As much as the presence of family can be heartwarming, it sometimes gets a little... awkward.
Almost everyone has that one relative whose views can run the risk of spoiling even the merriest of holiday gatherings. And since the recent deaths of unarmed black people during police incidents have dominated media coverage, some have no problem spreading their unexamined insights on race with others around them — including their families. But it doesn't have to be that way.
For anyone wondering how to smooth things out around the dinner table, YouTube star Franchesca "Chescaleigh" Ramsey just created the perfect toolbox in a new video, "Five Comebacks for Your Racist Relative During the Holidays."
All it takes is a little wit, care and honesty to help defuse a potentially toxic situation. But it isn't always so simple.
"It is super tough and scary to call people out, especially when it's someone you love," Ramsey says in the video. "So you really have to pick your battles here, and around the dinner table is usually not the best place for Social Justice 101."
One trick she advises is the use of sarcasm: "Whoa, is it 2014 or 1814 up in here? What's next, the right to vote? Integrated schools? A black president?"
And perhaps for those stubborn folks, a direct approach with just enough of a truth bomb might be best — or, as Ramsey calls it, the Smackdown: "As much as I'd like to discuss how African-Americans and people of color have been marginalized throughout history, resulting in the normalization of their mistreatment through laws and social norms meant to uphold white supremacy, these sweet potatoes aren't going to eat themselves. Let's dig in."
But sometimes, all it takes is a loving reminder that the holidays are a time for celebration and sharing quality time, not for quarrelsome conversations. As the saying goes, and as Ramsey points out, you can just kill them with kindness: "It makes me really uncomfortable when you say things like that. So, in the spirit of the holidays, can we just try to love and respect everybody? I mean, that's not so much to ask, right?"
Still, it's important to make sure that the remarks don't go unrecognized. If anyone is best positioned to challenge a family member to empathize with people of color who endure everyday racism, it's someone they love dearly.
Perhaps instead of repugnant remarks snowballing at a holiday dinner, it might even help to take the family member aside and have a private conversation.
"Reach out to that person or family member afterwards, away from the holidays, on the phone, at a coffee shop, in an email and let them know why what they said is problematic and how it hurt you, so that they can learn from the situation," Ramsey says. "I know that it's scary, but we have to have these hard conversations, because it's the only way people are going to learn and grow. And the first place it starts is with your community — and your community starts with your family."
Hopefully no one has the misfortune of hearing racist comments from family members and loved ones during the holidays. But should a difficult dialogue result, take heart — it could help build a new bond from working together to reach a new level of understanding and empathy.