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The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

We must hold problematic families accountable

For those who make a habit of visiting extended family for the holidays, chances are there is one uncle or cousin that you dread interacting with because you know without a semblance of doubt they will bring up a controversial topic followed by their equally distasteful opinion. In fact, if you do not have an un-problematic family member making Thanksgiving dinner awkward, you may be in the minority.
Unfortunately, this dynamic has been accepted as the natural price to pay to spend time with family members. Your grandparents will likely excuse some of their son’s inflammatory behavior so the family, as a whole, can “keep the peace” because the last thing they want to see is their bloodline fragmented into opposing factions on what could be their last Christmas. But surely a tense yuletide celebration is not how one would want to ring in the new year? The problematic uncle does not have to work up the courage to come over and see his radical, egalitarian niece so why should you cower in fear at your own family?
The true solution to your problematic family members is to use their own tactics to your advantage. They already get to say whatever racist, homophobic or sexist remarks come to mind and get away with it year after year. We don’t even show the same consideration to your aunt’s lukewarm attempt at Asian gift exchange. No, when you walk into your grandparents’ house, you must hold no quarter and take your problematic family members to the cleaners for their bad opinions.
When your grandmother refers to protesting NFL players by names you know are racially insensitive, you tell her that sort of speech is unacceptable. When your older male cousin says feminism is ruining Star Wars, you let him know he is complicit in the injustices women are fighting against. Even your parents are not safe from getting put on blast in front of the rest of the family for off-color remarks about trans individuals trying to use the restroom. You stand firm and pro-active in your convictions.
It does not matter how old they are or if they are “stuck in their ways” because even the late Senator Robert Byrd recanted his ties to the Klan and opposition to the 1964 Civil RIghts Act from earlier in his career before his death. The time to educate and hold your family members accountable is now. Do not entertain your parents’ pleas to wait “until you have your own family” or “after they pass away” because every Thanksgiving you listen to hate speech at the dinner table and say nothing is another tacit consent to let systematic violence and oppression flourish.
Imagine if your black friends, gay friends, trans friends, etc. could sit in on your family gatherings undetected. What do you want them to see? Do you want them to see you stick up for their well-being and existence by using your privilege to educate your family? Or are you content with them witnessing your silence and complicity? More importantly, you must stand up for the people you claim to support especially when they are not there.
Even if your family is not terribly problematic in their speech, it does not necessarily mean there is not room for improvement. Your relatives do not have to recite slurs for you to feel obliged to step in and voice your disapproval. The dialogue should not end with bare minimum low-hanging fruit such as hate speech, but extend to include topics even agreeable family members fall short on, such as recognizing one’s place within systematic injustice.
Being the loud-mouthed social justice warrior at family gatherings may not always be the easiest route, but holding the people closest to us accountable for their uneducated ramblings is always the ethical obligation for the grandchildren, nieces and nephews of privilege.
– Zach Ienatsch is a journalism senior

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