Worried about how to handle political discussions at the Thanksgiving dinner table? Have no fear! There’s a new hotline that helps you talk to your relatives about racial issues while they’re trying to enjoy family time together!
There is that famous old saying that one should never discuss politics or religion at the dinner table. But an organization created to help white people talk to other whites about race is urging the opposite approach this Thanksgiving.
Many Americans have expressed anxiety over attending this year’s holiday meal if the company’s politics will be mixed. But Showing Up for Racial Justice, or SURJ (pronounced Surge), is urging that people not shy away from uncomfortable conversations.
And if the conversation hits a stalemate, SURJ has created a hotline that provides real-time support to keep the dialogue going.
Inspired by Butterball’s decades-old hotline that provides turkey-cooking help over the holiday season, SURJ’s version invites anyone to text SOS to 82623 to receive a menu of hot-button topics including immigration, the economy, a “Muslim ban” and when someone says “I’m not a racist.” Then SURJ will send a brief talking point on that topic to help guide the conversation.
If the text prompt won’t do, there will also be representatives standing by to call the person and coach them through how to respond thoughtfully and not aggressively.
I read the above passage to my millenial daughter, and she asked me if it was from The Onion. It sure reads that way, doesn’t it? But it’s not. It’s from the Washington Post. Below, I have imagined how a call to the hotline might go.
MILLENIAL: Hello, I have an emergency. We’re here at the Thanksgiving dinner table and my Uncle Frank doesn’t want to have a discussion about racial justice.
HOTLINE: Not to worry, I can help you through this. Is he white?
HOTLINE: [Sighs] White people are the worst when it comes racial issues. I should know. I’m one myself.
MILLENIAL: Me too.
HOTLINE: Let’s see. Have you told him about the history of racial oppression in this country?
MILLENIAL: Of course!
HOTLINE: Did you mention that as a white male, he has white privilege that he can’t get rid of?
MILLENIAL: More than once.
HOTELIN? And that he needs to be aware of that and atone for it?
MILLENIAL: Yes. He told me to shut up about politics for once and pass the stuffing.
HOTLINE: That’s a typical reaction. Here’s what you do. Write this down and tell Uncle Frank this, word for word. “Uncle Frank, this dinner is on hold until you admit the white man’s history of racial injustice, and promise to do better, starting with attending tomorrow’s Rally Against Racism.” Tell him that and let me know how it went.
[Noises in background, yelling.]
MILLENIAL: [Crying] He says I can’t have any pumpkin pie if I don’t stop talking about this. I gotta go. [Click and dial tone.]
HOTLINE: [Sighs] White people.