For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Nov 07 2017
by Benjamin Katz

5 Ways to Deal With Your Bigoted Family Member at Thanksgiving

By Benjamin Katz - Nov 07 2017

Unfortunately, there are still a handful of people in this world who can't seem to accept others that appear to be "different" from themselves. Racism and bigotry has never truly left the world and now it is resurfacing at an alarming rate.

Consequently, you may find yourself at the Thanksgiving table hearing your very own family member, someone who you love, attack other innocent people. Why? Because they appear to be different, which translates to inferiority for these angry souls. It is on us, the other portion of the population and those with privilege, to defend those being attacked and spread love, wherever hatred may fall.

It is in these situations that we must stand up. Most of the time, people tend to choose the easy path, to dismiss the comment. It's important not to disturb the peace at your dinner table. After all, Thanksgiving is for quality time with your family, not apart from your family. With that being said, there are ways to respectfully defend the innocent. Racism and bigotry have no place in this world. This is how to communicate that effectively.

1. Question their motives.

Why are you saying that? Where did you find this information? How do you know that’s a reliable source? Start to distinguish the difference between judgement and fact. The world is full of biases and baseless accusations. This is a good start to the conversation because if you are able to explain to your family member the value of cross checking their "facts," then you’ve already made progress.

2. Know the difference between hearing and listening.

Sure, your family member may be listening, but that doesn’t mean they are hearing you. It is important to note that listening is an involuntarily function of our bodies. However, hearing is not. Before going into this conversation with your family member, be sure that they will hear you and not just listen. If they will hear you then there is a possibility for a peaceful conversation. If they’re just listening, then it is likely they will resort to attacks, which brings me to my next point.

3. Words have meaning.

Do not get frustrated. Think before you speak. Unfortunately, in today’s world, people tend to think words have little significance. Words have meaning! Nothing is spoken in a vacuum. There is always significance. If you lose your temper, your side of the argument could automatically be dismissed. The most effective way to communicate with someone is calmly. Keep a cool head and think. Racism and bigotry are easy ideas to dismantle. It is more likely that you will exploit those flaws if you’re calm. If your family member loses his/her temper, then just sit back and relax. You did nothing wrong.

4. Do not stress.

Going home is a good thing! Be happy that you finally made it through the semester! Most of you will only have a few weeks left of school after you come back. Embrace that; indulge in the little things. Do not be nervous to go home because of this potential problem. Know in your heart that racism and bigotry is wrong. Hate groups will never prevail and justice will plow through. You are just one of many, working hard every day to make sure that love and acceptance is universally adopted. If you know that your family member is going to turn a thankful and happy time into a hate conference, then be prepared before.

5. There is nothing wrong with some prep.

If you know how your family is, then think beforehand about what you could say. Do some research if you’re not comfortable playing it by ear. The world needs more people to stand up for what's right.

Ultimately, no one wants to make a nice time at home explosive. There is no reason to. We all have those family members who have their heads in the wrong time period. It is 2017; hate speech no longer has a place in the world. No one should ever have to be subjected to those kinds of words. We’ve all experienced, or witnessed, some form of bigotry and racism. It is a hurtful form of, or lack thereof, communication. Hopefully this guide has enabled you to freely communicate to your family member about how their hate speech is negatively impacting the world. Keep on spreading that love! One step at a time, the world can be changed for the better. 

Lead Image Credit: Unsplash

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Benjamin Katz - Muhlenberg College

Current freshman at Muhlenberg College.

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