Talking to your racist relatives

This week I got a question from a podcast listener: “Can you talk about how to manage interactions with racist family members over the holidays? What I really need are some go-to phrases and scripts. Both responding to racist comments, and how to get myself out of the situation if it gets bad. Soooooo all of my in-laws are some degree of racist. My father in law and brother in law say the most racist things most often. I have literally learned new racist terms from them – like I heard a word said in a derogatory fashion and looked it up later and was like OMG. I married into the family recently, and clearly no one has ever been called out on a racist comment ever. There is an in-law tradition of Christmas in another country and this is my first ever time attending! As a new family member I definitely have shaken up the dynamic a little bit just by, like, existing. For past trips with these folks when I have heard racist comments I kept my mouth shut – especially because my father in law pays for the trips. I am worried that my kids someday will literally have the worst ever racist uncle. So I want to start setting boundaries. But how? What do I say?”

In this week’s podcast I answer this question in some detail. I talk about:

  • Building relationship
  • Checking your motives
  • One practice to build your confidence to respond in the moment
  • Planning for the long game
  • Looking inward
  • Taking care of yourself
  • What about the children?

Try this exercise (described in more detail in the podcast)

  1. When you think of a white person you want to say something to (something about their racism) -anchor yourself in why -where is your why coming from? Check your motives and I mean really check them. Do you care about this person and want them to not be causing harm? Are you trying to separate yourself from their racism as a way of avoiding your own?
  2.  Then pick one thing about your own racism that you are working or should be working on and work on it that day.
  3. Confidence comes from being grounded and comfortable knowing as much as possible about your own racism.  Try this and let me know how it goes, how it feels and whether you feel your ability to talk to your racist relatives improve.

Try this experiement: assume that you are causing racist harm, start in the morning with one thing you are going to focus on to change a racist thought in your head. Notice what you are thinking, what you say and do and in the evening review your day and find one thing you can try to do differently tomorrow. Don’t focus on your relatives focus on your own learning and getting comfortable facing your own racism. Notice when you don’t want to do this, notice when you are irritated with having to do this when you wish you could just be unconscious and vacation or holiday.  Notice how you feel about all of this and remember that we don’t learn or unlearn rooted in shame guilt etc. Choose one thing to work on yourself and take 5 or 10 minutes to quietly journal or meditate on that one thing until you can come from a place of curiosity, humor, looking forward to learning something that day.