My late Grampa used to send me and other family members emails with horrible horrible Islamophobic rhetoric for years. Horrible. And I'd answer back and argue with him, and you know what happened, every time?
The family would come after me. "Take me off this list!" "Just ignore him!" "He's a old man!" "You're just encouraging him!" "Why would you copy me on these stupid arguments?" "Just let it go!"
Some of them would get FURIOUS with me, in fact. Even the ones who didn't agree were like "Why can't you just delete it? I do!" But they'd never say one word to him. He was the patriarch. "He has a right to his beliefs." "He's an old man and he deserves respect!"
I wrote back every damn time. Grampa. How can you believe this. This is poison. This is wrong. This is not what you taught me to believe about the world. Where are you getting this. This is evil. You fought Hitler to liberate people from this exact attitude.
The rest of the family did get annoyed with him for wasting their time with "political" emails, but not one besides me ever said one fucking word to him about the content. Not one.
I don't have to read any manifestos of recent white nationalist terrorists to know what's in them. My Grampa sent me rough drafts of this shit for a decade.
How many of us have this same rift in our families - the loud & proud bigot and the pressure - some silent, some not - from everyone else to stop talking about it, to keep the peace, to ignore all of it, but all directed at US.
"Come on, he's old, we don't have much more time with him." "Come on, it's Christmas." "Come on, you know how he gets." "Come on, why do you pay any attention to him, you only make it worse."
Thanks to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh (who used to come on the radio right after a gardening show my parents liked and they just would forget to change the station) and the rest we've lost, like, generations. And we (my family = white people) normalized the worst things.
We normalized this world where a person could say the worst things, the most violent things, and the people around them would be like "Interesting, pass the mashed potatoes," but if you dared say "I don't think that's true, Grampa" they'd all open their mouths to yell at you.
"YOU DON'T HAVE TO JUMP DOWN HIS THROAT, JEEZ" - People who are totally cool with jumping down your throat for mildly suggesting that people of other faiths shouldn't... be... "rounded up"?
And I admit, sometimes I let things go by or looked for "safe" topics or went in a different room, I didn't have the energy to do it all by myself or be screamed at or blamed for "ruining" a visit or god fucking forbid engage about a topic that might be considered "political."
I know none of this is news and we're half past Too Late O'Clock on so much of it but if I can do one tiny thing with my advice column it will be to denormalize what so many of us were pushed and forced and berated into normalizing for so long.
Like, "Wait, my brother is a Nazi, and he says a lot of Nazi stuff, but you're mad at ME about this somehow? I think not."
And it's the worst for the people who are dependent on their right wing family members for [help][housing][care][survival], the ones who can't afford to argue or leave because there's no where else to go. I see you. <3
I keep coming back to the idea of redemption narratives and "debate" - the fallacy that we're supposed debate the bigots and change their minds (while also somehow not "ruin" holidays by "taking the bait"), that the only worthwhile goal is conversion of the worst people.
It's a brilliant trap when you think about it - "Either waste all your energy on the impossible task of convincing the worst person here or stay quiet because there's no point and anyway we're a faaaaaaaaaaamily!"
I think there is a mandate, has long been a mandate for my fellow white people to be the ones to collect and engage our racist relatives. But I'm not sure descending on the Fox & Friends crowd with our best non-confrontational persuasion strategies is the best use of our time.
'Cause in that letter from today, the people I am actually FURIOUS with are the LW's parents. Like, Uncle Fuckface is most likely a lost cause, if you love him and want him to come to stuff, go persuade him not to be a fuckface! But let's not pretend that this is my problem!
"You're arguing that I have to make room at my wedding for someone who doesn't think his country has room for people like me and the person I'm marrying? Are you fucking serious right now? That is your plan?"
In our families and politically we're being asked over and over to make compromises by people who both think there is a "center" and who won't lift a finger to make the bigoted fuckfaces they know budge a single inch in its direction.
Idk, I don't have any good levers for dragging the loud and proud bigots away from their bigotry, but maybe I do have some for making all these supposed Great Peacemakers do something useful for once, or at least admit that they are Rolfs so we can stop wasting our time.
One is "Idk, Mom/Grandma/Auntie, every time Bigot McGee goes off on one of his racist rants nobody checks him and you get upset with me if I do. Why is that? You're the host of this thing, so is every holiday gonna be a racist holiday? If so, I gotta rethink coming home."
"Idk, you say you don't agree with Fox so why is always on in your house when I visit and why doesn't anybody say anything when Uncle Creepo goes off? Why do I have to be the one, and then I get blamed for 'ruining' the day? Isn't the hate speech ruining the day?"
If you try this and get hemming and hawing I wouldn't be surprised - They don't want to SAY why they allow it, they don't want to admit how bad it's gotten - it's probably worth asking, as gently as you can, "What are you afraid would happen if you asked [Bigot] to stop?"
The answers - incl. the unsaid ones - to that question will be enlightening. Are they afraid what always happens to you will happen to them (& the family will jump down their throats?) Are they afraid the bigot will get violent?
One I hear a lot in my extended family is "Oh, I just try to tune it out"
I tried to tune out the background music from my high school mall job and all I got was this permanent earworm of Orinoco Flow. "Tuning it out" = letting it continue.
Let's be real: "Tuning it out" didn't work. "Letting it go" didn't work. "Don't antagonize him" didn't work. "When you argue it just gives him attention" didn't work. Trying to engage only on safe/nice topics didn't work. Avoiding the issue didn't work.
Maybe one thing will work is "Rein 'em in or kick 'em out, I don't care which, but I'm not eating your racism casserole at your racism gatherings anymore, and we're not pretending that I'm the one who's out of line here."
"If you're admitting it would be hard to get [Bigot] to change their mind, I get it! I agree! So why on earth do you think me being 'nicer' will do the trick? Can't you be on my side about this?"
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