How To Talk To Racist Relatives

It’s hard enough navigating hard conversations with people you work with or know at a distance. But trynna go there with relatives as you’re gathered around the table and otherwise feeling festive can resemble 1) an ambush where your whole family watches or 2)just a light-hearted attack on your identity while you’re asked to swallow and grin.

Which is why I’m sharing what I know about having hard conversations with relatives!

1. Don’t take it personal

I’m telling you this as a black woman with my fair share of awkward conversations with well-meaning people. It helps to remember your relative is not a nasty person cause they said something you don’t like or find revolting. It also helps to keep yourself, ie. your ego, in check and not make their comment an existential threat to your identity.

2. Stay Present

Breathe. Count internally. Keep your cool. Anything else that keeps you from projecting onto this conversation or checking out of the conversation. Where there’s a pattern of someone being vile, can you address it without making it a character assasination?

3. Stay Out of Conversion Therapy

Share stories about what you’ve learned and your own growth without trying to convert your relative into a card carrying member of your party. Nobody likes to be spoken down to and nobody hears the other person when the goal is to be right or to get the other person to “your team.” You’re not a talking head on Fox News vs. CNN. So give up the need to be right and see if you can make room for nuanced conversation. You might both learn something new.

4. Listen

Yup. Your primary school and high school teachers and college professors were onto some shit. This is the hardest part of any good communication. Listen. With your body. With your full attention. Listening isn’t agreeing or endorsing. Listening is showing up with curiosity and being open. We have enough fissures and threats of nuclear wars in this culture. The harder thing to do is build bridges. To repair what’s been fractured by homophobia, white supremacy and patriarchy—you can’t help us get there without learning to listen.

This is a meaty topic and we really dig in through our signature antiracist course, Work.Kin.Cure. I purposefully offer tools that help you navigate any difficult conversation—about race and beyond.

Learn more about Work.Kin.Cure here.