How to deal with a family member who opposes a major civil justice movement

  • Make it known that as a person they (presumably) love, I would really appreciate it if they’d ____. That blank can be filled with anything: “read this article,” “check out this documentary,” “hear you out and consider what you have to say for a day before coming back.” I’ll be making this request calmly and empathetically, regardless of how much rage and frustration I’m filled with at the time, because people are far less likely to really listen when they feel threatened.
  • Letting them know what’s in it for them. This is a tried-and-true negotiation strategy; people are more interested in joining in on something when there’s some benefit to them. While this can be dangerous if taken too far (white people really do not need to benefit from dismantling oppressive systems, especially as we already have benefitted from them directly), it can be useful to ask your family member if they’d be willing to watch 13th or I Am Not Your Negro if you did so together, or if you let them know you’ll agree to hear their end of things without judgment after you talk to them about a specific topic.
  • Introducing them gradually to diverse media, social groups, and other resources. It may be harder for the person in my family to hold discriminatory beliefs if they consistently and willingly hear narratives that contrast with them. Rather than making it my mission in the moment to change their mind (something that will likely immediately turn them off), I will make it more difficult for this person to oppose or despise a movement by letting it impact something they eventually understand.

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Adrianna Nine

Adrianna Nine

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social activism & technology writer | feminist | criminal justice/LGBTQ studies, ASU 2018