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19 December 2016

Five ways to deal with racist relatives this Christmas

A simple guide to facing offensive family members over the festive break.

By Eleanor Margolis

The turkey is but a skeleton. Uncle Clive is on his fourth bottle of extra-English bitter and ready to have opinions. He promised he wasn’t going to have opinions again after last Christmas’ “Norman Tebbit Incident”, which turned the cheese course into something out of Game of Thrones. Aunt Yvonne stabbed a brie 11 times.

Shockingly though, Clive, whose Facebook profile picture is something like a cartoon of bulldog flying a spitfire over some women in burkas, has thoughts on Brexit. Clive, you see, had a really nice 2016. And he wants everyone to know. He’d also like everyone to know that, “Marine Le Pen, she’s alright isn’t she?” and he’d “manger her pret”. Whatever that means. Do not be tempted to ask.

There are ways of coping with bigoted relatives over the turkey carcass this Christmas. None of them are pretty, but – just maybe – they’ll prevent another cheese massacre.

Louis Theroux it

Ever wondered what happened to Clive at school to make him… the way he is? Theroux it out of him. For now, he isn’t your uncle; he’s a case study, and he’s interesting. The word “interesting” could not be more important here. When Clive says, “Trump is a bigger feminist than all those feminists,” you say: “Interesting”.

Which, as most people know, actually means, “that’s quite literally the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard but please say more things like it because (in my head) I’m making a documentary called Uncles: Just Why? and this is gold.” Theroux your uncle until he cries. He needs it.

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Get money involved

On Christmas eve, place bets with other members of your family on how many times, in total, Clive is going to use the word “foreign”, or the phrase, “all I’m saying is…” Which is going to come first, a homophobic farming metaphor or a racist pun? Turn it into “Clive bingo”. Try, for the love of god, to make a few quid out of your relative’s staunch terribleness.

Come prepared

If you can’t resist getting into actual beef with Clive or, say, very religious Aunt Pam, who makes a very religious face when you talk about your same-sex partner, at least have something mic-droppingly devastating to lob back. If you don’t have time to come up with your own material, just memorise Jed Bartlet’s magnificent homophobe-bashing speech from The West Wing. And there you have it: your very own Aaron Sorkin-scripted Christmas spat.

Or don’t

Especially if you’re actually LGBTQ, it isn’t your job to coax bigots out of their bigotry. Even if it feels like it is, which it very often does, at least take Christmas off. Make sure close relatives know just how uncomfortable your “family values”-obsessed aunt makes you. Let them chip in. You don’t have to defend your right to happiness, while Aunt Pam sits there sipping sherry and looking like the cheese fumes are getting to her. Don’t worry. Her life is sad enough. Her husband, Clive, just announced to the entire table he’d like to do Marine Le Pen.

Passive aggressive gift giving

Glue the dust jacket of The World According to Clarkson over this and see how long it takes Uncle Clive to notice. Present Aunt Pam with a Georgia O’Keeffe poster and pinpoint the moment she realises the pretty flower looks a bit like a vulva. Slip a Sarah Waters novel into her Nicholas Sparks collection. Make donations to Stonewall and Unicef, or any one of these charities, in Clive and Pam’s names. Get creative. And, more importantly: drunk.