We often talk about sharing meals as a way to come together, break down barriers, and connect with others on a human level. We sometimes fail to mention how uncomfortable this may be in practice.
A recent Washington Post article profiles Tunde Wey, who uses his “Blackness in America” dinner series to address issues of race and violence in America. Tunde has observed “catharsis among the black guests at the dinner, and understanding among the others.” The backdrop for all of this is an intentional discomfort—an acknowledgement of difference in the experiences and perspectives of those gathered.
This summer, Time magazine highlighted “Solution Sundays,” a concept proposed by senators Tim Scott and James Lankford to address these same divisive issues of race and violence. The idea is as simple as it is challenging: make a conscious effort to dine with families of other races one day a week, “[putting] our prejudice and broken trust on the table.” They explain:
We should move from, ‘I know someone from another race’ or ‘I work with someone from another race,’ to ‘we have spent time together developing friendship and understanding.’ During a time of great racial tension in our nation, we need more intentional relationships.”
Racial segregation, de jure or de facto, has afforded an insidious comfort: we never have to wrestle with the complexities of those we deem different than ourselves. The space between us buffers us from each others’ humanity; it allows us to form opinions about an abstract group of people rather than base our views on real human beings with whom we interact.
An intentionally diverse table can go a long way to building trust and healing wounds. But with the lingering divisions in our country—racial, economic, ethnic, religious—we must stage this scenario consciously and consistently. It is uncomfortable. And it is crucial.