A Feministe reader sparks a helpful discussion in the comments section. Rita's advice:

I deal with this as well and I disagree with the “just don’t go” advice. I don’t get to see my family that often and they are VERY important to me, bigoted views or no. The older generation in particular just never learned any better (which I know is not an excuse for hatred, but I’m still not going to hate them back.) I want to see my family and when they are not being racist/sexist/generally awful, they are great – and they are my family . So when they make bigoted statements, I use the following techniques:

1. Pretend not to understand – make them explain the “joke” or “logic” and then everyone becomes uncomfortable.

2. Ignore – if they’re using something awful to get my attention, I completely ignore them and the whole conversation. If the conversation is about Obama being a terrorist, for instance, I’ll start inserting totally unrelated statements into the conversation as though that is what we are talking about: “I completely agree – Zimbabwe’s inflation rate is really a problem.” Throws people off enough to change the subject.

3. Start to cry. Go ahead and let them see how their statements upset me.

4. Challenge their theology (this will not be appropriate for everyone) – my family and I are all Christians, who hold the Bible in high regard. So I’ll pull out Biblical rebuttals: “That’s absolutely what Galatians means when it says, “You are all one in Christ Jesus” and when John writes about “every people, tribe, nation, and language.” This has actually been successful in making some family members reconsider – and change – their attitudes.

5. Ultimately realize that I can pick my friends but I can’t pick my family. It is not my responsibility to change them or educate them. When I am with them I just want to enjoy being with them, not start an anti-bigotry campaign in my living room. When I leave I always resolve to be even more conscious of my own remaining racism, even more active in promoting equality and civil rights, and even more eager to raise my own children to be open, loving people.  

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