By now, you’ve seen the SNL video where a group wades through the dissonance of a few ultra-conservative (and racist) family members at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Every 3-4 bias statements are followed by a young girl leaving the table to play Adele’s, “Hello,” which stops the family in their tracks for a lip-sync extravaganza.
Adele: soliciting emotions since, “Chasing Pavements.”
‘Tis the week of Thanksgiving.
While I personally have a lot to be thankful for, I know this is certainly not the case across the country (and world). Many are headed “home” to see family, and for many, “home,” is actually quite scary and overwhelming.
For the past few years, Thanksgiving and winter break(ing) has provoked me to tweet and post to all those who experience some type of dissonance around the(se) holidays. Furthermore, Thanksgiving and winter break have inspired me to care deeper for those who know that going “home” isn’t actually all that ruby slippers might ensure.
“Home” is not always, “where the heart is.”
I first learned of this reality when I worked at a boarding school several years ago. One of the students who I was really close to approached me one night before heading home for Thanksgiving break, and shared with me some of the struggles he had going on at home. Initially, our conversation was centered around the disconnect between his coming out as gay, and his fears of church and family angst. Later, he shared with me that his family was also severely racist, and he didn’t quite know how to find his voice among some of his older and more controlling family members (he was 15). He came back to campus about as broken as he had left.
Educators, one of the best things you can do for your *students is affirm them, and love them. There are some scary realities waiting for many individuals when they get “home” for the holidays, and your conversations before and after those experiences have the potential to be life-changing.
*if not an educator, insert “friends, community, etc.” in place of “students”
I was talking with a friend a few weeks ago about all that is happening at Mizzou and Yale (and countless other institutions for higher education), and in that conversation, my friend shared a story of an individual from “home,” who posted on his timeline a rant about how frustrated he was with students and, “their protests.”
Unsurprising, the individual ended their rant with, #AllLivesMatter. As if, saying something oppressive is instantly not oppressive because you used, “#AllLivesMatter.”
Seriously, please stop saying, “#AllLivesMatter.”
While there is a lot happening in the world (hearts remain heavy), the #AllLivesMatter person may very well be at your Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving or holiday trip dinner table. And most always, we know who this person is. We predict their every move, their next step. We tip toe around egg shells; or, we barrel-roll right through them.
“Keep the refugees out!”
“Guns for our children!”
“Obama created ‘global warming!'”
“I can’t believe Rue was Black in the Hunger Games movies!”
The idea that going “home” for the holidays is a joyous occasion is not always the case, and again for many, this time can be a seriously scary and toxic and terrifying experience. The best thing you can do for your friends and loved ones is show and tell them that you support them. Affirm them.
Remind them that, if anything, they have you.
Dear friends who are about to challenge a racist or oppressive family member or tradition: thank you for using your voice, and thank you for spotting injustice, even among the ones you love most.
Dear friends who are about to share a big life change with your family and friends: you have the keys to your own “car” – whether people join you on this ride is up to them – do not let their decisions or misunderstandings stop you from driving. Drive on!
Dear friends who are about to come out (in some form) to your family and friends: you are loved, you are valued, and you are exactly who you are supposed to be – know and believe this truth.
Dear friends who are enduring religious dissonance among your family and friends: this is your journey alone – think, feel, believe, challenge, seek – your timing is also yours alone. Take the time.
Dear friends who feel obligated: you do not have to go home for the holidays. And if you do, you certainly do not have to stay. Create boundaries and non-negotiables for yourself – when these are crossed, get out, and don’t look back.
And, if all else fails, just play, “Hello,” really loud until all is quiet.