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Talking to Your Family About Trump

On December 11th, 2016, I posted this to Facebook:

White allies, I’m calling on you!

I don’t feel equipped to advise my white friends on how to talk about Trump with their families this holiday season. Comment with any resources I can pass on.

Here are some of the responses.

“So you love someone who voted for Donald Trump. What are you going to do now? You might be hearing, especially if you’re white, a lot of calls for you to “come get your people” and do your part in making change in the communities you have access to. But how?”

  • And some words from a civil rights lawyer and activist…

My short tip would be two components. Talk socratically using mostly questions. Force them to answer. If you tell them facts, they will not listen, not answer, and just say back their own facts. Then you’re shouting past each other. Ask them clear and simple questions. One I have to do a lot is “won’t we create more terrorists by turning refugees away?”

Second, debating with a trump supporter is a constantly moving target. They change the subject especially when cornered and say outrageous things to get a rise out of you. Put on blinders, ignore the hurtful or racist spew, and reassert your question on the original subject. Ignore personal attacks. They will call you stupid. Don’t bring up where you went to college. Because now the conversation is about your intelligence, not the subject. Stay calm. Ignore what they say about you personally. Godspeed.

You can just do a lot more with questions than with statements. First, re-ask the question a different way. Then point out they didn’t answer your question and ask it again. Then ask it in its simplest form, a yes or no. The most angry person will still feel weird about not answering by then. It forces someone to actually participate instead of just vomiting talking points. Old lawyer tricks.

Obv this is advice for white folks. I wouldn’t ask a poc to keep debating calmly past a wall of racist shit.”

  • And some more great advice…

My advice would be to share personal stories about people close to them who have experienced violence or fear based on Trump’s rhetoric. Remind them that they are protected because of their whiteness, but that isn’t the case for a lot of people. Use pathos and personal stories. The more personal it is, the better it will go.

“This is a blog a friend of mine wrote. It was more relevant before the election in that it’s about convincing people not to vote for him. But I still think there are a lot of good resources in there.”

Forreal though. The first thing they always say is “hillary’s corrupt”, and so if you enthusiastically agree with that, you take a big piece of ground out from under them and can get into why socialism works and how racial resentment is a tool of corporate control. “I agree the system is broken, but you’re being tricked into a false solution.”

I used the “the clintons and trumps are personal friends” line a number of times in the last few months.

  • These conversations are tricky, and often get “in the weeds” fast. “White people for racial justice” has put together a discussion guide that gives some more substantial talking points for those tough conversations, as well as some questions you can ask to elicit feedback and avoid conversational shut-downs. Click here for the discussion guide!

  • Some evidence that Trump sucks that might be helpful, here. (google doc)

  • Trevor Noah has some wonderful tidbits (video)

“You don’t argue with the toddler if you want to win,” Noah said. “Just keep asking the toddler to elaborate, because logic is the downfall of every toddler.

  • It can be hard to talk to old hippies too, you’re not alone:

What I found at Thanksgiving was that a lot of people were unclear about what trump stands for, and that terrified them. I put on my polisci hat and explained that he is a nationalist, and I went over all the areas of policy that he is likely to have an impact on. I did feel woefully unprepared to talk about trump and race though…But my table was full of Austin liberal hippy boomers so…a very homogeneous group

  • If they are cooperative or supremely confident in their own perspective, they would be likely willing to sit down and fact check with you, which can be a mutually beneficial process.

Being able to research the topic together so that both parties feel equally informed has been working well in my family. Importantly, both groups should be able to agree on the importance of first person perspectives on issues as well as using multiple sources to form unbiased opinions.

This method might not be applicable to some issues, especially moral contestations, but in my family people tend to say things that are factually wrong and therefore can be easily sorted out by research. Also likely won’t work for people that are admittedly racist, but seems to do work for supposedly “open minded liberals” or confident republicans. Sick of discussing a certain topic with a family member or friend and they would be willing to discuss with a third party? I would love to help. Skype me, and we can all “talk facts.”


More reading, if you please:

Learn about nonviolent communication (How to, History, Practice here!, Video for you visual learners)

This is a helpful way to address any hard topic. When we identify, understand and connect to our universal human needs and values, rather than diagnosing and judging, we have a much greater ability to understand one another in a way that empowers us to resolve conflict without doing harm.

Brush up on the “Clinton emails” (This American Life)

They’re talking about the emails again? Check out this episode of This American Life, which breaks down the actual 247-page FBI report on the Clinton investigation and proves how impossible it would have been for her to be perpetrating any kind of scandal.

Tips on relating to your family compassionately (News.Mic)

Try to understand them, ask this: What issues did you vote for? What do you want Trump to do first?”

Staying calm at the dinner table (Esquire)

“What we cannot do is shout and call names. There is a variety of reasons this election went sideways, and all of us shouting past each other is one of them. When we call a family member or friend a name (even “racist,” even when “racist” absolutely fits), we put them into defense mode.”

Remember, you’re not alone (The Guardian)

Stories from people at divided holiday tables. “My sister, daughter, daughter-in-law, Mom and I are all ardent feminists who voted for Clinton. My father is a diehard Republican who gets his news from Bill O’Reilly and is a true Clinton-hater. If my Dad starts in, I will probably blow up.”


Other great “thriving after November” resources:

Attend an “Undoing Racism” workshop in your city

“Through dialogue, reflection, role-playing, strategic planning and presentations, this intensive process challenges participants to analyze the structures of power and privilege that hinder social equity.”

Sign up here for “woke af news”

“i put together a daily newsletter of news i see that i think is worth sharing” – woke af news by Lori Ro

Syllabus for White People to Educate Themselves (Google Doc)

“Disclaimer: this is long, but if you commit to reading consistently, you will make your way through it!”

In Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda, former congressional staffers reveal best practices for making Congress listen.

Showing Up For Racial Justice (organization, get involved!)

“SURJ is a national network of groups and individuals organizing White people for racial justice. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, SURJ moves White people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability.”

A Yale history professor’s powerful, 20-point guide to defending democracy under a Trump presidency

“Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it”

Opportunities for white people in the fight for racial justice: Moving from Actor –> Ally –> Accomplice


Still have questions?

Fill out this form and I’ll connect you with a person who identifies as a “white ally” so that y’all can talk out any concerns you might have. Also, if you’re worried you’ll need support the day of, a few people have volunteered to be “emergency contacts”. Fill out the form and I’ll give you a phone number to keep in your back pocket, just in case. You can volunteer to be a contact here.