Preparing for the holidays with your racist uncle

Monday, November 23, 2020


Everyone has that racist [insert family member], and while the pandemic is getting a lot of us out of  divided holiday dinner table conversations this year, some people will be (safely I hope) stuck in these situations. And unlike the Thanksgiving after the last election, wed don't have a new Adele song to bring us all together. Some friends I know are having practice sessions over Zoom (it is that serious!) and some have set boundaries for off topics limits at the dinner table. Either way, as an ally we need to be ready to step up and have some tough conversations this holiday season, so I pulled together resources for the statements I hear the most.


First, keep in mind that shaming does not change minds or behaviors. Trust me, I want nothing more than to tear people apart, but as an ally there is a bigger picture we are working towards here and it's not about a temporary rush for me.

Second, arming ourselves with vocabulary and facts is helpful. Note that it's not THAT helpful depending on who the discussion is with (*cough cough Fox News*) but it helps me feel confident in my arguments.

Third, keep in mind that behavior change is hard. We're not going to change that uncle's mind at one dinner discussion, but we can get the wheels to start turning.

Fourth, listen and keep an open mind (I know). 


The "but Tr*mp has done so much for Black people" uncle

Oh right because he said so at the debate! This article outlines facts about the "things" 45 has "done" to "help Black people".

The "I'm tired of people saying I'm privileged because I'm white" auntie

White privilege does not mean you don't have struggles, it means you have not struggled because of the color of your skin. Starting on page two, this  report has 50 straightforward examples of white privilege to use.

The "BLM protests are violent/looting/scary" uncle

The media did make it look like these protests were violent and full of looting, however, 93% of the BLM protests were peaceful. This is impressive considering this has been the largest movement in American history with over 9% of the country participating. It is really important to focus on the issues the protestors are fighting for and not get easily distracted by media reports of looting.

The "I don't see color" auntie

I know you are coming from a good place with this, but when you don't acknowledge skin color you are erasing the Black experience, and the role of white supremacy in suppressing Black people.


The "I'm not racist so it's not about me" cousin

That is great that you aren't racist. It is important to keep doing the work though. No matter how not racist we are, as white people we have all benefitted from white supremacy and have a responsibility to fight racism and commit to learning.

The "why should I have to feel bad about what my ancestors did" cousin's boyfriend

No one is asking you to feel bad or give up what you have. We are asking that you recognize the reality Black people face every day in the U.S. and to use the power you have to make change.

When we donate to the food bank this holiday season we aren't saying "I didn't cause hunger so why should I feel bad about it". When we are giving gifts to Angel Tree or Salvation Army for Christmas we aren't saying "I didn't cause poverty, why should I have to feel bad about it". No, we aren't even questioning our duty to use our privilege and power to improve circumstances for others. What makes this situation different? 

The "Black people should behave better so they don't get shot by the cops who are just doing their jobs" uncle

Actually, Black people are murdered by police at two to six times the rate of white people. In cases where the victim is unarmed or poses minimal threat, Black people are 3.5x more likely to be murdered than white people.They are more likely to be stopped, arrested, and charged for any offense than white people. 

The "but Black on Black crime!!" auntie

Interestingly enough, white people commit crime against white people at about the same rate, but since white crime isn't racialized we just call it "crime". Even when you correct for poverty, crime rates across all races are much higher, but the rates are actually the same when looking at Black crimes against Black versus white on white. I would love to talk about options to fight poverty since that is such a strong indicator of crime.

The "Black people should pull themselves up by their bootstraps like I did" uncle

Oof.. I have a #30DayEducationChallenge for you! But for real, centuries of inequality in the U.S. have given you a lot more opportunities to "pull you up by your bootstraps" (that phrase makes me 🤮), and restricted Black people from a lot of the things that enabled you to do this. For example red lining, GI Billhealthcareeducation - to name just a few. 

Racist Comments

These suck so bad. But there are some responses to get the wheels turning:

What makes you say that?

That hasn't been my experience.

Do you really believe that? I'd like to learn more about why.

I didn't want to say this in front of everyone, but that comment you made at dinner was inappropriate and racist. Comments like that are hurtful to [insert group] and perpetuate dangerous ideas.

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