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Table Setters: Sit down with someone of a different race, have a meal, and listen

Marvin Wadlow (right) and Matthew Schmitt organized an effort called The Table Setters to help facilitate conversations about race.

Too often people have a hard time talking about race. White people don’t understand black people. Black people just shake their heads at the behavior of white people. It’s rare that they’ll actually sit down and talk about it.

It's not that white people and black people don't talk. But they rarely talk about race. 

Marvin Wadlow Jr. and Matthew Schmitt organized an effort called the Table Setters to help facilitate that conversation. They joined Stateside today.

It started when Wadlow and Schmitt were working at a non-profit ministry together in Hollywood to help the homeless population there.  

"We recognized that there was a need to sit at a table," Schmitt said. "A table is an equalizer. A table is a place where everyone is on the same level, literally... a table is where you share a meal and break bread. Coming from a Christian background, there's a lot of tables throughout scripture and we really believe that being at diverse tables and being able to sit with people who don't look like you and have respect, is really the heart of what all reconciliation work is."

The idea of race and race relations is not a new concept, but the Table Setters are hoping people will find commonality when they sit down with each other.

"A table is an equalizer. A table is a place where everyone is on the same level, literally..."

"This issue of race has been going on since African-Americans were stolen and brought here," Wadlow said. "And just that statement alone gets the room quiet. So what we say is 'Look, we want to break bread with you. I think we have more in common than we have separate.' That tends to get people at least to the table."

The real challenge comes when individuals on both sides come to the table with concerns about talking about race.

"I think a lot of white people are interested in the dialog of, 'What do we say, what do we do? It's so confusing, if we say this, it's wrong, if we say this, it's wrong,'" Wadlow said. "And on the other side of the coin, black people are just like, 'Here we go again.' And they're frustrated and they're tired."

Listen to the full interview to learn why we shouldn't wait for a traumatic news story about race to have these conversations.

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Stateside is produced daily by a dedicated group of producers and production assistants. Listen daily, on-air, at 3 and 8 p.m., or subscribe to the daily podcast wherever you like to listen.
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