What to Bring for the Holidays

Katy White
Youth Collaboratory
bag, shoes, jacket, and pumpkins on a doorstep

Note: We want to recognize that the holidays can be a complicated time. Some people celebrate this time of the year, gathering with family and loved ones, and some do not.  There are also many people for whom time with their family of origin is not safe or healthy, or not an option for a host of reasons. No matter who you call family, we wish for you the love and support to sustain you through both joyful and challenging times.  

However and whenever you are finding time to come together, there is space to acknowledge and address bias. Our personal relationships offer the greatest opportunity to get to the root, to challenge with love, and to engage our families and communities in creating a more just world.

This week, many of us will gather around tables we haven’t been around in a few years. We’ll be surrounded by people we love...and quite often, by people we try to love, even though it’s hard. During the two years since we were all together for Thanksgiving, we’ve been through a lot- both as individuals, and as a nation. Maybe you are coming into this Thanksgiving looking forward to that time together, the stuffing and cranberries waiting at the table, and the pie and naps to follow. Or maybe you are coming into this Thanksgiving thinking of ways to avoid tricky situations. Which uncle will pick a fight if you say Black Lives Matter? Which cousin can’t understand why we use pronouns? And you certainly can’t talk to granddad about the government right now. So maybe you thought this was the year to keep your head down, enjoy the pie, and head back home to people who think and act like you. 

I challenge you this year..don’t just come home for the holidays - bring something to the holiday gathering. Bring those hard conversations...the ones that challenge, that bring a different view to the conversation, the ones that hopefully change a viewpoint. If we’ve learned anything over the last two years, it’s that our time is precious and lives are literally at stake because of how we think and act. And for my white friends and colleagues, we are late to the game when it comes to stepping up for our Black and Brown community. They have done the work, they have carried the load, and now it’s time (well actually it was time a long time ago) for us to speak to the communities where we can be heard like no one else...the communities closest to home.

Maybe you are reading and thinking, I tried it with that guy at the grocery store that one time...and he had no interest in what I had to say! You’re right- that guy didn’t care what you had to say because he didn’t care about you.  In your community, your family, your circle of support- you are a trusted messenger. Your aunt may scoff over mashed potatoes but she hears you. She may not vote differently in the next election but maybe she responds differently the next time someone in her circle brings up race and equity...maybe she listens and thinks a little longer. And it can’t be a one-time conversation; real change in viewpoints and values come over time. They come from being in relationships with people, from building trust and expanding worldviews. 

So if you are packing to hit the road and now find yourself wondering, how do I even start the conversation? Where do I begin? If you’ve been hesitant to speak up in the past because you didn’t know the correct things to say, fear not...lots of people have been working and preparing resources to equip you! Here are just a few places to start: 

Will we solve systemic racism and generational trauma in one Thanksgiving? Probably not. But we have to start somewhere and we have to start sometime...and the time is now. If we wait to feel fully prepared for action, it may never come. So be bold and speak truth! And after the conversation begins, keep coming back to it...for action and advocacy and for dreaming and building new systems that bring equity and liberation for all of us. That’s what I want to be thankful for this year.