How to Talk About Race (with your racist uncle)

Commit to having a conversation about race with your family.

Talking about race can be intimidating. Prepare to talk about race effectively by following these steps:

  1. LISTEN. Before you launch into your talking points, listen to what your family member’s concerns are. Even if you want to roll your eyes, breathe deeply, and LISTEN.
  2. KNOW (SOME) FACTS. Go into a conversation prepared with facts, even if they’re not the whole argument. Learn the evidence countering the stereotypes your family is most likely to believe. For instance, facts to counter myths about Muslims include:
    1. On terrorism: Since 9/11, white right-wing terrorists killed almost twice as many Americans in the U.S. as radical Islamists.
    2. On gender equality: According to Gallup, U.S. Muslim women report incomes closer to their male counterparts than American women of any other religion.
  3. REFER TO YOUR FAMILY’S VALUESHow can you remind them that those values should be open to all? “Uncle Bob, I know your faith is important to you. We live in a county that guarantees religious freedom to everyone, and that’s a value we should strive to protect.” Show someone how the values they hold align with your point.
  4. STORYTELLING.  A story is humanizing. Telling your family about how you talked to a frightened student who worries they are no longer welcome in the U.S., or about how a friend feels like they have to hide their religion because of coworkers’ derogatory comments can get people thinking without coming across as confrontational. Strategies adapted from Bailey Poland’s excellent article on persuasion.

Other resources with guidance on how to have these conversations, include:

Other suggestions? Email at us so we can pass them on!