The turkey is out, the cider is flowing, and the family is happy to see each other—even if it’s through Zoom. As conversation continues, the topic of racism in the U.S. comes around. Race relations in the U.S. are at the forefront of many people's minds, but can lead to uncomfortable conversations at the dinner table if guests have different views. Rather than condemning a relative for not fully understanding the subject, you can turn the conversation to an educational moment. Take a look at these tips on how to navigate race discussions with family.
Start with your own ignorance. When entering a conversation about race relations with someone who doesn’t understand the severity of situations, remember that everyone is learning. Unless you’ve grown up personally dealing with racial injustice, at one point you too were likely unaware of what BIPOC people experience due to their race. Start the conversation by bringing up mistakes you made during that time and how you’ve learned from them. You could try, “I used to think that way too, but then I learned that…”
Know your goal. Before you start the conversation, know what you want to accomplish from it. Discussing a microaggression that your parent made and why it’s harmful takes a different approach than explaining to your parent what “defund the police” means. Keep your goal in mind while you navigate the conversation.
Be patient. Change doesn’t happen overnight, especially for those who are set in their ways. While it may be difficult to have these conversations over and over again, it’s important to be patient and remember that baby steps still lead to the end goal.
Discuss what everyone can do to help. Breaking down the immediate actions people can take to work towards equality can help your family members understand why you’re having the conversation. Sometimes people fall into the belief that if an issue is systemic, there is nothing the individual can do about it. However, encouraging relatives to learn more about the history and voices of BIPOC people in the U.S. is a great first step to helping them understand. Recommend some books, podcasts, articles, or films to help them start their search.
Conversations with family members about racism in the U.S. can often be uncomfortable, but educating others on these issues is an essential step in combating injustice and promoting anti-racism and equality for all.
Karine Bah Tahé, Blue Level Founder and CEO