This morning i found myself facing Blogger’s Block.

i mean is that even a thing? i know ‘Writer’s Block’ is a thing and so surely it must be.

Anyways, i decided to turn to the Twitterer and share my dilemma and ask for topics to write on and a few really good ones came in. So i thought i would dedicate this week’s bloggering to picking topics that others have chosen for me and writing on them here.

Problematic Family Members

‘Dealing with family that are massive Trump supporters / conspiracy believers / racist. Do we avoid all sensitive topics, grit our teeth, or call them out?’

Championell @Beautyfor_ashes 

Wow, so Championell went straight for the jugular. No warm-up, dip-toes-in-shallow-end, ‘What songs can you work to?’ training-wheels primer to get us going. What a super complex and complicated topic. But such an important one. And i really do hope that as you read this, you will jump in with your thoughts and ideas and stories because i feel like this question is so necessary for so many people i know, including family-members-in-law. So it lands really really close.

This lands right alongside the #NotOnOurWatch commitment i speak about often. My daily declaration that i will interrupt racism when i see it in front of me – offline and online. But i think what is different with this aspect of the question is that the stakes are much higher. 

When i come across an inappropriate ‘joke’ online on my friend’s page or when someone on the Twitterer comments in a way that is definitely prejudicial from race perspective, it is fairly easy to intervene and quite possibly be unfollowed or blocked or sworn at or subtweeted. That really is the extent of it. And when it’s with a friend, i might lose a friend. Which is hard, but often easy enough to get over when realising the quality of the type of friendship that can be lost over a racist slur.

But when it comes to family, there is often a much larger cost. Because [and this is family dependent, but i think covers more than it doesn’t] family is typically there to stay. You can’t just go and make some new family online. There are going to be family gatherings [one day again, perhaps] and birthdays and Christmas celebration and more.

Calling Family Out

Let’s remind ourselves what the question was:

‘Dealing with family that are massive Trump supporters / conspiracy believers / racist. Do we avoid all sensitive topics, grit our teeth, or call them out?’

When it comes to racism [and sexism and other forms of hate speech/injustice] i would hold to the #NotOnOurWatch commitment. Which, when i explain it to people, has at its lowest rung the aspect of interruption. i will not let it pass unchallenged. The nature and weight of the challenge might differ when it is a family member compared to Karen Random on the internet, but that insensitive comment or joke has to be responded to with the words or the idea that, “That was not okay!” 

Space must be taken into consideration. If the comment/joke/attitude happens in your space [at your home] then you have a lot more power/freedom to declare, “That is not okay. In this house, we do not tolerate that kind of thing. While you are in my space you need to respect our stance on these things.” 

While if it happens in someone else’s space it can be a little more challenging. But perhaps, the challenge comes with a threat/ultimatum of removing yourself from that space. “That is not okay. If you want to continue talking/thinking like that, then we will not come here anymore.”

When it comes to conspiracy theory, i think it would be a case by case scenario. There might be a moment when you need to cut down conversation because it feels a bit much, but it is unlikely to be as directly confrontational as a racist comment. Someone can hold on to a conspiracy theory without it needing to be a cause of conflict between the two of you and you can hopefully arrive at an agree-to-disagree stance.

Being a T. Rump supporter is a bit more tricky because it feels like that in itself promotes so much racism/sexism and other ideas of injustice. i don’t know that that in and of itself is enough to sever ties with your family. It might be more a question of how vocal they are about their support of T. Rump and specific ideas that might cause more direct conflict?

How to best Respond?

The question asked was this: Do we avoid all sensitive topics, grit our teeth, or call them out?’

i think so much will depend on the people involved and how open they are to critical thinking or hearing ideas that oppose their own. So i’m not sure there is a blanket statement that can be made that covers every scenario well. With some families, to keep some kind of peace it may be wiser to decide collectively to avoid all sensitive topics. But then, with that, you are accepting a certain level of depth that will ever be possible in that space and realise that all interactions will likely happen at quite a superficial level.

When it comes to gritting our teeth, that feels like saying nothing when something problematic is said and i don’t back that as a solution. It goes against the premise of #NotOnOurWatch which refuses to become complicit in silence which is often received as affirmation. If no-one disagrees then what I said must be okay. So that doesn’t feel like a good option ever.

Calling them out is probably my go-to. But it seldom ends well. There are also different ways to do this – the more face-saving being a quiet conversation off to the side. But when their comment has been public, it always feels to me like some level of public dealing with it is necessary. To ensure that everyone in the space knows that you are uncomfortable with it and that it was not okay. Some sort of combination of a general “That is not okay” and then a more personal speaking through the specifics might be best. But you have to count the cost beforehand, knowing that you have to be okay with losing or drastically affecting your relationship with that person forever.

Having said that, i personally would be okay with that choice. i would rather lose a family member or create some kind of weird rift in a family relationship than sit quietly and know that i said nothing and allowed racism to happen unchallenged.

The world is full of Injustice. If we sit back and do nothing when it is happening in front of our eyes, even with our own family, then we lose all right to say anything about the rest of it. The people we know and have deep relationships with are the ones we are likely to have the most influence on. We have to be bold and we have to let them know that Justice is always worth fighting for, at any cost.

All to say, this is so much easier to say from the outside. i have had countless uncomfortable conversations with people i know and lost some friendships on the way. But i have never had to have those kinds of conversations with immediate family.

What about you, though? Tell me some of your stories. Share some of your dilemmas. Ever had to do this when it went surprisingly well? Or have you had it go badly? What were the consequences?

Would love to hear some stories and maybe other thoughts on this topic. Thank you Championell @Beautyfor_ashes for a very challenging topic. Why don’t you go and give her a follow on the Twitterer?