Tips for Talking Race on Thanksgiving

Want to ruffle some feathers with a good discussion? Here's how.

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According to ColorLines' Terry Keleher, it's time we rewrote the traditional rules of etiquette and go ahead and discuss religion, politics and, yes, even race at the Thanksgiving table. Here are some excerpts from her holiday-themed list of five tips for getting the most out of the inevitable heated discussion.

1. Talk turkey Start with a question. Use plain language. Set the frame and tone you want. Create an opening for some constructive dialogue. For example, “Did you see that video of the police cracking down on the non-violent student protesters?” Or, “What do you think of the plans to shut down the neighborhood health clinic that serves mostly low-income people of color?”

2. Go easy on the stuffing Make sure your ears aren’t too stuffed up to listen well. And don’t get too full of yourself. Be open to learning, because there actually are many valid perspectives.

3. Take a roll with the mashed potatoes When the rabid right-winger just can’t resist his racist rant, roll with it. You don’t have to take the bait. Talk on your own terms—when, how, and with whom you want. Not everything and everyone is worth your time.

4. Go for the gravy Sometimes the gravy makes the meal, providing the perfect complement to some delectable combinations. What’s the gravy you can add to the conversation? Instead of the typical race talk focused on blaming and shaming, and guilt tripping and grievances, how can you take things in a different direction?

5. Keep your eye on the pies The point of talking about race at the Thanksgiving table isn’t actually to ruffle feathers, as tempting as that may be. The real point is to get others to see, act and think differently. But that’s only gonna happen if you’re willing to nurture and sustain good relationships with those you care about most.

Read more at ColorLines.

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