Faith

Two GOP Senators Have a Plan to Heal this Country's Racial Divide—Over Dinner

Sunday is the most segregated day of the week according to an oft-repeated platitude. Whether that claim is true or not is up for debate. What’s not up for debate is that over the last few years racial tensions have risen in this country. In 2016, in the aftermath of police shootings, two senators, Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.), created a new program called the “Solution Sunday” initiative, with the goal of helping heal the racial divide in America. Earlier this month, Senators Lankford and Scott released a video promoting the initiative.

The gist of Solution Sunday is a simple one: people should make it a point to share a meal on Sundays with someone from a different ethnic background.

While a simple solution, it’s one that many people can easily be involved with, as well as a solution that holds out the hope that people will begin to change on an individual level. Ultimately, true societal change only comes about when individuals change.

Eating together is a great equalizer. It’s an activity that fosters laughter, shared experiences, and meaningful dialogue. It also creates friendships, and, in turn, friendships foster unity. The first African-American chaplain of the U.S. Senate, Barry Black, agrees.

“So I see that kind of potential when people come together over a meal, a common meal, and get to know one another in a way that they probably have never gotten to know another person of that particular ethnicity before,” says Chaplain Black.

In the video, Senator Lankford, a Southern Baptist, explains the genesis of the project:

The birth of Solution Sunday for me was hearing once again the people on the news saying we needed to have a national conversation on race. It comes up often and it most often comes on around when there’s racial tension or when there was a law enforcement shooting of someone that is an African-American male that again this conversation rises up. Is this a racial tension in America that we can resolve, that we should resolve? Of course, we should resolve racial tension in America – and this whole conversation that we should have, this national conversation on race – of course we should, but I think the impression of that is wrong. I think sometimes we think we need to get elected officials and media people and famous people around a big table and have a camera around, and to say they’re going to talk about race and the whole country is going to follow. That’s not how it ever happens.

Senator Scott points out how many of us tend to gravitate toward people who look like we do and sound like we do. “What [Solution Sunday] asks is for those folks who come from that homogenous pool to take a step out of it and venture into someone else’s territory and learn as much as you possibly can about someone else,” he adds. “I’d say lean in. Don’t just dip your toe into it.”

“I tell folks all the time,” Senator Lankford said. “‘I think the only way that we’ll get all the issues on the table is if we get all of our feet under the same table.'”

It’s no surprise that such a down-home and obvious (should be obvious) solution comes from two senators who are deeply grounded in their faith. The Bible teaches that we’re all made in the Image of God. Because of that, we have the ability to listen, empathize, and understand each other. As Senators Scott and Lankford recognize, that requires actually getting to know one another. There are few better ways to get to know someone than to share a meal together.