how to talk to your parents about racism

“God, I wish there was a guide for this…” I found myself thinking as I struggled through yet another dinner conversation with my white family about racism.

Trying to strike the balance between calling someone out when it’s appropriate and keeping the atmosphere at home comfortable for everyone, isn’t easy. I would happily talk about racism all evening, but the fact of the matter is, when I do keep at it, I notice those around me becoming increasingly exacerbated.

After much trial and error, I feel like I’m finally starting to figure out our boundaries and how better to approach and end conversations on racism. So here I’ve written down some points of things I’ve learned from personal experience, that have helped me navigate these difficult conversations with a little more ease.

10 tips to make talking about racism easier
  1. Take a deep breath before reacting to any comment.
  2. Let them know how important this issue is to you and ask that they try to listen.
  3. Pay attention and listen with compassion. Lots of the exchanges I’ve had so far have been hugely revealing about the origin of prejudices that lead to racism.
  4. Choose a couple of good statistics that are pretty non-negotiable to illustrate white privilege. 
  5. Try not to come out with any broad, swooping statements that can’t be backed up. People will doubt your authenticity
  6. Set your boundaries- know when to walk away. If you see that a family member is simply taking joy in the argument/ seeing you upset, walk away.
  7. They will probably change the topic of conversation, point this out and gently steer it back.
  8. Being told that you simply have to “accept” the racist opinions of another is awkward, but remember that you don’t [have to accept them].
  9. One re-occurring comment is about being “colourblind”. Saying you don’t “see” race is just ignoring racism, not solving it. And us white people need to stop ignoring the issue!
  10. Find a way to deal with new tensions. I like to spend time out on walks with my family and find that when you’re in movement, it’s much easier to have a calm discussion.

It might all feel a little hopeless at times, but some battles are won once the fight is over. It  takes great humility to change an opinion in front of the person who you were disagreeing with. Hopefully, if they give you the time of day, your family might take some of what you’ve said into consideration. The truth is, it’s a slow game in my house, but I won’t give up.

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