Relationships come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s totally up to the people in that relationship what will make them happy and what will work for them.
But sometimes their families don’t feel the same way, cringed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor Crafty-Apartment-754 was white and was married to a Chinese woman who had moved to the United States when she was a teenager. He noticed that his sister had a terrible habit of riddling their visits with problematic jokes and strained political discussion.
But when she told him an incredibly offensive joke at her birthday party, the Original Poster (OP) had no choice but to shut the joke down, even if it meant being blamed for ruining his sister’s birthday celebration.
He asked the sub:
“AITA for leaving a birthday party because of a racist translation request?”
The OP and his wife came from very different families and histories.
“I went to a birthday party for Annie, my sister (34 Female). I (36 Male) and my wife (36 Female) went as we were able to get her parents to watch the boy (our 16-month-old son).”
“It was a normal adult birthday party as Annie has no kids. She had some of her friends over as well as our parents. I’m white and all of my family is white (important for the story).”
“My wife is Chinese, was born in China, and became a citizen when she and her family moved to the United States when she was 16.”
“She’s 100% a US citizen, has no green card, and she and all of her family speak Mandarin. My wife can speak English very well but her family, mostly elders, don’t speak a lick of it.”
The OP was enjoying learning his wife’s family’s native language, Mandarin.
“I’ve been learning Mandarin as it’s my wife’s cultural language, it’s cool as f**k, and I want the boy (and future children) to be able to speak both of our languages.”
“It’s been about two and a half years, and I’m not very conversational yet, but I pick up on a lot of things, can understand the basic gist of most conversations, and I can speak basic sentences like, ‘Is the food hot?’ or ‘The boy’s diaper has been changed,’ etc.”
“I’ve also been learning how to read and write Mandarin. I mostly read right now as I find it helps me learn better, and I sometimes drop cool sentences into the Family Chat on Facebook.”
“Annie doesn’t speak very much in it but will post Fox articles, usually articles about China that are very critical of the government.”
“I’m not sure if she’s racist against Chinese people. She’s never said anything negative to my wife in any way.”
But Annie then took her behavior much too far.
“So last night, we were at the dinner table when Annie handed me a slip of paper.”
“I asked what it was as I unwrapped it. It said, ‘Tiananmen Square 1989 (the protests and massacre in Bejing).'”
“I looked up at her, and she had this dumb grin on her face.”
“I asked her what this was for, and she said, ‘Can you translate that into Mandarin?'”
“Dumbfounded, I asked her why, and she brushed it off and flippantly said she was ‘just curious.'”
The OP didn’t think his sister’s request was funny at all.
“This is where people seem to think I’m the a**hole. I got really freakin’ mad.”
“I immediately started yelling, called her a racist, and said we were leaving.”
“My Mom and Dad got mad, Annie said I was being dramatic, and her friends (all of whom are also white) didn’t see what the big deal was.”
“I basically told everybody off, using very big adult words before leaving.”
Everyone except the OP’s wife lashed out at him.
“My phone started blowing up with text messages saying, ‘You’re not even Chinese, what the h**l,’ and ‘You ruined Annie’s birthday party.'”
“I briefly spoke to my Mom this morning where I tried to explain why what she did was racist, targeted towards me and my family, and how it is unacceptable behavior.”
“I told my Mom that I wouldn’t be going to the house anymore if she was there and that she needed help to work through her beliefs.”
“My Mom softly echoed what my sister said about being curious.”
“With all these text messages, I’m not sure anymore if I overreacted. My wife was unaffected by the whole thing but understands why I’d be upset.”
“I’m still getting text messages and it’s making me more upset to read them.”
“I don’t know… am I the a**hole for reacting this way?”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some were grateful to the OP for speaking up against racism, even if it was a “joke.”
“Hi OP, your wife isn’t unaffected; she is just used to it. My dad is Chinese, my mom is white, and my mother used to make racist jokes about my dad’s family, as well as me and my brother all the time.”
“She was always ‘just joking.’ He never said anything, just resented the h**l out of her. Me and my brother internalized it and became self-hating hapas. So much therapy. Many bad dye jobs trying to make myself look more white-passing.”
“I finally called her out on it years later in front of her side of the family and my dad. I let them all know how harmful it was.”
“My dad told me they just don’t know any better. I called bulls**t. Haven’t heard a peep since.”
“I say all that to say this: good on you for not letting your family’s ‘harmless’ racism hurt your wife and kids.”
“There’s a really great book called ‘Nonviolent Communication.’ There are always copies on eBay for less than 10 bucks. Or there’s this worksheet that basically breaks down the skill for addressing this in interpersonal relationships. That could help you feel more comfortable with tough conversations like these.”
“Honestly, my mom was a product of her time (an explanation, not an excuse). If anything her bullying prepared me with thick skin for dealing with racist bullying at school. And now I’m working toward being a child psych nurse practioner. so it wasn’t in vain. We can make meaning out of our suffering.”
“That said, definitely show your son that he does not have to tolerate that bulls**t, that he’s not less of a man because he’s Asian.” – nolothx
“NTA. As a half-Chinese person myself, thank you. Sincerely, thank you. I can’t tell you how many people would say racist s**t like that to me and my dad (the not-Chinese one) and expect us to be perfectly fine with it, since ‘we’re not really Chinese.'”
