UT-Austin students feel uncomfortable going home due to concerns about political arguments with family

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Photo Credit: Barbra Daly | Daily Texan Staff

Kaitlin Porter usually looks forward to sitting next to her parents at the Thanksgiving table with a turkey in the center and side dishes all around. This year, she worries strong differing political opinions will disrupt dinner. 

“I have a feeling I’m going to be avoiding my family,” advertising junior Porter said.

Political discussion has always reared its head at Thanksgiving dinner. But with 2020 bringing a variety of contentious issues to the forefront — the COVID-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement and the recent presidential election — some students think familial arguments will become more intense than recent years.

“I’m scared we’re going to get into a fight,” public relations sophomore Rocio Perez said. “And every time we get into a fight, I end up walking out of the house. It ends up being really bad.”

Perez has been able to avoid conversations about politics with her mom, but she said conversations with her dad tend to get more heated.

“My dad is very (machista), like (an) aggressive, Hispanic male,” Perez said. “He always likes to talk about (politics). I’m scared for what Thanksgiving is going to be like.”  

Perez will be going home to Houston for Thanksgiving, and she said she wants to avoid discussing politics once she’s there.

“I’m always watching what I say around them,” Perez said. “Anything (I say) will set an argument off.” 

Porter has already talked to her family about the presidential election, and she said her parents were unwilling to have a productive discussion. She said the conversation quickly became tense and led to personal attacks. 

“(The canversation was) different from how we normally talk about politics,” Porter said. “It lacked any pretense of respect.”

While some students are fearful about how politics will affect Thanksgiving, others are choosing to be hopeful about reuniting with family.

Radio-television-film junior Emily Koller said this will be the first Thanksgiving she has spent with her family in two years. Because Koller is an out-of-state student from Maryland, flying home can be a hassle, so she said she usually waits to visit until winter. This year, she said she’ll be staying in Maryland until the spring semester. 

“(My family) knows we’re on different sides of the (political) spectrum,” Koller said. “You’re not going to be like, ‘I’m done with this person because of your political views.’”

 

Porter said she will be staying home in South Carolina until the spring semester. She said she’s not looking forward to her grandparents coming to visit for Christmas because it seems as if their conversations always revolve around politics. 

“The majority of me doesn’t want to go home for as long as I originally planned,” Porter said. “I would rather go home after Thanksgiving and then leave before Christmas so I don’t have to talk to my grandparents.”

While Porter is nervous about going home, she’s still looking forward to seeing her parents. 

“I do want to go home,” Porter said. “I still do miss my family.”

Koller also said she wants to stay positive about going home for Thanksgiving. She said she thinks students should be open-minded when talking to their family about what’s happening in our nation. 

“It’s a healing time for America right now,” Koller said. “We need to be open to that healing.”