How to Talk About Race and Politics at Thanksgiving 2020

How to Talk About Race and Politics at Thanksgiving 2020

The second notable date in November is upon us. Thanksgiving! Whether you’re sharing dinner with those in your own household or virtually over Zoom with family or friends, some real historical context for Thanksgiving may be what’s for dinner. Start off with a brief look at the first (and subsequent) encounters between pilgrims and the people of the Wampanoag tribe. Or learn one of these seven recipes composed by all Native American chefs to forge a conversation there.

With stakes at an all-time high with COVID19 and the continued fight for racial justice, gathering this holiday season takes on a whole new meaning when not every member of your family or friend group is politically aligned.
We will eat, drink, reminisce on the days of social interaction — and, inevitably, argue about what’s been interrupting daily tv programming. Use these resources as tools to help you move through conversation that may feel like a minefield.

We must rally so that the fabric of anti-blackness in our Latinx community is unraveled thread by thread. We rally so that these racist ideologies will not continue to be passed down.

A conversation that may seem familiar: One person says, “Black Lives Matter.” Then another responds, “No, all lives matter.”

Think back to this holiday last year, going around the table with a plate in hand, except by the time you sit down, your plate is empty and you’ve not had a bite. You pipe up to say, “Hey, I should have my dinner.” Your uncle corrects you, saying, “everyone should get their dinner.” Which, as a sentiment is great and sort of endearing considering he misses your birthday every year— OK indeed, everyone should get their fair share, and that was kinda your point in the first place: that you should be a part of everyone, and you should get your dinner also.

The energy from his first bite of mashed potatoes gave him the energy to correct you, ignoring the problem that you still don’t have your dinner. His response ignores that, “Hey, I should have my dinner” had an implicit “too” at the end ”Hey, I should have my dinner, too, like everyone else.” That uncle treated your statement as though you meant “only I should have dinner,” which clearly was not your intention. The energy spent deflecting from your problem could have been budgeted more efficiently making sure everyone did have their dinner.

That uncle figure might be someone older, like a grandpa who helped raise your cousins, who may have inherited some of the same beliefs. Now it’s time we roll up our sleeves while holding up a mirror to ourselves and the people who believe in us, our family. We must rally so that the fabric of anti-blackness in our Latinx community is unraveled thread by thread. We rally so that these racist ideologies will not continue to be passed down. To be silent is a choice we are granted, one that is ripped from the mouths of survivors by white supremacy. That’s important because staying comfortable is only possible when you ignore that reality.

Thankfully, we’ve got you covered topic by topic, so your racist uncle can hear some counterpoints to his misguided rhetoric — and so you don’t’ have to secretly wish he chokes on that piece of pumpkin pie. We have facts filled with holiday joy!

On Being A trump Supporter

Yep, we’ve all got a trump supporter in the family. We are here with tools for you to feel empowered to engage in conversation with your loved ones. 

Them: I voted for trump because the oilfield is my family’s livelihood.

Us: Even with Biden’s wishes coming true, the environment will decide the end of oil extraction more than a Biden presidency does. While there’s still oil in the ground and still money to be made, the oil industry will survive trump… and likely Biden too.

The Diggity Low Down: Listen, US oil companies were already sitting on a well of woes. As a result of trump’s trade wars and the immense mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, the industry experienced a massive blowout. That meant thousands of missing employees from safety meetings due to layoffs. Seems like oil companies aren’t doing so hot under a trump presidency, in 2020 alone, 43 U.S. oil companies filed for bankruptcy. Can we get some accountability? You got this.

Them: I voted for trump, but I’m not racist!

Us: I’m glad to hear that you’re against racism. But over the past four years, we’ve heard trump say really hurtful things to immigrants, Muslims, Black folx, women, and so many others. Have you thought about how his words may affect your family, your friends, or the people around you?

The Diggity Low Down: People often shut down when they’re being attacked. While we may think they are racists for supporting trump, we have to remember that they are human beings as well, all while convincing them of our humanity, too. It would be helpful to angle your arguments from a personal standpoint and offer them a perspective they may not have thought of before. Are they a parent? Do they volunteer in their community? Approach from this place, not from one of disagreement. Also, if it feels safe, consider sharing your personal story. Oftentimes, personal connection to an issue is what creates transformation.

Them: I voted for him because he’s good for the economy. 

Us: I also want to see this economy grow. I want my family and friends to have a good-paying job and opportunities too, but I have my doubts that trump cares about those same things that you and I do. He’s argued before that wages are too high and that unions are bad. Aren’t those things good for the economy? 

The Diggity Low Down: Frankly, we all want to see hard work pay off. We all deserve a living wage and if we’re considered essential, heck, we deserve essential pay in order to contribute fully to this economy.  However, people are quite comfortable dismissing human lives for profit. If a good economy leaves thousands dead, the economy may not actually be so good.

Racism, Anti-Blackness, Colorism

Yep, this is an anti-racism household. With Black and Brown lives lost on the daily, we must address racism in every circle we move through. 

