Responding to a friend who is racist, snobbish, and distorts Catholicism

I am having problems with a friend who upsets me with her attitudes.

I am half black, but my friend’s racism is not really against black people. She would not have a relationship with/marry a black man (or a Jew), as her family would disapprove. She does not have a problem with their attitude.

She is Hungarian American and is racist toward Jews, gypsies, Slavs, and Romanians (she believes Romanians are gypsies). She says Romanians are sly, arrogant, and stupid, whereas Serbs are sly but clever. When I said that gypsies could enjoy improved circumstances similar to African Americans, she said this was impossible, as gypsies are racially inferior to Africans. She was furious when a gypsy represented Hungary at Eurovision, as she says that a gypsy cannot be Hungarian.

My friend says everything Hungarian is better than everything that is not Hungarian. She thinks the Hungarian territory lost in the Trianon treaty should be restored and cannot see that there are two sides to the argument. She won’t visit any country occupying what she considers to be Hungarian territory; she thinks these countries should be expelled from the EU and their citizens repatriated. When my boyfriend and I went to Prague, she said we shouldn’t go, there’s nothing worth seeing, and she wondered what sort of people would want to go there. She was furious when I described a fictional character as “a Hungarian refugee”, saying, “A Hungarian is never a refugee; that word means something different.” She thinks there is a conspiracy to portray Hungary badly.

My friend praises Hungary’s role in World War 2. She says Hungary was right to support Nazi Germany. She regards Miklós Horthy as a hero. She thinks Hungary’s role in the Holocaust was minimal and shouldn’t be talked about. She is hostile toward the British, especially Churchill, as she thinks Britain should have surrendered. She also condemns Eisenhower because he didn’t take NATO into a war against the Warsaw Pact in 1956.

My friend claims to be noble, even though titles of nobility are prohibited in the US and Hungary. She thinks that Hungarian nobles are racially pure Magyars. She says derogatory things about people who are “nouveau riche”. She is derogatory about Irish Americans, as they came to the US as laborers and now they are highly educated middle-class professionals. She scoffed when I mentioned SUNY and CUNY being good universities, even though my mom earned her PhD at CUNY Graduate Center.

My friend has distorted ideas about Catholicism. She does not practice the faith and seems to regard it as a kind of social accomplishment. Partly this is because she regards it as the faith of the nobility (Protestantism in Hungary was more of a middle-class religion). She once embarrassed a mutual friend who converted to Catholicism, saying she was less Catholic because she was a convert. Curiously, my friend seems to regard Catholicism and Christianity as separate religions.

Am I being unreasonable in finding my friend’s views objectionable? I feel that I ought to tell her that I think she is wrong. However, I think she is so sure in her beliefs that she would never change her mind and I would just lose a friend.

May I ask why this person is your friend in the first place? That is, what positive aspects do you see in her? Just based on what you told us about her, she doesn’t seem like the kind of person most people would want as a friend.

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That’s a lot of differences! What do the two of you have in common? What do you like about her?

Has she been in the US long? I doubt you are going to change her, at least not you alone. Maybe you should ignore the things you don’t like, and make the best of the things you do like about her.

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Pray for her and ask the Holy Spirit to work on her heart.

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No, the vast majority of people in the USA would find this person’s views objectionable.
Also, given that she openly scoffs at many things you hold dear, such as Catholicism and your mother’s university, and seems to be pro-Nazi, many people reading this would wonder why you were even friends with this person.

Does she have any good qualities that would make you want to be her friend despite the fact that she seems to have an extreme amount of bigoted and snobbish attitudes? If so, are her good qualities really good enough to overcome in your mind her negative attitudes towards you and others?

As you note, people with these kinds of views are unlikely to change just because one of their friends objects, so you may very well lose her friendship if you express your objection. However, I think many people, including myself, wouldn’t want this person as a friend because their attitudes would just constantly cause hurt and embarrassment to us and other people we meet. Her actions to me aren’t those of a friend, and I’d be afraid that if I hung around with her, others might think I had the same views as her or approved of her views.

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When someone is deeply entrenched in their delusions, merely arguing with them is unlikely to help them escape from that hole. If the presentation of facts or opposing views could release them from the prison of their own mind, the plenitude of opposing views already present in the world would have already set them free.

The problem is that we do not know how to listen. Far too often, when someone is speaking, we are only really listening to ourselves. That is, we are listening to how our own mind translates their ideas and filters them through our own particular views and biases. So just telling your friend that she’s wrong is unlikely to accomplish anything useful. She has to come to that realization for herself. There are ways to help a person reach those types of realizations, by questioning them about the foundations and reasons for their beliefs, but that requires a certain capability of introspection, and a certain level of trust and intimacy in the relationship. Applying those types of techniques in the wrong circumstances and with the wrong person can have undesirable effects.

