Divorce or Ditch Your Racist Partner

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 
Divorce or Ditch Your Racist Partner
Karen Moskowitz/Getty

I know what you’re going to say about your racist partner. But. But they’re a great parent! But they help with housework! But they get along with my parents, and they provide for the family! And other than being racist, they’re kind! No really, they’re kind! They give to animal charities, and they go to church, and they help with orphans, and they’re always out there raising money for [insert cause here]. Small dogs like them and so do children.

But they’re racist. Fundamentally, your partner sees people of color as inferior to white people. If you can look at them and realize that, well, it’s time to ditch your racist partner.

My dear friend was seeing a guy he’d been eyeing forever recently. Super-sweet dude, fan-yourself-in-the-face hottie, and allegedly (very) good in bed. My friend was said there was only one problem. “Um, he’s racist.”

Time to break out the Tina Fey quote. “That’s a dealbreaker.”


“Get rid of him. You can’t be that close with a fucking racist, dude. You’re gay. You know what it’s like to be marginalized. Ditch his ass.”

Your Racist Partner Isn’t ‘A Little Bit’ Racist

The Broadway musical Avenue Q has a whole song that claims, “Everyone’s a little bit racist sometimes/ Doesn’t mean we go around committing hate crimes.”

Hashtag that #truth.

You can realize that society is fundamentally unequal, and that everyone shares the blame in that. And that the first step toward erasing that is knowing that “everyone makes judgments based on race,” like Avenue Q says. Yes, we’re all a little bit racist — and recognizing that sucks. But once we recognize it, we can take the steps and do the hard word of changing it.

Your racist partner can’t get that far. They’re either mired in “ALL LIVES MATTER!” bullshit, “THIN BLUE LINE!” bullshit, “I’m colorblind!” bullshit, or they’re so racist that they actually proudly admit to racism and do things like display the rebel flag, in which case, baby doll (of any gender identity), what on earth were you thinking in the first place?

In any case, your racist partner is unwilling to do the hard, scary work of admitting their own complicity in a broken system that places white supremacy and white privilege at its center. Once they admit that, they’re then unwilling to work hard to recognize the ways they benefit from it. They’re unwilling to reach across the color line. They’re unwilling to soul-search, to work hard, to try to understand the lived experiences of people of color.

Ditch your racist partner. A “partner” is by definition someone who helps. Dragging yourself out of the depths of white privilege is a journey. You need helpers. You don’t need people pulling you back down.

Think of the Children

No, seriously: think of the children.

You can’t grow up believing that you need to do the hard work of racial justice when one of your parents is spewing racist nonsense. One parent might say that we’re all a little racist, and we need to work hard to understand how so we can fight the system of white privilege. The other parent might say white privilege is bullshit, and anything that gives people of color more civil rights takes away, somehow, from white people. Who do the kids listen to? It’s a coin toss.

You want your kids’ attitudes on racial justice dependent on which partner yells the loudest, complains the most, fights the hardest, snarks behind the other’s back, or gets other relatives to back them up?

If you have kids, you need to ditch your racist partner yesterday.

I grew up in a family where Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was reviled, where my public school’s progressive attempts at diversity were ridiculed, where black names were made fun of, where yes, the n-word was used. It wasn’t my mother. It was my father, and one or two other relatives. My mother was much more progressive. But I didn’t grow up progressive. I grew up racist, and it took until college to even begin the hard work of unpacking all that. I’m still doing it to this day, and always will be. The legacy of that childhood drags behind me and always will.

For your kids’ sake, get rid of your racist partner. They don’t need that in their lives. You can’t teach them about diversity and white privilege if someone’s whispering that affirmative action “stole” their chance at an Ivy League college.

Does Your Racist Partner KNOW They’re Racist?

Of course, all of this can be qualified. Does your racist partner know they’re racist? Some people who claim that “All Lives Matter” actually don’t understand that this is racist. And when someone explains it to them, patiently, kindly, they do. Some people genuinely don’t understand white privilege because it scares them. A lot of frank discussion about it: what it means, what admitting that it exists could mean, how it makes them feel, why it makes them angry — could go a long way.

Does your racist partner have black friends? Other friends that are people of color? Can you use them as examples: “Would you think it was fair if this happened to so-and-so?”

If your racist partner is really that awesome, that wonderful, and that perfect, if you’re really willing to defend them and stay with them, okay. Fine. It’s your job to reform them. It’s your job to change their mind. It’s your job to educate them. If they’re really that awesome, they’ll be receptive.

And if they aren’t, tell your racist partner not to let the door hit them in the ass on the way out.

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