DinnerTableOKC: Something to talk about
I noticed as I prepared to sit down for lunch that I didn't know the two men sitting at my table.
Before we started our meal we were joined by two women I didn't know, and shortly afterward, another woman took a seat.
We were a racially diverse group. In addition to myself, there was another black woman, two white women, a black man and an Indian man.
We were part of a rather large group of people from different metro churches who gathered at Crossings Community Center for a DinnerTableOKC lunch in fall 2015.
We were told that we would be discussing race and race relations.
I had simply accepted an invitation to lunch, so I hadn't known what to expect -- whether I would be covering a story for the religion beat or simply enjoying a meal and meeting new people.
Turns out, it was a little bit of both.
I didn't do a story on that DinnerTableOKC event.
I joined it.
I met new people and had a good meal.
The discussion was enlightening and I came away with plans to do a future story, which I shared in today's edition of The Oklahoman. (Here's the story: "Bringing it to the Table"
The people featured in today's story are not the same people who were part of my group that had lunch together.
I had assured my group up front that I would not be doing a story about our discussion (although I didn't know any of them, two of them knew I was a reporter). I wanted them to feel comfortable talking about such sensitive topics.
Truth be told, I wanted my own thoughts and opinions to be safeguarded as well.
Journalists don't weigh in on lots of matters because we are supposed to be objective, but I wasn't covering this story.
I was ... I am ... a member of the community and as such, I wanted to be heard on this issue and I wanted to hear what others had to say.
It was liberating to be able to talk frankly about race and about some of the things I am concerned about in today's society. It was good to share my thoughts about what our society will look like for my grandchildren and their children if some things don't change soon. I also listened and learned new things, some things I had never thought of.
In today's busy society, there is a tendency for people to become isolated or to cluster in small groups of individuals who are just like them.
In order to really resolve some of the problems that have been caused by racism or just folks' ignorance about people of another race, we are going to have to come out from those clusters, even if it's scary and uncomfortable.
I know, it's easy for me to say this as a journalist.
I wade into unknown and sometimes uncomfortable territory all the time because it's my job.
Yet, although this may be tough and challenging at times, it's also one of the best things about being a reporter: Meeting people you probably would have never have met any other way and learning from them (and they from you). Learning about ideas, programs and circumstances you would not have known about or come in contact with in your everyday life experiences.
So, I see DinnerTableOKC, created by Taylor Doe and Rodney and Cresha Redus, as a good way to confront uncharted territory head on.
It really hearkens back to the days when people were really neighborly and thought nothing of inviting folks over for supper for a chance to get to know them better.
The DinnerTableOKC founders have created a similar environment in the hopes that Oklahoma City metro residents want to know their neighbors.