Next week, a group called EmbRACE L.A. will be holding 100 dinners throughout Los Angeles in an effort to “unify Angelenos and empower communities through a citywide conversation about race and racism to challenge and change inequities.” Each dinner, hosted in volunteer homes and catered by volunteer chefs, will consist of approximately ten individuals, the dinner host, and a facilitator. The groups “will strive to have a diverse composition of participants.”
On it’s surface, the idea of bringing together people with diverse ideas and backgrounds in order to have a civil, face-to-face conversation about difficult topics and policy issues is, in my humble opinion, a great idea. Two examples of this have recently come to my attention. The first is called Make America Dinner Again, a group started by two friends who “felt disheartened by the often polarizing and vilifying language during and after the 2016 election,” and their goal is to build “empathy in their community.” They have created a guide so that others can replicate this across the country. No trained facilitators are used with this concept, and it is up to the hosts to ensure a diversity of guests. The premise is that when we take some time to get to know individuals before we discuss divisive issues with them, we are more likely to be empathetic to their ideas as opposed to resorting to the bread and butter of the Internet: name-calling, hate and vitriol against anyone who disagrees with us.
Another effort to bring together diverse groups of friends to have deep discussions in an effort to build bridges of understanding comes from Riaz Patel. a liberal television producer. He has spent some time genuinely trying to understand the Conservative perspective. Patel is now producing videos of some sessions that he has moderated between diverse groups of friends, where they openly discuss their perspectives and he shares what he has learned. You can view some of these on his Facebook page.
I applaud and encourage these efforts. On the other hand, I cast a wary eye toward the EmbRACE L.A. initiative. Co-creator of the initiative and L.A. City Council President Herb J. Wesson actually stated that this initiative aims “not only to save Los Angeles but to save the United States of America.” That is quite a lofty goal. And yet, the details certainly do not support that effort.
Take this, for instance: Wesson’s office said that the partners for the initiative include “local branches of the SEIU, AFL-CIO, and an intersectional sample of progressive groups advocating on behalf of homeless people, transgender individuals, unlawfully present immigrants, organized labor, prisoners, and youth of color.” There are a few groups glaringly absent from that list. Namely, Christians and Conservatives. Is their aim to unify the country, or only to unify those who agree with them ideologically? Does true diversity not include those with whom you may disagree? In this case, to be honestly diverse, white, straight, Christian Conservatives would necessarily be included, but they don’t seem to be.
Alberto Retana, head of one of the activist partners called Community Coalition, said that “EmbRACE L.A. is about sexuality and gender and race and class and things that often tend to pull us apart.” Those are all the basis of the identity politics that the left always relies on, and that is in fact designed to pull us apart. Retana made no mention of ideological, philosophical, policy, political, religious, or moral differences that tend to be the actual basis of the growing schism in our country.
This initiative seems to be bringing together left-wing progressives whose only differences are sexuality, gender, race or class, so they can all talk about, what? How important it is for them come together in opposing people with true ideological differences? The underlying structure of this project that was three years in the making seems inherently flawed. They are building an echo chamber. We have enough of those on the Internet already.
Creating a safe space for leftists to discuss topics that they already agree on while completely ignoring the real cause of division in our country is certainly no way to “save the United States of America.” I can’t say I’m totally surprised, though, after Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey a few days ago said that this Medium piece about how the country needs to completely eradicate Conservative thought for several generations in order to fix the country was a “great read.” At least the left has started being more open about their endgame.