That said, contrary to what some other posters have said, I think she sounds like a very good person to have as a friend, as long as you don’t think she’s dangerous. Having people in your life who have completely opposing viewpoints on various issues can help to prevent you from getting trapped in “informational bubbles,” which happens so much nowadays, with so many people choosing only to associate with those who agree with them.

She also sounds like someone who would be very good to help you cultivate the habit of loving our neighbor. If all of the people in our life were easy to love, it would hardly be an accomplishment. If you are having an adverse psychological reaction (e.g. stress) in response to her ideas, that is something that is happening inside of your own mind. That is not her fault. You have complete control over your own psychological reactions, and you should use your friendship with her as an opportunity to cultivate love and charity even in response to people, ideas, and circumstances which bother you.

Also, completely changing the subject, @Tis_Bearself, what happened to your bear avatar? All I see is clouds and sky now. Did the bear ascend into heaven? :slight_smile:

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I guess because as well as all the negative things that I list, she also has many good qualities. She is often very kind.

She has close friends who are Jewish. She even has a Romanian friend, although she says that she is probably an ethnic Hungarian and/or of noble blood, since she is too nice to be an ethnic Romanian. We have a mutual friend who is partially descended from gypsies, and it was very embarrassing when she said, “Oh no, you can’t be descended from gypsies, you’re too nice!” But she didn’t say it in an unkind way. She clearly thought she was being kind by reassuring her that she wasn’t descended from gypsies after all! She also thinks that Russians are better than other Slavs, as they at least have culture.

I honestly don’t think that my friend believes that she is being malicious. She is really a very sweet person. But she has these appalling views, and I don’t think she realizes that they are appalling. On the contrary, I think she thinks that because her views are not targeted toward black or Asian people, she isn’t racist at all.

Oh, she was born and raised in the US. She just has a low opinion of the US, our culture, our history, and our values. I have tried explaining that Irish Americans are a great example of the American dream, and that in the United States it doesn’t matter whether your ancestors were kings or slaves: we believe that all men are created equal and that everybody should be afforded an equal opportunity to fulfill their dreams.

I guess I have a very different perspective, because my ancestors were not noble. Half my ancestors were brought to north America from Africa as slaves, and, despite that history, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that I have had because I was lucky enough to be born an American, and it has never occurred to me to think of myself or anyone else in terms of social hierarchy.

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She doesn’t exactly scoff at Catholicism. In fact, she considers that she is a devout Catholic, despite never going to Mass or anything. But I don’t think it’s a truly Catholic attitude to think you’re more Catholic because you were “raised Catholic”, and I don’t think it’s truly Catholic to say, “Oh, she’s not a Christian, she’s a Catholic”, as she said about another friend of ours.

She would accept that the college my mom went to as an undergraduate was what she would consider good enough, it’s only CUNY she has a problem with. Obviously CUNY isn’t as prestigious as an Ivy League school, Stanford, Berkeley, Chicago, etc., but its doctoral program is actually perfectly well regarded, and with a husband working full-time and three kids to raise, my mom’s options were limited.

I’m not sure if she’s exactly pro-Nazi. She doesn’t celebrate Hitler’s birthday or anything. But she does think it would have been for the best if Germany had won the war…

I guess the answer is yes. I honestly don’t think she is a bad person as such. I just think she has some very perverse ways of seeing the world. We get on very well, but then she’ll embarrass me by pointing out a book I haven’t read or upsets me by making out that my parents are poorly educated. Or she makes me begin to feel angry by gossiping about a mutual acquaintance, saying they come from “new money”, etc. The other day she described somebody using an idiom, and when I looked it up to check the meaning, it said pretty much what I suspected: a slut, a promiscuous woman, or a prostitute. It just seemed such a mean way to describe someone.

But, overall, she is actually a nice person, although I probably don’t give that impression. I think she doesn’t realize that people would think her behavior is often unacceptable.

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Well, then you’ve answered your own question. You apparently like this person enough that you’re willing to accept the risk or burden of her making you, and possibly others in your life such as your mutual friends, feel embarrassed, angry, etc on a fairly regular basis.

I personally wouldn’t put up with her actions for five minutes, but I’m not you, and we all have different standards for friends and reasons for choosing the friends we do.

Regarding your not thinking she is a “bad person”, most people aren’t all “bad” just like most people aren’t all “good”. I have known people in prison and on death row who I didn’t think were “bad people”, but they had definitely committed actions that society did not approve and I would not have wanted others to associate me with their crimes, or think I approved of their crimes. I know that’s an extreme example, but often we have to consider people’s actions and the consequences of their actions upon us, and not be trying to decide whether at heart they’re a “good person” or a “bad person”.

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Thank you for a characteristically well thought out assessment of the situation!

I guess the truth is that if I had known what she’s like when we first met, we would never have become friends. But I think she has enough self awareness that she keeps some of her opinions to herself until she thinks she knows someone well enough to risk saying how she really feels.

