How White People Can Be Courageous This Holiday Season

A quick note to White people navigating social and political discourse this holiday season.

Dear White People,

According to Mariah Carey’s tweet on November 1st, the holidays are here! And we all know, Ms. Carey is the queen of the holiday season.

With the seasons’ arrival comes more time that you’ll spend with your immediate family, extended family, and friends.

For some of you, this will be a super fulfilling and rewarding time, while others are nauseated by the idea of having to break bread with particular people.

I get it.

As much as the holidays are about family and friends getting together to make gingerbread houses, taking epic holiday card photos, and plastering everything in glitter, it is also a time to step it up in the courage department.

With holiday parties, dinners, and social gatherings packed into your schedule, it is unlikely politics, and the social issues of the day won’t become a topic of discussion.

Over the last few years, I’ve had many conversations with white people who have parents and grandparents who are conservative and hold views that don’t match their own beliefs and experiences.

This can be especially hard to navigate during the holiday season, and I’ve become empathetic to this challenge.

At the same time, I know this challenge pales in comparison to the nightmare that it is to be a Black, Indigenous, person of color (BIPOC), or LGBTQ person existing within a heteropatriarchal white supremacist society.

White supremacy is an insidious system and takes no days off.

Recently, I attended an anti-racism event where the Black speaker led a conversation on white privilege and the upholding of white supremacy.

Someone in the audience shared that her parents voted for the current American president, and she finds it stressful to have to educate them.

I have friends whose parents have also voted for 45 who find it extremely difficult to speak to them, as well as their friends about race and their beliefs.

Audre Lorde said it best: Your silence will not protect you. Your silence is violence, and every time you let a family member, friend, or stranger escape without interrogation on their views, you are complicit.

Through your silence, you are saying that your comfort is much more important than the lives of BIPOC and LGBTQ people.

You are saying that our lives don’t matter.

Now, I understand it’s the holidays, and you want to keep the peace at dinner or the party. But think about Trayvon Martin. His mom, Sabrina Fulton, hasn’t had a holiday with her Black, teenage son for the last seven years.

For seven years, she has not sat a dinner table with her son during the holidays because he was murdered in cold blood by a white man in America who believed “these as*h*les, they always get away.”

She was never given the option to be uncomfortable.

Think about the parents who made the dangerous journey to the southern border with their young children only to have them taken from them.

Where is the peace for those families?

Every time I hear white people say they don’t want to confront family and friends on their problematic beliefs because “it’s like speaking to a wall” or “it just goes in one ear or the other,” it is a slap in the face to all BIPOC.

To simply brush off the ignorance of your family and friends as a problem, not your own, is steeped in privilege and the maintenance of oppression.

I am not here to guilt you, I’m here to tell you the truth.

And the truth is white supremacy, a system that you benefit from daily is killing everyone that is not white, every day.

Not years ago, but now.

I want to believe that you, the white person reading this, wants to do and be better. I have to believe this for my own sanity, even if, in reality, I don’t see it.

But to be very honest, most days look grim. Most days I’m angry, and other days I’m sad.

Nonetheless, I am hopeful.

When the woman at the event I attended shared that she found it challenging to educate her parents, my immediate thought was, “Well, if you don’t do it, who will”?

If you don’t have these conversations with your people, the group you are part of, who will educate them?

Essentially, you are putting the responsibility of education on BIPOC, and that is not our job.

We do not exist to educate white people about our oppression.

You are not exceptional in any way.

Just because you don’t share the same views as your white parents, white friends, white family members, and white co-workers does not make you an exceptional white person.

You are all in the same boat as it relates to the upholding of white supremacy and white privilege.

It is your job to re-educate your white family and other white people.

Hold yourself and them accountable.

Over the last five years alone, there has been enough evidence that racism and hate are not limited to white hoods in the night and burning crosses in the yards of Black homes.

There is a significant difference between having a difference of opinion and having strong beliefs in ideologies that demean another person’s existence.

I challenge you to not only call out racist rhetoric at your next holiday gathering but to push the conversation further in a meaningful direction.

Towards a path that will hopefully lead to more awareness, empathy, understanding, and of course, action.

I also challenge you to stop making excuses for your white family members. Saying things like “they will never change” or “their generation was different” is the upholding of oppression.

This takes courage.

I am empathetic to those of you who want to do and be better but find yourselves caught in a matrix when dealing with family and friends. But guess what? BIPOC have to navigate your racism and manage our mental health.

The matrix you find yourself in does not absolve you from telling the truth.

Radical truth-telling will set you free, and when you get free, white supremacy loses its hold on one less person pushing us all further along the arc of the moral universe.

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” — Martin Luther King Jr

Be courageous,

— Renée

Renée Cherez is a moon-loving, mermaid believing empath seeking truth, justice, and freedom. Feel free to read more of her writing on Medium here. Follow her on Instagram to indulge in her *sometimes* overly long captions on travel, self-discovery, and social justice.

Renée Cherez is a Black woman writer creating magic at the intersections of travel and Black liberation. Follow her on Instagram + Twitter (@reneecherez).

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