Anticipating tough conversations with your relatives? This hotline has your back.

Showing Up for Racial Justice took inspiration from the Butterball hotline.

Thanksgiving is a time of family, love — and difficult conversations. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

If you need help with your Thanksgiving turkey, there's a hotline for that. Now there's one for your Thanksgiving dinner conversation, too.

That's the idea behind Showing Up for Racial Justice's Holiday Mobile Hotline, now in its second year. Created for white Americans who want to help fight for a more racially just society, SURJ's hotline is a great resource to have handy for potentially awkward race-related dinner-table conversations during upcoming holidays.

"We thought it up last year after hearing so many white folks really freaking out about seeing family after Trump was elected," explains SURJ co-director Heather Cronk in an e-mail. "The original idea was built on the Butterball hotline — the service provided by Butterball turkey each Thanksgiving to help folks get answers to their turkey-cooking questions."


You simply text "SOS" to 82623, and SURJ will forward some key talking points that might come up in conversation.

The goal isn't to treat this as some sort of ideological battle to be won against a sworn enemy (these are your family members, after all) but to provide you with the tools necessary to keep conversation productive by asking a question. Once you text the number, you'll be prompted with a menu of topics ranging from immigration to sexual assault.

For example, if you select the topic "Trump isn't racist," SURJ will reply with a question you can ask your relative: "That's confusing to me because I've heard Trump say things about people of color that sound racist, and he has surrounded himself with people who are racist. Are there things he's said that you disagree with?"

The whole process is quick and simple enough that you can easily just send a text during a bathroom break or under the table during a lull in the conversation.

As hard and as awkward as these conversations can be, it's important we don't shy away from them. Silence is a statement of its own.

If you have a legitimate reason to fear your family — maybe you're LGBTQ in an unaccepting household or the survivor of violence — it's totally understandable if you sit quietly and avoid rocking the boat. There's no shame in that. If that doesn't describe you, however, and you feel comfortable doing so, consider leaning into these discussions.

"Often, white folks avoid tough conversations with family in order to preserve relationships or avoid controversy — but to do so also contributes to the silence that allows white supremacy to thrive," Cronk writes. "White silence is what contributes to and excuses white supremacist violence — and even conversations as informal as dinner table banter are really important mechanisms to end white silence."

Following up on our earlier holiday hotline post, our holiday placemat has also been updated to focus on Indigenous...

Posted by Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) on Monday, November 20, 2017

It's OK if you don't change any minds at the dinner table. Just try to plant the seed of an idea.

Will some of these conversations be inconvenient and awkward? Absolutely, but the payoff can be well worth the trouble. Maybe that uncle who thinks undocumented immigrants are a drain on the economy (they're not) will leave the dinner table with not just a full belly but a fresh perspective on what it means to be American. Maybe that aunt who thinks victims of police violence wouldn't get shot if they just complied with orders (they often do comply) will enjoy a bit of nuance with her pumpkin pie.

No matter what, it's important to remember that this isn't some sort of battle that can be won by bludgeoning your relatives with a string of confrontational facts. You probably won't cause anyone to do a 180-degree turn on their beliefs. But with a little bit of care, you can help plant a few new ideas along the way.

For more information about Showing Up for Racial Justice's Holiday Mobile Hotline, as well as links to its annual Thanksgiving discussion guide and printable placemat, visit their website.

More
terimakasih0/Pixabay

When Iowa Valley Junior-Senior High School principal Janet Behrens observed her students in the cafeteria, she was dismayed to see that they spent more time looking down at their phones than they did looking at and interacting with each other. So last year, she implemented a new policy that's having a big impact.

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

popular
The Guardian / YouTube

Earlier this month, a beluga whale caught the world's attention by playing fetch with a rugby ball thrown by South African researchers off the waters of Norway.

The adorable video has been watched over 20 million times, promoting people across the globe to wonder how the whale became so comfortable around humans.

It's believed that the whale, known as Hvaldimir, was at some point, trained by the Russian military and was either released or escaped.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Facebook / Maverick Austin

Your first period is always a weird one. You know it's going to happen eventually, but you're not always expecting it. One day, everything is normal, then BAM. Puberty hits you in a way you can't ignore.

One dad is getting attention for the incredibly supportive way he handled his daughter's first period. "So today I got 'The Call,'" Maverick Austin started out a Facebook post that has now gone viral.

The only thing is, Austin didn't know he got "the call." His 13-year-old thought she pooped her pants. At that age, your body makes no sense whatsoever. It's a miracle every time you even think you know what's going on.

Keep Reading Show less
popular