E.g., she said to me one time, “X introduced me to his friend, Y. Of course, she’s a typical Romanian: very arrogant.” I said something like, “There seem to be a lot of people you don’t like”, and she said, “It’s really only the Slavic nations: Bulgaria and so on.” But at that point, I’d known her for a few years. If she’d said that to me the first time we met, I would probably have never spoken to her again.

I just try to not let it get to me, but that can be hard. Like, she’ll mention some fairly obscure foreign book and say, “Of course, you must have read X.” Then when, predictably, I haven’t read X, she says, “It doesn’t matter because I’m sure you’ve read Y”, where Y is another obscure foreign book. And when I haven’t read Y, she says, “But you must have read Z.” Then when I haven’t read Z, she becomes incredulous: “Really? You haven’t read Z?” Then she’ll come over all condescending and say, “Don’t worry. I suppose it’s just that these are the books we have in our library at home.” The implication is clearly that I was raised in a home that didn’t have the right kind of books, because clearly my parents are less intelligent and less educated than her parents. I know that she has a low opinion of schoolteachers anyway. She basically regards it as a job for people who weren’t clever enough to become college professors.

But, yeah, I guess you are right. If I stay friends with her, I guess there must be enough reasons that I put up with this behavior. But it’s hard when someone is always making these digs, trying to imply that I’m stupid and uneducated, that my parents are stupid and uneducated, that they don’t have good jobs. And also making digs about our social circle, whispering that someone comes from new money or that she knows what Irish Americans are like, how they came here as laborers, but now they’re doctors and lawyers, they have big houses in the suburbs, and they can afford to send their kids to the sort of school she went to.

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And that would be a bad thing because?

Look. People don’t have to remain in our circle of friends just because they were in it in the past. This person sounds awful and exhausting.

If it were me, I’d let this embarrassing bigot fade from my life.

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I’d also jettison someone like this pretty quickly. She sounds painful.

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Actually there are probably quite a lot of people who have similar views…but to have them all wrapped up in one person…wow…Adolf Hitler was also baptized Catholic and a nice person…to his dog…get rid of her before some of her negative prejudices wear off on you.

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I don’t see any reason to expend energy putting up with people who display that level of arrogance and condescension if I don’t have to. There are quite a number of people I used to consider close friends before I realized that they were really just acquaintances whose toxicity I had gotten used to. I bear them no ill will, and I’m glad I was able to remove them from my life. I didn’t make a big deal about it, I just started to make myself unavailable to them: stopped returning calls, frequent use of “thanks, but I have something else I have to do”, that kind of thing.

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I have known people with similar attitudes, foreigners as well as Americans who are chauvinistic in the extreme about their particular part of the country, even the town where they grew up, and sometimes even towards people outside their immediate family and close circle of lifelong friends and acquaintances.

For her own good, as well as the good of anyone else who has to listen to her, I think your friend would be much happier if she could find some small town or village in Hungary, someplace where she might find other people who think this way, to go there, and to stay there. Again, I’ve known the type. They are utterly miserable in the larger world outside their little bubble.

As kind of a side note, I have to wonder if it could have something to do with low self-esteem. Someone who does not have a high opinion of themselves can easily seek to identify with a larger group, to inflate the importance and virtue of that group in their minds, to seek like-minded people, and assert “I’m part of a great big group, and that group is the best group there is — we’re elite, we’re the cream of the crop, the world needs to defer to us because we’re A-number-one”.

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Your friend is someone I’d describe as having no guile. A “What you see is what you get” sort of individual, at least in terms of how she relates to you (probably exercises tact with people she’s not close to). I’ve had a friend or two with similarities to your friend, and they were dear. One can develop standard replies to their wrongheaded remarks, perhaps which include a chuckle while expressing disagreement, which they learn to expect. Based on what I read, I imagine myself keeping such a friend, since they obviously are basically good as your friend (chemistry). There does seem to be an extensive snobbish attitude in her, but with some people it’s like this outer coating, and although there’s often some regrettable comment dropping off their tongue, somehow it is not a deep part of their identity.

I wish everyone accepted, as you have, one person with a significant blemish to their personality, as a friend.

By the way, I’m surprised she has confused the Romany with Romanians. Maybe it’s a sign that educating her could gradually help her see the light.

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He said that word? Wow. I would gently tell him that word is not acceptable to anyone and to never again use it in your or anyone else’s hearing.

OP, I don’t know how old you are. But I have to say that one of the joys of adulthood is the ability to walk away from a person when all you hear is divisiveness and angry speech from them. Tell your friend that, sorry, you do NOT want to hear this. Then if it continues, walk away.

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Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community - however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things - whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds. —Pope Pius XI, Mit brennender sorge

http://www.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_14031937_mit-brennender-sorge.html

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Is it possible your friend just genuinely doesn’t understand how offensive that word is? If he’s from India he may just think it’s a term for black people and not get that it’s a racist slur.

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