Why young people should challenge bigoted relatives during Thanksgiving, according to Teen Vogue

Chelsea Ritschel

A Teen Vogue columnist is urging its young audience to challenge bigoted relatives this Thanksgiving instead of “playing nice”.

In the column, written by Jenn M Jackson, she notes the holiday is a time when families come together and often feel comfortable “uttering their most racist, transphobic, queer, antagonistic, misogynistic, and generally ugly ideas over their turkey and cranberry sauce”.

But rather than ignore the ignorant comments made by family members, Jackson suggests that young Americans, especially white Americans, consider “doing something different” this year - as it can open up a conversation about race, class, sexuality, gender and education.

Explaining that many white Americans live segregated lives and are also “isolated in their social groups,” as shown by a 2016 analysis that found the average white American has a network of friends that is 91 per cent white, Jackson says that many white Americans “don’t have to confront racial differences in their personal and daily lives” because of white privilege.

But not doing so only perpetuates structural racism and internalised stereotypes about race and other issues.

“If anti-racist white people do not muster up the courage to challenge their bigoted family members this holiday season, no one else will be there do it,” she writes.

According to Jackson, the simple difference between “not being passive” while relatives discuss hateful beliefs rather than ignoring them is enough to make a difference - as it stops the spread of “toxic ideas and beliefs”.

The topic of confronting bigoted relatives at Thanksgiving dinner has come up frequently in recent years.

Last year, Eater said people have a “moral obligation” to call out hateful relatives while other outlets such as Harper’s Bazaar have published guides for doing so.

However, speaking up has become all the more important as Americans enter into an election year and are faced with a growing trend of racism in the US that has seen an increase in hate crimes for the third year in a row.

If that weren’t enough of a reason to confront relatives on their hateful views, psychologists also suggest that it is ultimately better for your relationship if you have the uncomfortable conversations.

“If you stay on the surface with your relationships to keep the peace and choose not to have these tough conversations with people, what are you losing out on in the long run?” Vaile Wright, psychologist and researcher at the American Psychological Association told Vox. “You probably aren’t having a fully meaningful relationship with that person because neither of you are taking the time or initiative to understand each other’s point of view.

“You are also continuing to reinforce this idea that we can’t talk about this idea, and by doing that, you are perpetuating a system that continues to oppress certain groups.”

Read more

Why Americans celebrate Thanksgiving