black-ish family

My (Not So) Tough Political Talk

I sat in my aunt’s house after Thanksgiving dinner, hanging out with my family. My uncle had made his way out of his study to watch the news and it was only a matter of moments before the focus was brought to President-elect Trump.

With a smirk on his face, my uncle turned to me and said, “I’m sure you voted for Hillary.” I laughed and confirmed his suspicion, assuming that would be the end of our talk my uncle is not a chatty person but to my surprise, he kept going. He began musing on Trump’s potential presidential legacy, particularly how big of an impact he might have on the future of the Supreme Court. But, my uncle’s musings quickly shifted when he dropped a huge bomb.

“I went to school with Clarence Thomas for two terms… I don’t understand him.”

I sat staring at my uncle in disbelief, because I had never known that I was just a few degrees of separation away from the Supreme Court Justice who allegedly sexually harassed Anita Hill.  I realized I was in the beginning of the first political conversation I had ever had with my uncle, or with any family member for that matter. While sometimes my family indulges in controversial topics, we typically don’t talk politics, which made my uncle’s statement even more startling.

My uncle is a veteran and retired from the post office after working there for decades. Unlike my aunt, who is a social butterfly, he’s relatively quiet. During holiday gatherings with a house full of people, he can be found in his study watching a game or the news with my male cousins.

On the other hand, I’m the radical kid in my family, who has had many jobs and seems to be a perpetual student. During holiday gatherings, I’m somewhere in the living room or kitchen, wearing a dress that my mother thinks is too short and catching my family up on my school life since the last time I saw them.

Political conversations have mostly felt divisive for my family, which is why I think that we’ve avoided them. However, the recent election and its aftermath have been so volatile that a conversation about it felt almost unavoidable. My uncle and I talked about how Trump’s campaign highlighted the fears of white people and discussed how Trump is not nearly as scary as Mike Pence or his cabinet choices. We even talked about local issues in Georgia, such as the privatization of schools and its racist implications.

Although the various topics we covered were fruitful, it was even better to sit with my uncle and simply have the conversation itself. I got to show my family a new side of me — my aunt spent most of our conversation staring at me, apparently impressed by how much I knew about U.S. politics. It was so easy to talk with him. Similar to the moment when I came out to my mom about my girlfriend, my uncle showed me what it looks like to give my family the chance to have hard, honest conversations. They usually end up being a lot easier than I expect.

It has been scary to think about approaching difficult and political conversations with my family, particularly during gatherings. While none of my family is super conservative, some of them are very religious which influences their political beliefs in ways that makes me hesitant to engage with them. But each time that I have pushed myself to dive deeper with them, they always show me how amazing they are and why I need to let them in more. This election has divided our country like never before, and shown us that these tough conversations are crucial in order for us to build strong communities who stand up to injustice. Although not all of our talks will go smoothly, we may also find opportunities to build with unlikely allies.

Photo Courtesy of The Muse.

Quita Tinsley is a fat, Black, queer femme that writes, organizes, and overall is working to build sustainable change in the South. She holds a B.A. in Journalism with a minor in Sociology from Georgia State University, and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from her alma mater. She is a member on the board of directors of Access Reproductive Care – Southeast, and is a former content creator for the The Body Is Not An Apology. As a femme, feminist, and queer Black woman, it is through her lived experiences and complex identities that Quita has come to believe in the power of storytelling and the validation of lived experiences.

Quita Tinsley is a fat, Black, queer femme that writes, organizes, and overall is working to build sustainable change in the South.

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