When Uncle Jim Says Racist Things

RacistUncleBobAmong many things that come with holiday season, there are those opportunities to respond to racist, sexist, or otherwise oppressive jokes and comments made by family members that you really don’t see very often. These opportunities may be more likely for white people, but not exclusively.

Don’t be caught off guard! Armed with some of these ideas, you can be prepared to respond instead of just looking awkward and uncomfortable. Not all of these are appropriate for every situation and relationship, so have a range of options up your sleeve. The power of most of these lies in uncovering the comment and exposing the ugly racism/sexism/heterosexism/stereotype behind it.

  • Pretend you don’t understand and ask them to explain it. It’s not so funny when it has to be explained. And really go on with this asking a lot of questions. (h/t Carmen Van Kerchove)
  • Just outright embarrass them and don’t allow them to save face, with a comment like,  “Wow, that’s really racist!” or other examples from Captain Awkward. (The comments to that post are also worth reading.)
  • To avoid getting into a discussion about how racist they are or are not, you might try, “Oh, you must be so embarrassed. Do you know you said that out loud?” Or, “I’m so embarrassed for you!”
  • Say, “You probably said that because you think I’m white.” If a Person of Color uses this tactic it really throws off the offender. (h/t Conrad Moore, ROJ trainer)
  • Know some statistics, history, and current events so that you can use to provide counter-examples to: “Indians were friendly with the Pilgrims.” and “Black people are just more violent. Look at the statistics.” Don’t get your hopes up too much that you will change their point of view, but at least you won’t let them get away with it. (Also, Conrad)

What tactics do you use? If you use these over the holidays, how did it work out for you?

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