7 Tips for Surviving a Black Family Reunion  

Skip spades, find the uncle in the “mandals,” and five more pieces of advice for emerging from your summer gathering unscathed.

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It’s summer, which means it’s family-reunion time. These gatherings are a time of celebration, but between the family politics and the overeating you’re bound to do, they can be downright exhausting. Before you put on your custom-made T-shirt and head to the park to meet your long-lost relatives, remember to keep these tips in mind.

1. Avoid your conspiracy-theorist uncle.

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Everyone has the uncle who fully embraces a conspiracy theory for every major event within the last century. Among them: Man never made it to the moon, the government is always watching (which, admittedly, has some truth to it) and we’ll never know who really shot Malcolm X. It is very likely that this uncle is the father of your “contrarian cousin”—you know, the one whose “just playing devil’s advocate” positions make most of his commentary downright offensive.

2. Leave Obama out of it.

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President Barack Obama 

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President Obama is like the man-who-must-not-be-named of black family reunions. Whether your relatives are griping about Republican obstructionism, ferreting out racism in politics or grumbling about what the president should be doing “for the black community,” the conversation will drag on for ages and will be split into two camps. It’s in these conversations especially that the two characters mentioned above will really show their true colors, turning a relaxing day into an outdoor cable-news debate.

3. Unless you’re getting married, keep the details of who you’re dating from that nosy aunt.

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Just as your relationship “ain’t none of your friends’ business,” it’s not your aunt’s, either. That doesn’t mean she won’t ask. Repeatedly. But no one—especially someone who survives on gossip with a healthy side of passing judgment and giving unsolicited advice—really needs to know if you’re single, dating or anything in between.

4. Ask when the potato salad was put out.

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It’s a general piece of advice that really applies to any summer gathering, but if you want to remain physically (if not mentally) healthy at the end of the reunion, watch the times on items made with mayonnaise. Also, remember the most important rule of potato salad: Eat it only if you know who made it.

5. Seek out barbecue by the uncle wearing the “mandals.”

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If the person making the barbecue isn’t rocking the mandals, then you need to eat elsewhere. It’s not that the food won’t taste good; it’s just always better when it’s made by that one older man rocking what is undeniably the official uniform of outdoor meat preparation.

6. Don’t play games. Literally. 

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This includes but is not limited to water-balloon toss, basketball, bid whist, hopscotch—any of them. They may seem harmless on the surface, but there’s often a legacy invested in these competitions, and you don’t want to send the legacy of your respective side of the family down in flames. Plus, you never know who will take the game way too seriously.

7. Specifically, stay away from spades. 

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This game requires its own specific warning. Never, ever get involved in a game of spades at your family reunion. It will only end badly. Don’t believe it? Consider the fact that you probably have some family members still not speaking to each other since the last family gathering because of heightened emotions over a friendly competition gone wrong.

Diamond Sharp is a social media fellow at The Root.

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