I believe that change happens from the inside out, and from the outside in, that we need systemic transformations as much as personal evolution, that all we can do is what we can do today but that we can’t not do it. You with me?
So this week Imma tell you about how to handle your racist loved one. This is NOT instead of doing your part on the systemic change: being an active civic participant at the local and federal levels, buying from Black-owned businesses, protesting, signing petitions, etc…you can find so many resources online on how to engage in this moment. Make sure you do that as much as possible.
But today, I’m focusing on helping you survive the next family gathering, or tonight’s dinner, with your racist loved one.
Tip #1: Listen (people rarely change their minds because they’re told to).
When your loved one says some fucked up shit, it’s usually to serve a purpose – that idea has a function in their life. It’s a way of making sense of the world, of justifying how messed up things are, of feeling better about themselves. Just listening for the subtext of their racism will help you deal better with their idiocy (remember, we’re talking about loved ones, you’re even bothering engaging with these people because love is love). It will give you some insight about what fear their racism is actually masking. On occasion, it seems like some people just wanna hate for no reason. However, no baby is born racist, we all had to learn it. There is something else going on beneath that racism. Listen for it.
Tip #2: Empathize (people wanna feel understood – even racists)
Once you get a hold of what’s actually going on that’s making your loved one say unspeakably fucked up shit, you’ll be better equipped to engage in true dialogue with them. Reassure them that you are understanding the underlying fear/ need/ worldview that is leading them to speak as they do, despite the fact that you disagree with it 100%.
Tip #3: Find common ground (people want the same things, we just disagree on how to get there)
From Tip #2 you should have a good idea about what the underlying fear/ need/ worldview your racist loved one is holding that’s feeding their racism. For example, they want to feel safe, they want to have financial security, they want a bright future for their families. Make sure you share with them about your own desires and aspirations, fears and needs, and agree that these are all very human needs to have, but…
Tip #4: Offer new ideas (people can and do learn)
…being racist is not gonna make your life any better off just by fucking up someone else’s. Human rights are not pie, we’re not gonna run out if we all have them. Make sure you’re versed enough on the basics of systemic racism that you can build a compelling argument about why not being an asshole won’t hurt them.
Tip #5: Know when to STFU (people sometimes need to be left alone)
Some people don’t really wanna listen -yet. They’re not ready to evolve. That’s cool. You wouldn’t shame a sapling for not being a tree, but the water and sunshine you bring to them will in fact come in handy down the road. Just trust.
Tip #6: Let go of the outcome (people do change the world, but rarely in the way they think)
The point of talking about race with your racist loved one is not having them become anti-tracist overnight, but of you being the best anti-racist you can. And who knows, a few years down the line this convo might be remembered by them as the first step on their own journey for liberation.
Tip #7: Keep going (you can’t change the world, but you can begin to change it)
Again, we have no idea what actual role we’re playing in life. We don’t know who we are helping change. We can’t tell how far our love will reach. We just do the right thing anyway, because being that way is the best way to be, and not because we get a cookie at the end.
So there you have it, 7 tips to talk about race with your racist loved ones. If you want to join the upcoming workshops with way more tools and resources to do this gracefully, let me know here: