How to talk to your racist relatives

OPINION: Hey white people! Thanksgiving offers the perfect opportunity to actually make America great.

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Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio

We don’t usually do this but…

While theGrio is focused on sharing Black stories with Black people, we are also aware that white people — including many who have declared themselves as allies — sometimes stumble across this site. Although sharing our articles, volunteering in the “inner city” or tweeting “Black Lives Matter” is an acceptable albeit performative way to declare your allyship, you should know that white supremacy cannot be dismantled by Black people. We did not have a hand in creating, preserving or perpetuating America’s most toxic trait.  

That’s why we need your help.

Perhaps the best way for white people to make a significant impact on racism, white supremacy and American society is to focus on white people, namely your relatives. If white people confronted racism every time they encountered it, the world would be a much better place. We understand that it is difficult to challenge a family member’s entire belief system. That’s why we put together this handy guide to help you find the right words when confronting your anti-Black aunt or your homophobic mee maw.

Simply take this guide to Thanksgiving and read off a reply whenever one of the subjects arises. And, yes, we know it might be uncomfortable, but you know what else is uncomfortable?


Uncle MAGA

Hey Uncle Jesse! It’s uncle Jesse, right? 

Wow! I haven’t seen you in a long time! You haven’t changed a bit! Funny story! I was looking at some photos of the attack on the Capitol riot and said: “That guy looks just like my uncle!” Of course, I knew it wasn’t you because there’s no way you would be dumb enough to think that the election was stolen!” Plus, most of those people at the Capitol were racist, and I know that one of your best friends is Black. I never met him; all I know is that you think he’s really smart. Then I realized, when you were talking about “Q says this. Q says that,” you weren’t talking about a member of Omega Psi Phi!

Anyway, Uncle Jesse, I need some advice. See, I’ve been trying to understand if the Democrats stole the election from Donald Trump by rigging the machines in Georgia, why didn’t they make Stacey Abrams the governor? And why didn’t they steal the House of Representatives in the midterms? As a matter of fact, why do they only rig the elections that Republicans lose? 

Look, I’m not trying to start a fight. In fact, I’m actually on your side. I’m concerned about rigged elections, too! Since you’re so interested in this issue, you are the perfect person to help fight this evil scourge of voter suppression. But, instead of smearing dookie in the Capitol, maybe we should start out by working in majority Black neighborhoods. People in Black neighborhoods wait longer to vote, have more voting locations closed and are more likely to have machines that don’t work. And don’t get me started on gerrymandering!

Next election, let’s give some people rides to the polls. And next week, let’s go down to the Southside to help register people to vote. I’m pretty sure the Ques will be there. Plus, we’d get to spend some time together, and we’d be doing something about election integrity that doesn’t require us to smear feces on the wall. It’s a win-win!  I’ll pick you up around noon!

You’ll probably want to wear another hat.

Concerned Cousin Karen 

Karen, I want you to know that my blocking you on Facebook had nothing to do with your macaroni and goat cheese at last year’s Thanksgiving dinner. I just got a little tired of seeing all of your racist memes about how the sky is falling. 

No, I’m not calling you a racist. I’m saying that your memes were racist. I don’t know how you feel about Black people. Plus, everyone knows that you aren’t very smart. I know that sounds a little insulting, but if you were smart, you would actually look up the definition of critical race theory and know that little Jimmy’s social studies teacher wasn’t trying to turn your son into an anti-white Marxist. I know you, Karen; I know you think they’re talking about Groucho. Look, we all want what’s best for our kids. But maybe you want your kid to be as dumb as their mom. If not, perhaps you should let him learn more about the history of this country! 

Plus, I don’t know why you’re worried about CRT turning your son against white people!  I assumed you didn’t like white people because you’re always talking about Black-on-Black crime when white-on-white crime is higher. I’ve known you for years, and I know you’ve never been to Chigaco. Why aren’t you worried about your people? Wait … Maybe you’re not dumb. Maybe you just hate white people. That’s it! You hate white people, don’t you Karen? 

That explains the macaroni. 

The Great Replacement Relative

Hi Becky! I just want to warn you that your ex-husband called and said he’s coming with his new wife LaKeisha. I know it’s been hard since the divorce, but maybe you could get over it if you didn’t watch so much Fox News. Look, when LaKeisha gets here, please don’t start talking about that Tucker Carlson nonsense. The great replacement theory has nothing to do with Frank leaving you and the kids for LaKeisha! Have you ever seen LaKeisha? She’s not a replacement; she’s an upgrade.

I don’t understand why they are so worried about being replaced by non-white people, anyway. If America is as non-racist as they claim, why would they be concerned? According to Fox News, minorities get to vote twice, go to college with low SAT scores and receive all the government handouts they can handle. Who wouldn’t want that? 

By the way, how come you never talk about how white people replaced Native Americans by offering citizenship to “any free white person”? Why weren’t you worried about open borders for white people? What about states like South Carolina that used white supremacy and racial terrorism to replace their Black majorities? How can replacements be worried about being replaced? 

Oh, LaKeisha and Frank just pulled up. Remember, this ain’t your house and this ain’t your country, so show some respect. 

Homophobic Harry

Well actually, Harry, if you believe that God made Adam and Eve, then he probably made Adam and Steve. 

And why are you so worried about gay marriage?

How does it threaten the institution of marriage? I mean, if you are so concerned about “family values,” then shouldn’t you want more families? You know there isn’t a cap on marriage certificates, right? It’s not like every time a gay person gets married a straight person has to get a divorce. Then again, I don’t understand your beef with transgender people. How does any of this conflict with your religious beliefs? I know the Bible only mentions “man” and “woman,” but it also doesn’t mention white people. Yet, somehow, we managed to create laws that protect them. 

Wait … Harry, do you believe homosexuality and transgender are contagious? That must be it! You think you’re gonna “catch the gay,” don’t you?

Listen, Harry, as a heterosexual man, I don’t claim to know how sexuality and gender work. But I’m pretty sure I’ve been around gay and trans people and not once have I considered changing my sexual preference or my gender identity. Sometimes, I even wonder why none of my gay teachers, family members or friends have ever sent me a recruitment letter asking me to join the “gay agenda.” Did you get a letter? Because, either you’re worried about something that doesn’t exist or your sexual identity is so fragile it could be broken at any time. 

The Ten Commandments of racism

Wait, we’re evangelical Christians?

I know grandma wears a crucifix, but even the Ku Klux Klan liked crosses. How the hell are we Christians? I definitely remember going to church when I was younger but I’ve missed a few Thanksgivings. I assumed we had come together as a family and decided to switch sides. 

How are we evangelical Christians and Republicans

I might not be a biblical scholar, but I think I remember the ten commandments. (There are still 10, right?)

Everyone around this table voted for a lying, womanizing, criminal to lead the country. Although I would argue that the false mythology surrounding Trump rivals the best Bible stories, I know you don’t think of Donald Trump as a god. I even understand that Trump might have appealed to your economic anxiety, your xenophobia or your need to preserve white supremacy. It’s possible that you just can’t vote for a Democrat. But if you believe the election was stolen, then you have accepted his teachings. And if you put politics, race, economics or your political agenda ahead of your religious beliefs, doesn’t that mean you are putting other Gods before Him? 

I’m sure there’s a commandment about graven images. Didn’t Uncle Jimmy say Colin Kaepernick should respect the flag? Why should he worship a flag instead of fighting for Black lives? Didn’t Pappy get mad when they took down the Confederate monument? That’s literally a graven image. Maybe everyone forgot the third commandment when Trump dispersed a peaceful protest to pose in front of a church with a Bible. We can agree that it was vain, and I’m pretty sure God’s name is in there. 

Just before he was kicked off Twitter, Trump kept the Sabbath holy by railing about the fake “China virus,” lying about nonexistent voter fraud and promoting the upcoming “historic rally” on Jan. 6. You literally support a party that passes laws dishonoring gay mothers and fathers by vilifying gay couples and preventing parents from seeking gender-affirming treatments. What about the Black mothers who can’t get maternal medical care?

And even though you support the pro-life movement, true Christians would also fight capital punishment, police brutality, health disparities, the spread of COVID, gun violence and Hershel Walker’s abortions-for-me-but-not-for-you platform. Speaking of Walker, I thought Christians hated adultery. Does Stormy Daniels not matter? 

Aunt Jenny, if you lived by the credo that “Thou Shalt Not Steal,” you’d support reparations, closing corporate loopholes and equal education funding. To be fair, if you did that, then you’d have to stop bearing false witness against CRT, the “gay agenda,” Black Lives Matter, Obamacare, and the existence of your entire party’s political platform. Maybe none of this would be important if this family didn’t spend four years coveting Obama’s presidency or 400 years coveting Black culture.

Then again, I was today years old when I realized that we were supposed to be evangelical Christians.

I thought we had changed our religion to whiteness. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Michael Harriot is a writer, cultural critic and championship-level Spades player. His book, Black AF History: The Unwhitewashed Story of America, will be released in 2023.

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