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As the Black Lives Matter movement gains traction throughout the nation and the world, a number of us are being called to utilize the skills we’ve learned to enhance ourselves— such as speaking our truth, setting limits, and breaking the people-pleasing pattern– to improve our neighborhoods, our nations, and our world.

Those of us who are allies are conveniently placed to have conversations about racial justice with our relative, pals, and colleagues. Nevertheless, traditionally, many of us have balked at these conversations out of fear of our own awkwardness, others’ anger, or the possibility of developing rifts in relationships.

In the past, I have actually done a substandard task of asserting my boundaries with racist family members. Instead of stating, “Hey, that thing you just said was really racist,” I normally chose to stay quiet. I justified my silence with one or all of the following excuses:

Now, I have actually come to understand that silence is violence– which complicity in bigotry is racism.
Some activists assert that allies are most beneficial when we promote for racial justice with our racist family members. Others caution that entering embittered arguments with racist loved ones is a waste of energy– energy that could be better-devoted to developing genuine modification for black folks.

Whether you pick to take an offending position (proactively engaging your racist family members in discussions about race) or defensive position (speaking up against racist relatives who make racist comments), knowing how to set borders with racist member of the family is seriously important. When conversations end up being inefficient or harmful, we require to understand how to stand in our power and develop security for ourselves.

These four tools can assist you set empowered borders with your racist family members and maintain the psychological energy you require to avoid burnout and continue participating in anti-racist work.

1. Clarify the worths that empower you to speak up.

When preparing to have a difficult conversation, we can discover inspiration and strength in our values. Our worths are our basic, fundamental beliefs that assist us determine what is very important to us.

My core worths include integrity and credibility. I’m enthusiastic about speaking from the heart, being sincere, and acting in a moral manner.

When it comes to having hard conversations with family members about race, I ask myself: What would it appear like to act in stability here? What would it imply to be fully genuine in this conversation? For me, this means not going silent in challenging conversations, resolving racist jokes and comments the moment they’re spoken, and holding company to my beliefs, even in the face of others’ anger.

What are your core values? Honesty? Loyalty? Generosity? Empathy? Think about how those values align with your objective to speak out versus racial oppression. When those discussions get tough, discover solace in the truth that you’re residing in alignment with your essential beliefs.

(If you wish to find your most deeply-held values but aren’t sure where to begin, Scott Jeffrey’s Core Value List of over 200 personal values is an excellent place to begin.)

2. Come prepared with particular language.

Boundary-setting discussions, especially with family members, are amongst the most tough conversations we can have. To decrease the pressure we might feel to summon the perfect words at the perfect time, it’s handy to come ready with a couple of essential phrases we can use to set, and re-assert, our limits.

In a current Instagram post, trauma and relationship therapist Jordan Pickell used some excellent tips for how to tell somebody you enjoy that they’re being racist. It included ideas like:

Keep in mind that borders are declarations of what we will or will not accept. The goal of a border isn’t necessarily to change another’s behavior, however to develop safety and integrity for ourselves. The most completely crafted limit may not stop Uncle Joe from making racist jokes, but it can secure you, your kids, your mental energy, or your home.Examples of simple limits in this vein include:

3. Use the broken record technique.

When our borders are fulfilled with defensiveness, we might discover ourselves drawn into circular and verbose arguments. Your relatives may state,

Keep in mind: you do not require to justify your boundary. You don’t need to discuss yourself, to recite the most recent data on cops brutality, or to appeal to this person’s heart of hearts that racism is actually really, really bad. Instead, attempt the broken record strategy.

Developed by Richard Lavoie, a nationwide specialist on classroom management, the broken record method is a simple yet efficient way to reassert your border without getting mired in distracting arguments. To deploy this technique, simply repeat the very same message 3 times, calmly yet assertively– no matter how the recipient responds.

Here’s an example:

You: “Bob, I will not get involved in discussions with you when you’re being racist.”

Bob: “Oh come on, brighten up! You’re taking this too seriously.”

You: “I will not take part in discussions with you when you’re being racist.”

Bob: “Racist? That’s ludicrous. You understand what’s truly racist? Affirmative action.”

You: “I will not take part in discussions with you when you’re being racist.”

Bob: “Alright, whatever. I’m outta here.”

As you can see, when you repeat the same message calmly and assertively, you simultaneously restrict Bob’s power while preserving your own mental and psychological energy.

4. Practice post-boundary self-care.

Specifically if this is your very first time dealing with bigotry in your family, setting these limits may feel particularly hard. It may seem like a massive emotional upheaval– and it is! You’re breaking a silence that you have actually held for months, years, or perhaps decades, and that is major emotional work.

After setting your boundary, you might feel worry, regret, or embarassment, despite the fact that, intellectually, you know that setting this boundary was essential and exemplary. If you matured in an environment where you were penalized, harmed, or ignored when you disagreed with a member of the family, finding out the art of truthful expression in the family is an extreme act.

Post-boundary self-care helps you avoid burnout and renew your resources so that you can continue participating in anti-racist advocacy in your family and neighborhood.

Personally, I really need rest after a discussion like this. My nerve system gets overloaded and frayed, and a nap or relaxing night in your home is an important way to come house to myself. If I’m feeling guilty, I call a trusted buddy who can declare the righteousness of my boundary and keep me on the course.

When we set borders with our racist loved ones, we develop individual, zero-tolerance zones where we are no longer complicit in our loved ones’ bigotry. It is challenging and demanding work, but it is absolutely needed if we are to claim real allyship with the black folks who are fighting for their right to exist safely in this world.

About Hailey Magee

Hailey Magee is a Certified Codependency Healing Coach who helps individuals dominate the people-pleasing pattern, set empowered limits, and master the art of speaking their reality. She has worked with over 100 customers throughout the United States, France, Yemen, Ireland, South Africa, and more. Register for a complimentary, 30-minute consultation to find out how coaching can guide you to live from a place of strength, authenticity, and inner peace. You can follow Hailey on Facebook and Instagram or visit her website, See a typo or mistake? Please contact us so we can repair it!