Ordinarily, my “advice” for Thanksgiving dinner is to never eat anything bigger than your head. No one listens to me, naturally, even though it’s good advice. But a friend sent me an email with more concrete advice from a group called the Center for Legal Inclusiveness, which says it is dedicated to advancing diversity in the legal profession.
Well, I’m all for diversity in the legal profession. Who isn’t? There should be prosecutors and defense lawyers, plaintiffs’ and defendants’ lawyers. There should be people of all colors and genders, religions and perspectives. Diversity is glorious. If someone wants to be a lawyer and has the chops to cut it, why not? So I read the note from the CEO Sara Scott.
Decide now. Who will you be on Thanksgiving Day? Will you hold true to your values of Allyship and/or Antiracism? Will you choose not to talk about politics and evade any questions of racial reckoning? Or will you dive-in, knowing that you have done the work to have a conversation about the impact of 2020 and systemic racism endured by Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) communities, and other marginalized groups. Before moving on to dinner table tips, however, I want to recognize that this CEO Note may seem geared toward white people. However, there are plenty of BIPOC individuals and those of other marginalized groups that can benefit from this reminder.
It wasn’t immediately clear to me what “Allyship” meant. Was it different from “allydom” or “allyhood,” Was there a pact with France and England to fight in the European Theater, which had now spread to my Thanksgiving table? Fortunately, Scott explained.
The definitions: in general Allies have a commitment to recognize their privileges and work with oppressed groups to end all forms of oppression, even those that may benefit the Ally. In general, an Antiracist, on a daily basis, studies the policies and practices that result in disparate impacts, examines the policies and procedures and will advocate greatly to destroy those that result in maintaining systemic racism.
Clearly, an ally has a duty to fight the battles everywhere and all the time, and search out and find those heretics passing the cranberry sauce and destroy them. But how to do so? Again, Scott has advice.
- Remember that all Allies/Antiracists “have the back” of diverse communities when they are not in the room (i.e., get ready to defend if it becomes necessary);
- As an Ally/Antiracist, you will come from a place of knowledge because you have properly educated yourself on the plight of the BIPOC people and other marginalized communities during recent months so do not be afraid to share what you have learned;
- You can say that you personally celebrate all the different heritage months and give an example for what you have done to celebrate Native American Heritage Month;
- Remind your friends and family that White Privilege is institutional, not individual, alleviating some of the the blame and shame they may feel;
- Encourage them to educate themselves and have copies of Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility with you and ready to give away;
- Tell them to listen to podcasts such as: Code Switch, Pod Save the People, Intersectionality Matters, The Diversity Gap, and 1619;
- Share your own journey of getting to the place where you are an Ally/Antiracist.
Whether Scott’s getting a kickback from the sale of DiAngelo’s White Fragility is unclear, although she should. How many people would show up for Thanksgiving dinner with extra copies to hand out but for her “advice”?
For most of us, this sort of “advice” would never find its way onto our radar. We might read a post or op-ed about how to talk Equity with your crazy uncle at Thanksgiving dinner, who will almost certainly appreciate being handed that free copy of DiAngelo’s book, but we don’t ordinarily come into contact with someone like Sara Scott, for whom a duty exists to steel allies for the Thanksgiving Dinner Massacre. Although, to be fair, her advice isn’t to turn the turkey reckoning into bloodshed.
Bottom-line: hold onto to your core values as it relates to who you are. Remember that this can be a conversation, not a fight. Show those who are hesitant to jump-in a little bit grace as you explain what it means to be an Ally/Antiracist. Decide today who you want to be on November 25, 2021, and stick to it.
Of course, it can’t be a conversation because a conversation involves give and take, an expression of diverse (there’s that word again) views, each of which is as worthy of respect as any other. But are they? Can an ally tolerate an opinion that wouldn’t receive a thumbs up from DiAngelo, from Scott, from a real ally? It’s one thing to urge “grace” when confronting those “who are hesitant to jump-in,” but what about those who disagree? What about those who think you have shit-for-brains, speak gibberish and are the real intolerant fascist at the table? Is there a “little bit [of ] grace” for them as well?
In light of what I learned from Sara Scott’s advice, I now expand my own with two additional thoughts. The first is for the adults at the table. Don’t blame little Timmy for coming home from his second year at Yale Law School with an armful of extra copies of Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility. He believes he’s doing the “right” thing and his heart is in the right place, even if his mind has been molded into a misshapen morass of mush. He’s just seeking a sense of purpose and belonging, as children are wont to do.
The second piece of advice is for the unduly passionate who believe it their duty to fulfill their role as ally by informing their family that they’re white privileged fascists enabling systemic racism by eating a dinner to celebrate genocide and colonialism: Be thankful to have a family that is so very tolerant as to have you at their Thanksgiving dinner despite how unpleasant you’ve become. And don’t waste your money buying extra copies of a book no one wants to read.