Whatever you do, don’t give up. People are counting on us to radicalize as many accomplices as we possibly can. The change must start with our own families.
We all have our spheres of influence. Most of us don’t have huge platforms where we can reach millions of people and sway their political beliefs. But many of us have families and friends who we can reach. And we should be trying to reach them. It’s absurd to expect Black people to educate and convince white people and non-Black people of color that their lives matter and that our silence is violence. It’s on us to do that work in our own communities—and those communities start at home.
I am no stranger to the difficulty of confronting your parents, aunts, uncles, or grandparents about political differences. You can ask anyone in my family about how many times I have been moved to hysterical sobs because they just wouldn’t agree with me. That doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped trying and political moments like this one are the perfect opportunity to finally get them to see the light. My family’s group chat is popping off in a way I simply never imagined it would just one or two years ago! That may seem like a small thing, but every single person who is radicalized against the white supremacist status quo in this country is a win against a powerful and violent enemy.
In non-Black POC communities, anti-Black racism is rampant. If we can get through to our families and teach them to be actively anti-racist and pro-Black, we can genuinely save lives. I would be remiss not to point out that the shop that called the police on George Floyd was Palestinian-owned. In Arab communities, there is a toxic aspiration to whiteness paired with virulent anti-Blackness which is so dangerous. The owner of Cup Foods has since sworn never to involve police in nonviolent incidents. I’m glad that he has made this promise, but it’s a lesson we should teach our families before the bloodshed happens.
COVID-19 has taken a lot away from us, but it has given us Zoom workshops. SO MANY ZOOM WORKSHOPS. This is a really cool way to start a conversation with your family. Invite your parents to attend the same workshop or talk as you and then have a debrief about it afterward. My mom tuned in to some of the Believers Bail Out programming during Ramadan and it spurred some really interesting conversations about abolition.
Family book clubs! This is similar to the above in that it gets the conversation going around an outside source material. There are a ton of accessible reads about radical politics. Try starting with “Are Prisons Obsolete?” by Angela Davis, or “As Black As Resistance” by Zoé Samudzi and William C. Anderson. Both are short and available online for less than $3. You can read them together and talk about the main themes, applying them to current events and your own lives.
WhatsApp: If you’re based in the U.S., I don’t know if all of your immigrant families believe everything they read on WhatsApp, but mine sure does. Go ahead and start a chain message about anti-imperialism and let’s see what happens (I have not yet tested this, but am very interested in your stories).
Show them video proof of the points you are trying to make. Some people are visual learners, rather than big readers. If that’s your family, show them videos that illustrate your point, using shorter captions to give them context. Then discuss what you’ve seen in the videos.
Confront them when they post something on social media or say something in your group chats that is incorrect. If they post a video about cops kneeling with protestors, educate them about how that is positive PR by police who went on to attack unarmed protestors minutes later. If they send one of the unsubstantiated WhatsApp rumors to you, tell them why that’s not true and help them learn to fact check information. Don’t just roll your eyes and move on. It’s important to call this behavior out when we see it.
The What (to do if they’re not quite there yet):
Be patient. It is not easy work to radicalize a family member—and if you’re like me, there will be tears. But remind yourself you are doing the right thing. If you are not Black, you’re using your privilege in a direct way to make small, but tangible changes. Remember that you likely had an unlearning curve. Don’t lie to yourself because I sure did and my liberal girlboss days still haunt me.
If you haven’t been able to get your parents to scream “Fuck the police!” with you quite yet, there are other ways they can be of service to our causes. If your family gives charitably, direct them to bail funds and legal defense funds. Ask them to donate to them for your birthdays and for religious holidays instead of buying you gifts. Even if they haven’t grasped all of the concepts and gotten completely radicalized, they can still participate in fundraising efforts and use their money in service of the radical politics they’ll one day hold (with your help).
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Bring them to actions with you! A drive-through car protest is a good, relatively safe way to introduce your family to the importance of standing with oppressed groups against a white supremacist state that is hurting us all. Being around so many other people who believe in change might be the thing that pushes them over the edge.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. People are counting on us to radicalize as many accomplices as we possibly can. The revolution could use a few more overbearing immigrant moms if you ask me.
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