior.
I have been invited to her baby shower and have been given a list of items from which to choose (many of them out of our budget).
My husband and I do not care to support her because of this rift. We think she is out of line and acting immature.
We are torn because my husband's brother (her dad) has always been kind and supportive to our son and I would like to show respect and support for him.
Should we send a gift?
Amy says: The way I read your question, you would prefer not to recognize or celebrate your niece, out of solidarity to her grandfather.
You can ghost this niece, or gripe about her expensive registry, but when you withdraw from her, you are then perpetuating her poor behavior.
Her grandfather's expectations made her uncomfortable, and so she responded by withdrawing from him, with no explanation.
Her expectations make you uncomfortable, and you are responding by withdrawing from her, with no explanation.
This is how longstanding estrangements take hold.
I suggest that you disconnect her previous objectionable behavior from her pregnancy. Find an item on her registry that you can afford (or send her something off the registry) to congratulate her on her pregnancy.
Your husband should ask his brother if there are ways you might encourage a healing connection between your niece and her grandfather.
At the end of the day, her relationship with him is her responsibility — and you should not judge or interfere, unless you are invited to.
Send questions to Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.