“Your sister is a racist bully, and your parents are enablers. Same as my dad’s family. My mom doesn’t really get it either but trusts our judgment. Keep your wife and future children far, far, away from them.” – PurpleFlavoredCherry
“NTA. As someone Chinese, thank you for standing up for your wife. I would be insulted and humiliated by what your sister did.” – tweetthebirdy
“NTA. Thank you for sticking up for your wife. This sounds like a bullying atmosphere is forming around your outsider wife, and you noticed it and stood by her now that it is becoming more and more overt.”
“You might want to present your family members with a little thought experiment:”
“You’re a US-born, white person in China, where you’ve lived for many years and have integrated very well, attending a big family dinner with your Chinese spouse. Present at the dinner is your spouse’s sister, who has always said critical things about the United States and always made sure you were around to hear these unprompted, uncalled-for opinions.”
“She’s never said a bad thing to you, personally. During this dinner, she asks your bilingual spouse, with a giant grin on her face, to translate a note into English. The note just says ‘9/11.’ How would you feel? How do you think the person who wrote the note wanted you to feel? Is this joke going to make you feel more like a part of the family?”
“It sounds like you might also want to clarify to your family members that you’ve noticed this attitude of mild hostility and petty mockery, and your outburst isn’t just motivated by this off-color ‘joke.’ As your family pretends to see it, you got mad because they made one joke, but you see an overall pattern.”
“Also, don’t take your wife’s polite neutrality as the arbiter of your feelings. She might not say she was hurt, but there was hurtful intent behind your sister’s behavior and you’re valid in feeling angered by it.” – Formadivix
“NTA. S**t, dude, you’re a stellar partner from an intercultural competency lens and it’s a bumpy moment when you realize other family and loved ones just aren’t putting in even the minimum amount of work.”
“Keep being a good ally and don’t gauge how appropriate your response is solely on your wife’s response. She’s unfortunately now used to probably much worse and probably appreciates more than she knows how to express that she has someone to stand beside her as she faces these moments and speak up so she doesn’t have to.” – xSinistress
Others agreed but were concerned by how problematic and racist the OP’s family was.
“NTA and you did not overreact. Annie is playing racist games, and doing it with the s**t-eating ‘who me?’ grin of so many racist dips**ts.”
“Unless your wife is secretly a member of the Chinese government, it is absurd to think that writing that down and giving it to you for translation into Mandarin is anything other than a provocation.”
“Good for you for telling her off, you set an acceptable boundary and she will at least think twice about subversively insulting your wife and family.” – RJRoyalRules
“NTA. What the f**k was even her point in giving you that paper and asking you to speak it out loud?”
“Did she think your wife, whose family had a reason to leave their country and come to the USA, would be slighted by it?”
“This isn’t even a microaggression, this is a microaggression, and I applaud you for standing by your wife and future children (they will have to face this same ignorance from your family when they get older).” – StellarPhenom420
“You DO realize you don’t have just a racist sister problem, right? Your mom ‘softly’ (racist) ‘echoed’ (racist) your RACIST sister. Everyone who is texting you, telling you you’re the A.H. and still wants to support your RACIST sister is also a RACIST.”
“Your wife isn’t unaffected, she’s just used to the racist microaggressions and so she chooses her battles. She probably waiting till some future event that could occur that will emotionally harm your son to finally tell you to cut off your racist a** family or she wants a divorce.”
“NTA. But you’ve got a racist family problem and you better decide where to draw the line in cement and not f**king cross it.” – _parenda_
“I think some people in this thread are missing the point. It’s not that it’s racist to discuss Tiananmen Square. It was her writing just that on a piece of paper and asking you to translate it with a grin on her face.”
“She was stirring s**t. She was being obnoxious and targeting either your wife or you for your Chinese wife. Or both.”
“NTA. A**holery doesn’t get a birthday pass.” – HoshiJones
“For context, the Tiananmen Square 1989 massacre is a big debate among the Chinese because the Chinese government killed protestors that day and it’s banned on Chinese chat systems like WeChat. Any mention of it will be auto-censored. Most Chinese nationals I know feel strongly against the Chinese government and its take on free speech, which is why they leave.”
“You said your wife understands and speaks English well since she’s been in the country as a teen. I have no idea why your sister wanted you to translate it. She could have just had an adult conversation and asked your wife about it if she was curious to know your wife’s stance on it.”
“But asking you to translate it and knowing her history of forwarding Fox articles, it’s 99% from a xenophobic POV. She ruined her own party by mentioning the Chinese Communist Party. The only party pooper here is her. Also, the translation would be a tad meaningless if OP did translate it directly cos Chinese nationals know the massacre as June Fourth.”
“She wanted it to be controversial and embarrass your wife for sure. I am guessing she assumed your wife’s political stance would be leaning towards the Chinese government just because of her original nationality, and that is really xenophobic behavior that should not be tolerated.”
“NTA. Your sister is. Limit contact until she learns to be a nicer person. Your family, too, if they’re going to keep backing her up. Good on you for standing up for your wife, OP!” – Regular-Highway-1776
The subReddit was overwhelmingly disgusted by the OP’s sister’s behavior, as well as the OP’s defense of her actions. Not only did he do the right thing by putting down a racist joke, but he did what any ally should do, which is to protect those who feel unsafe or uncomfortable to do so.