Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. And beyond meaning that you get to stuff your face uncontrollably for hours on end, it also means you get to spend quality time with your family.
In this upcoming holiday, meant to give thanks for the things we have, I have a bit of advice: Don’t talk about controversial stuff. Don’t do it. You may be tempted to bring up how the pilgrims basically used the natives for their own gain, or that we would later murder them in mass numbers and force the rest of them to live on isolated lands of our choosing. You might want to talk politics and about how Obama helping immigrants is the Christianly thing to do. You may bring up religion alone and talk about how Islam isn’t that bad and is often cast in a negative light. Hell, you may even be tempted to bring up the most controversial topic of all and finally admit to your family as a whole that Star Wars Episode I wasn’t really terrible and it’s a movie that sort of holds up, if you ignore the blatant racism.
Just don’t do it. Don’t talk about any of these things because they usually end in a shouting match and someone storming off into the cold November world until someone else comes chasing after them to remind them that none of us agree on anything wholly and not to worry about it.
However, there is one thing we should all talk about—or, at the very least, not avoid.
We should talk, together and openly and without personal spite, about Michael Brown. Especially if your family, like mine, is all white. We need to talk about it because there are still some misconceptions about what happened. We need to talk about it because this isn’t an isolated incident. We need to talk about it because all over the country tomorrow, families of color will be getting together just the same as ours—and you can bet your ass that they’ll be talking about it.
Most importantly, we should talk about it because out there in Ferguson, Missouri, there will be one family in particular gathering together for a family meal, minus one. Perhaps they will leave a seat open for their son—only just a man in the eyes of the law—which will not be filled tomorrow. Perhaps they will cancel their Thanksgiving all together. I can’t say for sure.
But what I can say for sure is that my own family will be together for a large meal in which we will all stuff our faces uncontrollably, and we will all be there. My mother won’t have to weep over her turkey and stuffing; my father won’t have to hold in his anger for the rest of my family’s sake; my sisters can worry more about the parade far off in New York rather than riots and protests just outside.
This post is not about taking sides in what was clearly a horrific event. It’s about realizing that, whatever side you’re seeing the entire thing from, you should—for tomorrow, at least—see it from the perspective of the family who lost a son sixty-five years too soon.
And be grateful for what you have.