There’s so much to unpack about this year. We have a raging pandemic, an unsuitable President in the position of leadership, and record high death and unemployment. Overall, a melting pot of unrest, fear, anger, impatience, stewed with a strong sense of feeling unacknowledged. Sirens, explosions and chants soundtrack the nationwide protests. Determined to be heard, those on the front line brave tear gas, rubber bullet and baton.
As we begin our second consecutive week of city-wide protests here in Los Angeles, efforts are being made globally in support of not only justice for George Floyd, but the many lives taken at the hands of police brutality for generations. Black and Brown, White or Yellow, and everything in between; each of us are experiencing first hand what lies behind the veil; a slow reveal of systemic oppression. While intersectionality has existed in many forms over the years, today, our access to witness police brutality in real-time has sparked an overwhelming intersectional, international response that has never before occured.
Fighting for a cause is not easy. It takes courage to voice an unpopular opinion about injustices, to challenge the status quo and to attempt to inspire change in your fellow human beings. No one likes being told what they believe is wrong, especially if they’ve believed it for most of their life. Systemic racism runs centuries deep, so to educate another about its impact requires lots of patience. It requires lots of self-education as well.
Protest doesn’t just reside in the streets, it also has a place in our daily interactions with friends and family, at home or over dinner. Being accustomed to our social routine makes having those “dinner time” conversations challenging. We all have that overt racist relative that for all our lives, we’ve made the excuse, “Oh that’s just how they are.” Other times the racism is less overt and more rooted in a misconception of class inferiority and privilege. Nevertheless, we can no longer allow fear to impede the change we know deep down is necessary.
I’d like to share a quote from Margaret Renkl of The New York Times, “And the problem with writing off people who don’t recognize this country’s pervasive and enduring culture of white supremacy, much less the ways in which they themselves benefit from it, is simple: Being called a racist almost never causes a racist to wake up. Being called a racist almost never causes a racist to say, “Oh, wow, you’re right.”
So how do we have these uncomfortable conversations with close friends and loved ones? How many more family dinners can we have where we allow racist remarks to go unchecked, simply for the sake of not ruining everyone’s meal? These are some questions we’ve asked ourselves here at Foodbeast. With our unique family dynamics and cultural experiences, there seems no single way to approach this conversation. Thinking more about this, I felt that maybe by just sharing personal experiences, we could help to inspire others who are similarly wanting to speak up but unsure of the best method. This is a convo many of us have had or will need to have, so I decided to reach out to close friends as well as fellow Foodbeast fam to share their uncomfortable dinner conversations:
“Yesterday, our city had a scheduled peaceful protest. This was the first time that I really paid attention to my parents’ media consumption. They only have Facebook and watch traditional news from Spanish TV channels. I realized that they haven’t seen any of the peaceful protesting, the policemen that instigate violence, the white looters who destroy cities in the name of BLM, the repeated incidents throughout the country. I took some time to show them some things on my Twitter feed, and reminded them that this stuff is coming from real people on the scene, whereas the stuff that they’re watching is coming from sensationalized news. Although they were surprised, I think I was the one who had a bigger moment of realization. Members of my immediate and extended family are not consuming the same news that I am, and it’s my responsibility to direct them to those sources. As light-skinned Latinos, we don’t have conversations about colorism or American racism in regards to the Black community. I’m now actively responding to them more on Facebook & sharing more about BLM.”
“I call out my family on pretty much everything. Asian families have a deeply rooted anti-Blackness, so anything involving Black people they blame it on them – saying how they’re scary, they’re violent, etc. I try to educate by talking about the bigger picture, how the media frames black people as antagonists, how it’s unfair how we are so anti-Black without questioning why. Of course I’m either met with silence or resistance.”
“The conversation was with my boyfriend and mom regarding looting and rioting. I had to explain to my boyfriend the dangers of telling a non-Black person that you don’t agree with the looting and rioting. Now my mom thinks, “See he is Black and he doesn’t like it either.” Well obviously he doesn’t want his neighborhood fucked up like the riots and Black and Brown business owners suffering from it, but when my mom hears that, she hears “He hates all looting and rioting.”
And I make my case for why looting and rioting happens – deeply embedded in the country’s history, wealth gap, history of ownership and private property and the disparities for Black and Brown folks. And my boyfriend is like, “Yes I get it but I still don’t think they should be fucking up OUR shit.” So I’m like, “You need to make that very clear to my mother.” And my mom said, “No, I get it.” And I know her ass doesn’t.”
“Whenever I have these conversations with my mom, she meets it with resistance (from deeply rooted racism), but the more I talk, the more I explain, the more she listens. But I do remember an instance where she responded to my conversations with, “Oh so now you’re gonna go date a Black guy?” and I got angry because she missed the point. But with more conversations, more calling out, the more I see her think. I had a more broad talk with her when we were talking about the COVID protests, how white people use their privilege to protest their “rights being taken away”, the way that they haven’t been oppressed and how that’s the main issue at hand. It’s never been about how Black people are “bad,” it’s been about how society responds to privilege and the layers of systemic racism. These convos are just going to have to keep happening for change to happen.”
“I talked to my friend who only dates Black males and wasn’t doing anything about this movement that was uncomfortable. She ended up listening to me but I told her, “Hey you’ve only dated men of color the entire time I’ve known you and you are dating one right now…and you’re letting all of these things happen and you can’t even show up when I ask you to come with me to make a difference. It makes me mad that you complain about white people all the time but at a time that it really matters you care more about yourself and your own comfort.”
“I have a friend that used the n-word while I was on the phone with them, the catalyst being a hit-and-run accident on the freeway while raining.
I’ve never had the courage to talk to them about it. I’m deathly afraid because I fear it will destroy a friendship of hundreds of positive experiences together. A friendship that’s had an insanely positive impact on my life.
I believe I’m gathering the courage, but to be honest, I’m so afraid that I can’t stop crying while writing this.”
As you can see, there is no perfect way to go about broaching the sensitive subject of racism. The conversation you have with your elders may be different than the one you have with those in your age group. The common thread in all of these stories is that it requires patience and persistence. Your food might get cold in the process.
New information uproots, shifts and transforms. How that experience feels to us is dependent on our willingness to accept change. Equally important is the messenger. We’re experiencing probably one of the most pivotal moments of our lifetime where if we want real change, it requires real action. Not selfish action, but mindful action. At Foodbeast, we’re working each day to learn how to better support that change. Below are some links that discuss ways to help you break the ice as these necessary conversations are had:
How To Tell Someone You Love They’re Being Racist
How To Talk To Your White Family About Racism
How To Talk To Your Friends And Family About Race