Them: What about white lives? Brown lives? Don’t all lives matter?

Us: YES! But [insert relative here] it’s Black lives being killed by police brutality more often. 

The Diggity Low Down: Black people are three times as likely as white people to be killed during a police encounter, according to studies. Black women are four times more likely to die giving birth. Black youth, predominantly young Black girls are punished more severely than their white counterparts, six times more likely to be exact. 

And while we’re at it—

Them: Blue Lives Matter.

Us: People don’t choose their skin color. Police officers and other people working in law enforcement do choose to work in that profession. 

The Diggity Low Down:  This argument blurs the line between occupation and skin color. It also builds on the narrative taken by people who support law enforcement with a veneer of logic that says, “Yeah they choose to put on that uniform and we support their courage.” Which, like, yeah okay, except they are paid well over a living wage, and in most cases, have immunity if they accidentally kill someone. So, yeah that is their job and they signed up for it knowing the risks while benefiting from the pay and being wildly undertrained. 

Them: The protests have caused destruction to property.

Us: Many people were very upset about what’s happening to Black people and are also upset over the things they’ve heard from trump. Ultimately, things can be replaced, but the lives of our community cannot.

The Diggity Low Down: Without protests, demonstrations, boycotts, and even riots like those that led to the American Revolution, our country would have never come to be. 

Them:  Oh I already donated and posted my black photo for #blackouttuesday, and my Black friends know I believe Black Lives Matter!

Us: I am so glad to hear you were able to show your support! Have you thought of other ways of support? Maybe one of these organizations engaging in direct action

The Diggity Low Down: Deep breath! Okay, but have you called the police on a Black person before? How often do you leverage your privilege to protect a Black person? As you think through these questions, remember that even #blackouttuesday sparked a meaningful conversation on the internet, however, it cannot end there. That is only impactful if action outside of Instagram matches it. Post your donation receipt from an organization in need. Also, here are 26 ways to get involved beyond the streets.

Them: “Awe, her baby is so cute for how dark she is!” “O que linda la negrita” “Tiene los ojos de color? Ay que bonita le bebe.” “No te pongas en el sol porque te quemas.”

Us: That baby’s hair pattern is beautiful! What a happy baby so vibrant and giggly! – Que bonita piel morena de la nene! Que ojos tan brillosos llenos de azúcar morena!

The Diggity Low Down: If you’re part of a Spanish-speaking family, you’ve heard a variation of this. Calling a non-white baby cute only because they display European features like fair skin, colored eyes, or blonde hair.  For many children, beauty standards are determined at home. Where we learn to recognize beauty. Here is where we must actively take down Eurocentric stereotypes of beauty and acknowledge how deeply embedded they are in our families. 

On the Election

Them: The media is lying.

Us: I also have a hard time trusting what some media sources say. What sources do you trust? Why?

The Diggity Low Down: We should challenge where information comes from all the time. There is a way we can do that without questioning someone’s intellect. Asking others why they trust a source is part of the conversation to bridge the divide between facts and empty claims. Meaningfully engaging with loved ones about who they trust and what they do to hold them accountable is how we can find a common ground.

Them: The election is rigged. They aren’t counting all the votes.

Us: We should respect the democratic election process like we did when trump was first elected. Voting takes hard work, especially if it means taking time off and perhaps jeopardizing your job in order to do it. There is also no proof of votes from dead people unless of course, some have since passed away from COVID after mailing or casting a ballot in person.

The Diggity Low Down: 

 Agree that every vote should be counted, that is why it takes time to count even the overseas absentee ballots mailed in by military members. Legal votes is rhetoric that builds on labeling humans as legal or not. If someone shares an article from breitbart or some other right-wing news site with low credibility, go back to the last response and challenge why they trust the source.

Let’s keep it real, we have the most impact at home, with the people we are closest to. For Black and Brown folk, that may not mean interacting very much with trump supporters this holiday, considering that base consists of mostly white people. White voters are the majority of the electorate, at 65% according to exit polls, making them by far the largest voting bloc supporting him, leaving Black and Brown voters at 12 and 13 percent. Well, looky here! All this breakdown of the Latinx vote, while worthy of analysis, actively ignores the real monolith backing a racist campaign, white folk. America’s normalization of whiteness allots white people the privilege to evade being at the center of the debate around identity politics and systemic racism. Instead of using Black and Brown voters as a scapegoat, step in your privilege by forging these conversations this holiday season. We got your back with a few more resources to look into below.

Some podcasts to listen to:

A Decade Of Watching Black People Die 

How to Be an Antiracist

Reminder, enduring 2020 is serious work:

Managing Mental Health During Social Movements and Civil Unrest

Activities to unpack the roles we play within our circles:

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

Roles in a Social Change Ecosystem 

If you’re a parent, check out these learning kits:

Anti-Blackness and the way forward for K-12 schooling

Thanksgiving/Thanks-taking and Privilege

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