A White man told his Black girlfriend that she shouldn't get upset about his grandmother's racist comments.
Redditor "dementiagrandma" maintained that his grandmother fled from a life of racism in the deep south while in her youth and eventually developed more progressive views.
However, her dementia causes her to regress to her childhood, leading her to unpredictably spout racist remarks.
So when the Original Poster (OP)'s girlfriend heard her boyfriend's beloved gran spouting racist language on a recent video call, she got understandably upset, and OP did not handle it all that well.
The OP asked AITA (Am I the A**hole) for getting angry at his girlfriend's reaction.
The OP wrote:
"A couple days ago I set up a call to my grandma with dementia, who is in a care home, when I was told she was having a lucid day."
"I told my girlfriend, who lives with me, about it. She has never met my grandma."
"She got really excited about the call and wanted to talk to her and meet her. She knows that my grandma has dementia and has made racist comments as a result."
He stressed that his grandma "as her true self, is not a racist," and explained her history growing up with racism.
"She grew up in the deep south with deeply racist parents. As an adult she escaped that life and became very progressive. As I knew her, she loved everyone and was loved by everyone."
"Her dementia has caused her to regress to her childhood and as a result, she spews a lot of racism."
"My girlfriend knows all this already. I warned her again that my grandma has no control over this and if she regressed as I was speaking to her and saw my girlfriend, something would be said."
"My girlfriend accepted this and told me repeatedly not to worry, and that she wouldn't be offended."
With the knowledge that the grandmother might involuntarily offend, they proceeded with the video call.
It started out with promise.
But then things literally headed south when the grandmother used a reviled racial slur.
"I took her word for it and let her on the call. The call was great for about 10 minutes, my grandma was lovely to my girlfriend and was so happy to see me with her."
"Unfortunately, she had a regression and blanked out for a moment. When I asked her if she was ok she started to get really upset and confused."
"In this case I think seeing us on the screen scared her and her nurses started to take her away to calm her. We heard her start whimpering and saying 'A dirty n-word's looking at me, its gonna hurt me' over and over again."
"I turned it off and told my girlfriend 'That sucked.' I was pretty surprised when my girlfriend burst into tears and ran off. I went and asked her what was wrong and she told me that she was disgusted and horrified by my grandmother."
"I was pretty pissed. I basically reminded her that she was warned of what it would be like and she had told me over and over that it was ok and not to worry."
Even though the girlfriend was warned, the repercussion from hearing a historically-reviled racial epithet was still distressing.
"She just said she didn't think it would be that bad, which is bullsh*t because I told her examples of what my grandmother had been reported to have said to the black staff at the care home. It wasn't all that different then what she had said about my girlfriend."
"We argued for a bit, her saying that she had a right to be upset and me saying that it was selfish of her to make it about herself."
"Seeing my grandma like that breaks my heart and I was also upset at the call turning out that way but she didn't comfort me at all or even asked me how I felt about it."
"We made up the next day but she still insists that I was a d*ck and she has forgiven me rather then she reacted unfairly and I have forgiven her."
"I know its petty but I would like to know what a third party thinks.. so AITA?"
Anonymous strangers on the internet were asked if and where guilt belongs by declaring:
NTA - Not The A**hole
YTA - You're The A**hole
ESH - Everyone Sucks Here
NAH - No A**holes Here
Reactions were mixed with Redditors taking different sides or no sides at all in this complicated and delicate set of circumstances.
"YTA. Even though she knew what was coming that's not the same as going through it."
"She's allowed to be upset, and she's allowed to misjudge how much it would hurt."
"Empathizing with her would have been better than being annoyed." – LWdkw
"She KNEW it might happen. She should put on her big girl pants and toughen up."
"It's a sick, elderly lady who is confused and disoriented, it's not like her boyfriend was being racist." – Ajoc27
"I think it is very important to note that OP is going through a lot of emotions and grief at the moment as well and was put in a really strange conflicting position where his girlfriend was horrified and disgusted by his sick dying grandmother."
"OP could have handled it a lot better but damn that would be a conflicting confusing situation for anyone to be in and I guess both parties got offended by it." – BleedingShaft
"Dementia is a horrible illness, I used to care for my now ex-partners Grandma like she was my own whilst his family couldn't handle it."
"She would constantly forget me when I was trying to help her. She passed away now, I visit her grave sometimes, it's part of the reason though that I left that family as none of her own flesh and blood bothered with her."
"I don't think anyone is the a**hole here, I think your girlfriend has probably never dealt with it and was shocked and then upset."
"You may need to sit down and talk with your girlfriend about both of your feelings. Then in time, maybe she and your Grandma can have another talk, but your girlfriend can't hold it against your Grandma much like I never held it against my now ex-partners Grandma."
