I had briefly heard of this story in passing but hadn’t realized all of the ramifications involved. Comic Sunda Coonquist has been sued by her mother-in-law for making jokes about the behavior of the family. Much humor is rooted in pain and certain comedians are very skillful at dissecting the actions of others. Sunda is a bi-racial black woman, her husband is white and she converted to Judaism to marry him. At the crux of this case is the story of her husband’s family who have a history of exclusionary antics. The fact that Sunda’s husband is representing her in court has been lauded by some. I think the entire scenario is ridiculous and clearly was escalating for some time.
Croonquist’s act includes jokes about her many encounters with her husband’s family over the years, like her first visit to her mother-in-law’s house. She gave Roker a sample: “I walk in, I say, ‘Thank you so much for having me here, Ruthie.’ She says, ‘The pleasure’s all mine, have a seat.’” Then, in a loud aside, “‘Harriet, put my pocketbook away.’
On a more serious note, Croonquist said that despite her obvious commitment to Judaism, she has suffered through painful incidences of exclusion from her husband’s family. “It’s not been easy,” she told Roker. “I’ve been asked to step out of family photos. I guess I’m just not right for the bar mitzvah picture.”
The comedian said that she has been the brunt of her in-laws’ jokes as well. “They made jokes at my expense. Not on stage, but in temple.”
Insulting your relatives while at your house of worship is a big FAIL!
If we’re going to encourage (black) women to “think outside the box” and look for caliber in a mate part of that evaluation needs to be what boundaries are enacted for other family members should they pose a threat to the relationship. After you’ve been together for FIFTEEN years, have had children and certain family members are STILL doing things that undermine your relationship or your mate they NEED TO GO! Clearly there were no consequences in place for this mother-in-law. Or other members of the husband’s family. His sister AND brother-in-law have also joined in the lawsuit – and the husband expresses “surprise” at this!? Get a clue….
This was not an empowering marriage choice!
At one point you can be too self-sacrificing – and marry a WIMP! I personally wonder how much racial/ethnic pride Sunda has in herself to have allowed things to deteriorate without standing up for herself. I question whether a black woman who was not bi-racial would have been so willing to let this go. I don’t think this is an example of a husband providing for and protecting his wife. I think this is a scenario of deniers, excusers and people-pleasers run amuck. I also think this is one of those situations where other Jews need to step in to police the behavior of one of their own. This family is hurting the “brand” by engaging in such obvious hateful behavior that is clearly based on their own racial prejudice. You can’t discuss your own history of oppression by doing it to other people lest you want others to turn a deaf ear to your pleas. Just ask African Americans about that one…..
Here’s the interview with Croonquist on the Today Show (yes I also noticed they tossed it to Al Roker not Matt, Meredith or Ann):
Update: The judge threw out the b**ch-in-law’s case in early 2010.