How To Have Honest Conversations About Race With Your Family

Non-Black allies attend a Black Lives Matter protest in Naples. Tamica Jean-Charles/PantherNOW

Gabriela Enamorado/Staff Writer

I come from a family where talking about social issues like race is deemed impolite. “Now is not the time,” is something I’ve often heard. 

“Don’t talk about it at dinner.” 

“Don’t talk about it in the living room.” 

“Don’t talk about it at all.” 

But I’m opinionated and passionate about racial justice, so I’ve decided not to wait to have that conversation about race with them.  

In the wake of George Floyd’s murder in May, many non-Black families found themselves having difficult conversations about race. Non-Black people often have to hear ignorant comments come from their family members. That’s why it’s important to call them out and educate them. It may be hard to bring these issues up, but it’s a must in the fight against racism. Allyship begins at home. 

If you’re not sure where to begin, I think one of the first things to discuss with your non-Black family is recognizing their privilege. Recognizing privilege, and also how to use that privilege for good, is important. If your family is open to these types of conversations, you should be discussing how you can use your white privilege or non-Black privilege to make a change.

Mexican Americans stand in solidarity with Black lives at the Naples protest. Tamica Jean-Charles/PantherNOW

If your family is more close-minded, I think you should begin by explaining what you mean by privilege in the first place. If you’re white, having white privilege does not mean you have never suffered in your life. It just means you haven’t been oppressed because of your skin tone. This needs to be said because many people misunderstand what white privilege means and become defensive about their own struggles.  

For non-Black people of color, we don’t walk through life as a Black person. We will never fully understand what that is like. This isn’t downplaying our own experiences with racism and discrimination. Of course, non-Black people of color experience racism too. But, it is not the same experience and we can never experience life in Black people’s shoes. 

In the Latinx community specifically, anti-Blackness is rampant. In fact, our community often ignores the very existence of Afro-Latinos. So, how can we expect our Latinx family members to even want to begin dismantling their anti-Black views?   

This is where talking about where their anti-Blackness stems from comes in. Unpacking is part of the process. Find out where your family members get their anti-Black views from. Perhaps their parents passed it on to them. Or maybe the media didn’t portray Black people in a positive light when they were growing up. 

In many non-Black families, colorism is something that is pushed on you from an early age. My mom has spoken to me about how she was always teased for being the darkest sibling. From then on, she felt ugly because of her darker skin. If a family member has a similar story, this will help with showing them that they’ve been conditioned to have racist views from a young age. 

You should also go into the conversation well-prepared. Make sure you have educated yourself enough on the subject so you can defend your talking points. Sometimes, your family members might have heard an inaccurate statement and believe it wholeheartedly. You need to be able to whip out evidence that disproves what they think. Having articles and real-world examples to back up your arguments will always help the conversation move forward. You could also share resources with them so they can do their own research. 

Something important to remember is that starting the conversation won’t automatically make your family super woke. Honestly, the first conversation might be bumpy and there will be disagreements. This is opening them up to a new world view. It’s hard to fight against anti-Blackness that has been implanted in us by society for generations. Don’t expect your family members to be perfect right away.

Discomfort is normal. Do not avoid these topics because you want to avoid a family argument. Don’t end the conversation at the first sign of disagreement. Everyone involved needs to be thinking outside of their comfort zone. 

Speaking to your family about these topics is hard work and it won’t be an easy journey. It will bring arguments and tension. People will get defensive. All of this is necessary work to combat anti-Blackness. Remember that silence is complacency and complacency puts Black lives at risk. 


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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