In our current political climate, the thought of Thanksgiving tomorrow may be making you more anxious or angry than relaxed or excited for a day off. This anxiety becomes two-fold if you are spending the day with relatives who, perhaps, voted for Trump or who posted “All Lives Matter” for the tenth time this year. You might be afraid you might ruin Thanksgiving by calling them out, but actually, those are pretty necessary conversations to have — and plenty of people on Twitter agree. The “Ruin Thanksgiving” hashtag asks people to have the uncomfortable conversations this year, and it’s a super necessary message.
Though a NPR poll revealed 58 percent of Americans are dreading talking about politics on Thanksgiving, the trending hashtag is encouraging people to call out their problematic relatives on issues of race, feminism, policy, homophobia, and more. Many Twitter users have chimed in, sharing their thoughts on social justice issues that should not be ignored this Thanksgiving. “Casual racists become the juries that set murdering racists free. Don't abide casual racists. Challenge them. Ruin Thanksgiving. Do something,” tweeted Ashley Black, a writer, comedian, and correspondent on Full Frontal With Samantha Bee. Black later added, “Cultural appropriation is a big issue that should be called out, but generally people start hashtags because they WANT them to be shared. I really want white people to #RuinThanksgiving, and am thankful to anyone encouraging people to do so.”
Take Action Take Care, a volunteer-run online resource for activists that Black founded, also tweeted, “Hey friends! While watching the Cowboys, Lions, Packers, and Bears, why not begin a discussion with your ‘patriotic’ uncle about #oppression #policebrutality #protesting and the First Amendment?”
Though there’s no definitive answer as to when the hashtag was coined, the reasons why we need it this Thanksgiving are clear. Since Trump’s electoral win last year, Americans are more divided than ever before when it comes to political beliefs and party lines. But, the issue runs deeper than mere policy. This administration's actions have endangered the safety of many communities. As the popular protest chant goes: silence is violence.
Moreover, it’s important to note Thanksgiving, for many Native Americans, is considered a day of mourning, and one thing non-Native people can do, if they observe Thanksgiving, is to call out problematic myths about the holidays or about Native people they hear. Additionally, it was only one year ago that many Natives and allies spent Thanksgiving protecting the water threatened by the construction of the Dakota-access pipeline on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. One viral tweet from Nov. 16 pointed out how problematic the holiday truly is, saying, “Just a reminder, last year on Thanksgiving that Natives were being tortured with dogs, illegal scare tactics, being run over by angry white people all to protect our water, and this year on Thanksgiving they are now cleaning up 200,000 gallon oil spill on a South Dakota reservation.” Hopefully, #RuinThanksgiving will give you the push you need to call out behavior that perpetuates oppression, no matter how it was meant.
I know Thanksgiving can be super tense and uncomfortable, especially when celebrating with extended family that hold different political or personal beliefs. However, there is some good news: If you’re set on “ruining” Thanksgiving by having the hard conversations about race and other social issues, there are resources to support you. In addition to the trending hashtag on Twitter, there’s a website called Ruin Thanksgiving 2017, where you can pledge to “have tough conversations with your family” on Turkey Day. The site has training videos on topics like agitation versus provocation, which are intended to help you discuss politics and social justice issues with family members in a more positive way. Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ) created a national hotline last year that sends people prepared talking points on subjects like DACA, or the NFL national anthem protests — all with a simple text. It may not be a bad idea to brush up on the weekly column Code Switch if you know Thanksgiving tomorrow may lead to debating over dinner.
Ruining Thanksgiving isn’t (necessarily) about flipping over the table or causing irreparable damage to your relationships, and it doesn't mean you have to literally ruin your family time. But being complicit in racist or sexist behavior for your comfort isn’t okay — even on a holiday. Thanksgiving is a day about gratitude and reflection, so don’t miss your chance to bring awareness to marginalized communities to the family member you only see twice a year. Who knows, maybe you’ll get through to even one relative, which is worth it.