by Chris Bodenner
A reader writes:
As an African-American, I understand the reluctance of rational, "judge by the content of their character" white people to challenge their racist relatives during the holidays, especially the ones that are bona-fide white supremacists (somebody has to be related to them). It turns what should be a fun family gathering into a lecture, a fiery debate or worse – a really, really bad argument/fight. But let's be honest, who really has a drama-free family holiday? Therefore, I would encourage them to fight smart and strategically.
For racist generalizations, maybe you could:
email articles/videos of interviews by credible sources that disprove what they're saying (especially if they claim someone said something, and they actually didn't), then challenge any crazy racist emails that they send you in return; just for giggles email them articles that profile highly accomplished non-white men and women that relate to whatever crazy they were trying to sell as fact; just laugh at what they say (unless it's a racist joke); or ask them to prove what they're saying.
If they're the racists that they claim to be, they won't know any non-white people personally, so how could they "know" what they're saying. It's all observational or gleaned from TV/radio/websites, and you can just shut down the conversation by stating that until you are proven to your satisfaction that what they say is true (which as we know will never happen), you will not give any credence to what they're saying. Or expose their hypocrisy, like they hate black people, but love black athletes, black entertainers, etc. – either they're committed to their racism, or they're just half-ass about it. The same holds for non-white "friends" that they have; just ask them what would these non-white friends think if they heard them saying these racist things, etc.
Or to really have some fun do the old "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" move. Depending on how racist your relatives are, ask if you can bring a guest, and bring one of your non-white friends. Just make sure that you have warned that non-white friend ahead of time, and let them know what you're trying to do. For most of us non-white people, we are used to dealing with people like your racist relatives and would have no problem going toe-to-toe. Indeed that could actually turn some of the racist relatives around, because they would've met someone who contradicted their stereotype (though they love to say that peole like that are the exception, e.g. Condi Rice).
However, where you should draw the line is if they make pointed racist statements about people you know personally or that your own family/children know personally. For that you should stand up, because as noted by another reader if not you, who? You should also draw the line if you've decided to raise your children in a different way and may have to tell them to chill out. If that doesn't work, you may have to just limit the time spent with your family at the holidays.