Importance of Interrupting Racist Jokes, Statements or Commentary
That time of year is coming, especially beginning with this week, when families will travel long distances and make arrangements to see one another and share a meal together in gratitude. With this time of year comes the ability to form lasting memories together. It is also a time when people with different viewpoints within the same family could lead to potential conflict. While I am not advocating for anyone to intentionally go into this time of year with their guard up, it is critical that if you know viewpoints may be shared that you do not agree with, you get prepared to address it or avoid it to ensure you and your family are not adversely affected by it.
Addressing racism, sexism, homophobia, antisemitism, anti-blackness or any other form of identifying oppression is never easy. While we advocate for calling in vs. calling out to avoid embarrassment and have maximum impact in changing mindsets, this is not always possible in these family settings.
Here are a few tips to help you out…
Preventative: Let your family and friends know that you are working towards intentionally raising a Courageous Family and that involves avoiding exposing yourself or your children to oppressive mindsets, ideologies, jokes, etc. If that is not possible, then either you will not be in attendance or you are providing a fair warning that you will be calling out issues that arise.
Preventative: Let your children know what is and isn’t appropriate and if something is done or said that they know isn’t right or makes them uncomfortable then they are to come and let you know immediately. This lets your kids know what to do and that you have got their back. Oftentimes, kids will think they will get in trouble if they speak negatively of an elder and it is up to us to show them that we are their safe place and how to approach us respectfully and with concern.
In the Moment: Use Paul Scanlon’s approach here in the video to interrupt the conversation when you see, hear or feel it going in a direction that is not in alignment with your views, to ask the person not to continue, and if not, then you can remove yourself from the situation. As he mentions, it will make folks uncomfortable, but that is part of what being Courageous means…pushing through the fear of discomfort.
Responding Afterwards: If you have found yourself in the predicament of the joke, comment or situation having already occurred you have several options.
Walk Away - You have NO obligation to stay in an environment that is harmful to you or your family. You have NO obligation to teach people who have chosen to live in ignorance, even if you’re related to them. You have NO obligation to do anything, but protect your children and your peace! Pack up your belongings, stop by Pizza Hut on the way home, and do you, boo!
Say Something - This can be tricky, but you have to decide first of all that you will say something and then how you will say it. Will you call out the issue, call in the person, or both? As you do this, my recommendation is to use “I” messages and speak to impact.
Ex. When you tell racist jokes (make sexist/homophobic/antisemitic, etc. comments), I feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, and disrespected because what you are saying is not something I believe nor do I want me or my family to be around. If this is going to continue, then this may not be an emotionally safe environment for me and my family and we will need to remove ourselves. This is not up for discussion or debate, is this going to continue to occur and be a problem or are we welcome to stay and not be exposed to this type of behavior, comments, etc?
Say and Do Nothing - While it is not the Courageous choice in the least there are many that choose to say and do nothing in those moments. If you do, then I would suggest afterward debriefing with someone in your village, about why you chose that particular path at that moment and exploring the cleanup work that may need to be done with yourself and others after having been exposed to harmful ideologies. The silence is not malignant, it is very harmful and traumatizing, but you will have to explore why this was your choice at the moment and what you need to make a more Courageous choice in the future.
Yup, it's that simple, but you also have to be ready to go if they say NO, since the only person/people you can control is you and your own immediate family. While it’s relatively simple, this is not to say that taking this route is easy. Oftentimes we are fighting against notions of respecting our elders, concerned about losing family bonds and ties, and fear of missing out on what may very well be a great and rare opportunity to bond with family members. You have a choice to make, what will you do? Here’s some helpful materials
Here is the link to Paul Scanlon’s video where he speaks about some of the internal challenges of speaking up. Please watch this before you head to your relatives this holiday season and consider how you will interrupt by speaking up during this holiday season. https://www.linkedin.com/posts/paulscanlonuk_racism-racialjustice-speakup-activity-66811331 ra82189993984-z1Zx?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_android Movie Suggestion
Tuakiri Huna is a 2013 New Zealand film directed by Dana Rotberg and stars Whirimako Black, Antonia Prebble, and Rachel House
#WhiteLies is about the nature of identity: those who deny it and those who strive to protect it. Paraiti (Whirimako Black) is a medicine woman. She is the healer and midwife of her rural, tribal people -- she believes in life. But new laws are in force prohibiting unlicensed healers. On a rare trip to the city, she is approached by Maraea (Rachel House), the servant of a wealthy woman, Rebecca (Antonia Prebble), who seeks her knowledge and assistance in order to hide a secret that could destroy Rebecca's position in European settler society. If the secret is uncovered a life may be lost, but hiding it may also have fatal consequences. So Paraiti, Maraea, and Rebecca become players in a head-on clash of beliefs, deception, and ultimate salvation Here is the official trailer to the movie White Lies, which is playing right now on Amazon Prime https://youtu.be/prcx70v-H6w We recommend this film for anyone over the age of 12, but it doesn’t have anything in it that the younger kids couldn’t be exposed to, although since it is a deep and serious film, they may not have the stamina to make it through. Here are a few discussion questions that can help you process the important themes in this film.
What do you understand happened in this film and why? (ALL ages)
What role did race, culture, and identity play in this film? (ALL ages)
How was life different for people based on race, culture or identity?
Differing Perspectives: Pick any character at any pivotal moment in the film and try to put yourself in their position. (ALL Ages)
What is important to them?
Why do you think they do what they do?
What are they afraid of most?
What do you think they learned from their experience?
What would you have done the same? Differently?
How does this help you to see situations from different perspectives?
4. What do you know about “Passing”? (Older teens and Above)
*May need to google the definition of “Passing” and do a little research
Why do you think people chose to do this?
What were the benefits of passing?
What is the harm done and to whom?
How can this film be used to help further our Courageous Family Leadership journey (Parentals)
** As always we recommend that you as a family leadership team preview and discuss any films or content to ensure it is aligned with what you want to share with your children and family. Please share any additional thoughts, questions, and results/insights from your discussions with us in our Courageous Families Facebook Group.