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This Thanksgiving, Looking Forward To A Respite From The Hydrant Of Terribleness

Family tensions can bubble to the surface during the holidays, especially after a divisive election.
Daniel Fishel for NPR
Family tensions can bubble to the surface during the holidays, especially after a divisive election.

There is popular wisdom out there that conversations about race are most productive when the people engaged in them are deeply, emotionally vested in the well-being of one another. Family might be a rejoinder to that wisdom. Perhaps there's such a thing as being too vested.

On this week's episode of the Code Switch podcast, we heard from people who were expecting to go home to testy Thanksgiving dinners, with families divided over the results of the presidential election. We heard from Kate, a liberal Korean-American woman who said she feels "invalidated" every time her white, adoptive family reprimands her for coming across as "too angry" when they talk politics. She suspects that they voted for Trump.

We also heard from Lauren, a black woman whose husband "became unhinged" at a restaurant because her parents voted for Trump. (Aside: Is it weird to anyone else that while the overwhelming majority of people of color in this country did not vote for Donald Trump, those who did just happen to be related to people in the Code Switch audience and on the Code Switch team?)

The people we didn't hear from on the podcast were the many folks of color for whom Thanksgiving will be an especially needed respite from the hydrant of terribleness spewed during this terrible political year — people like Jenée Desmond Harris of Vox:

"One thing I'm looking forward to over the holidays is giving a hug to my 12-year-old cousin who's been living in a preteen hell throughout the general election season. A black child at a predominantly white school in a red state, she's been the target of taunts that use Donald Trump's name in the same tenor as racial slurs, which recently led her to stop riding the school bus. ...

"In my case, I want to tell my 8th-grade cousin that I'm proud of how she's stood up for herself. My future mother-in-law is ready to deliver a pep talk about how she survived as a black woman in the Jim Crow South under laws made by people with outlooks on race similar to those who are likely to shape the nation under Trump's administration.

"Certainly many of the black, Latino, immigrant, Jewish, Muslim, and LGBTQ people who were the victims of the more than 700 expressions of hate reported to the Southern Poverty Law Center in the weeks after Election Day will anticipate the holiday as a time not to ignore what's just happened politically but to process it and seek comfort from loved ones."

Say word. I'm looking forward to a Thanksgiving of familiar rhythms. My Aunt Carol, who always does damn near all of the cooking, will lead the prayer before dinner. There will be the obligatory turkey (at some point, America, we need to have a national conversation about decolonizing our minds and distancing ourselves from this oppressive, anti-moisture "meat") along with the usual collard greens and macaroni and cheese and turkey ham. (Never real ham, though. Hypertension.)

The only real rancor I expect will be directed at the surprisingly and irritatingly, not-currently-mediocre Dallas Cowboys, who we, as proper Philadelphians, have been raised to rightly detest. Then, around midnight, folks will sleepily head out for Black Friday shopping.

For that little bit of affection, predictability and order, I'm thankful.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Gene Demby is the co-host and correspondent for NPR's Code Switch team.