"Hope this gets resolved." – bobsgirl2017
This Redditor declared NAH, and shared their own experience with dementia in the family.
"I'm just gonna piggy back on this to she yes she absolutely has the right to be upset by her comments, and he should have empathized and been more understanding."
"However she said she was horrified and disgusted by his grandmother, which is an assessment that implies the grandmother was somehow aware of what she was saying and that wasn't the case."
"From how I understand it OP got defensive when he felt like his grandmother's character was being attacked, which triggered his feelings about watching someone he desperately loves slowly die in a really heartbreaking way."
"My grandmother died from dementia and in the end she didn't even know who her kids were or where she was half the time. I visited her and had to remind her every few minutes of who I was, and not just who I was, but who and where she was, and who my dad is and his brothers."
"His grandmother didn't say those things with malice, she literally had no idea what she saying, so while the girlfriend is absolutely justified in feeling upset and is deserving of love and comfort she should also take responsibility for the knee jerk hurtful way that she responded to it."
"They both deserve to feel heard and listened to. There's some info missing about what he did to earn her forgiveness or if she just gave it to end the fight, so hopefully he did apologize, but he ALSO deserves empathy and an apology."
"It doesn't mean she was unreasonable for reacting with disgust at something so horrible, it's an understandable human reaction, but she should also understand how that reaction made her partner feel and what he's going through. NAH." – iamislajones
"This is how I feel. If the OP had being more sympathetic to his girlfriend's reaction, things would have been different. Understanding her hurt doesn't take his love away for his grandma." – Effective-Penalty
Here is an example of the destructive effect dementia can have on loved ones.
"I just lost my grandfather to dementia 3 days ago. I understand what you are saying, but you are completely disregarding how incredibly hard it is to watch someone you love slowly forget who you are, and lose everything that made them who they are."
"Yes, the girlfriend had a right to be shocked and hurt by what this woman said, however you are really downplaying dementia here."
"I hope you never have to go through what OP, my family, and any other family who deals with a dementia family member has gone through because it is hell and heartbreaking every day."
"I didn't even get to say a meaningful goodbye because he wasn't lucid enough to know who I was."
"As far as I'm concerned its NAH." – AerwynFlynn
This person called ETA after sharing their own experiences dealing with a grandparent who suffered from the same brain disease.
"My grandma who was always so kind & thoughtful started biting after awhile with dementia."
"There were also times she got so mean I went into another room & cried. I knew it wasn't her but it was such a jarring experience."
"I can see how the girlfriend might have found it upsetting but she cannot hold OP accountable for the things an atrophying brain led grandma to spew."
"ETA - I also still feel like a monster after telling someone I wasn't sad when she died. I knew she didn't want to end up like that."
"I told someone it would've been sadder had she died 3 years prior. Keep in mind I had moved across the country at 30 to help care for her for the last 4 years of her life so I did love her very much." – AFrogEatFrogWorld
The OP later agreed with some of the negative comments saying that he should have comforted his girlfriend first, and admitted that by not doing so, it made him an a**hole."
But there was one thing he found objectionable.
"I don't accept all the people here who make pain a competition that can be won. I truly believe that its because many commenters here have experienced racism and know the pain."
"Not many commentators are knowledgeable about dementia or the effect it has seeing someone who is like a mother to you, who you have loved and looked up to your entire life, become unrecognisable and hateful and abusive."
"A big f'k you to the person who said boo hoo to my grandmothers situation."
The OP received this abhorrent private message that said:
"You're a cancer and I hope you and your grandma die a horrible death."
He thanked those who messaged him with kindness and flipped the bird to those who responded with "hateful vitriol that they are to scared to post in the comments."
A Black woman having experienced both sides of the situation with racism and dementia acknowledged that the OP was not a terrible person, but said he should have supported his girlfriend more instead of demanding an apology.
But this woman still offered compassion and acknowledged that "pain is pain."
"Sometimes I really just hate this damn thread because how people are not seeing the nuance of the situation."
"OP I am saying this to you as a black woman and a person who watched someone mentally decline in front of my very eyes to the point they don't even recognize me."
"That is painful as hell. Being called the n-word is painful as well."
"I cried every damn tear imaginable in both situations. You needed to be the person to hear what your girlfriend's pain. Sometimes even if you are a pain, you need to push that away for your significant other."
"You are not a terrible person. It doesn't seem like you condone racism. I am sorry that you experiencing this. Pain is pain. No one should try to quantify pain." – Vast_Lecture
We hope the couple can hear each other out with their hearts and come to a mutual understanding that the dementia is the biggest a**hole of all in this scenario.