Yes, you read that headline right.
In Lawrenceville, Georgia, just a little outside of Atlanta, a networking event will be taking place called “Come Meet A Black Person.” It’s supposed to help white people who haven’t talked to black people before open up a pathway of communication and hopefully lead to friendship — or, at least, camaraderie. To which I have to say: um, what?
Okay, don’t get me wrong — I’m all about fostering relationships between people who may not otherwise have a relationship. Diversity is good! Diversity in friends is good! But also are you trying to tell me that there are legitimately white people who live near Atlanta who have never talked to a black person before? And if they haven’t, doesn’t it kind of seem like it was probably, I don’t know, intentional???
It’s a great opportunity to start relationships. And if you have a relationship with somebody, you are inclined to treat them like yourself. If you don’t have that relationship, then you’ll only treat them based upon what you may have seen or read somewhere.
Moses has a point — race relations in this country isn’t great, and at least some of it probably stems from lack of understanding and exposure. According to a 2013 study by the Public Religion Research Institute, 75 percent of white people in America don’t have any non-white friends, and that 65 percent of black people don’t have any white friends. It’s a huge statistic, but somehow, it’s not actually surprisingly.
Here’s the thing: I do think it’s important to build those bridges. I think people need to be exposed to people who are different from them because it’s the first step to understanding viewpoints that are different from your own. But at the same time, does there really need to be a networking event that’s literally just about exposing white people to black people? The whole thing makes it feel like PoC are foreign, exotic creatures that white people wouldn’t be able to meet otherwise. And the name “Come Meet A Black Person” certainly doesn’t help. I can’t even imagine the number of microaggressions the black people who attend this are going to have to endure, considering they’re literally signing up for an event that’s all about white people who don’t know how to interact with black people.
Why can’t we find other ways to build these bridges, like trying to make our schools and businesses more diverse? Or giving black people a more prominent role in media? Or maybe, I don’t know, just encouraging these white people to black people when they meet them out in everyday life??? It’s really honestly not that hard.
I guess that’s the thing that gets me. It’s not like the people who are attending this event are from a small, all-white town in Western Kansas. This is a city that’s just outside of Atlanta, which means there’s plenty of opportunity to mingle with people who are different from you, whether that be because of race, religion, or just simple ideology. If they haven’t taken the ample opportunities they’ve already have had, I can’t imagine a networking event is going to change that at all.