By Doug Criss
A networking event in Georgia offers an interesting twist: a chance to meet a black person.
It may sound like a “Saturday Night Live” skit, but the “Come Meet a Black Person” event — set for Thursday in Lawrenceville, near Atlanta — is a real attempt to bridge the racial divide.
It’s the brainchild of Cheryle Moses, the founder of Urban MediaMakers, a group of independent black filmmakers and content creators. Moses dreamed up the networking event as a response of sorts to a 2013 study from the Public Religion Research Institute that showed about 75% of white people in America don’t have any nonwhite friends. The study also found that for most whites, their circle of friends is about 91% white.
Likewise, about 65% of black people don’t have any white friends, and the average social circle for a black American is about 83% black.
“In the black community we know of white people who don’t have a lot of black friends,” Moses told CNN. “But still, seeing a statistic about it just opened our eyes.”
The event specially asks that white people who don’t have any nonwhite friends to attend.
What Moses and Urban MediaMakers hope to accomplish is more than have the cliched “conversation on race,” which everyone talks about having, but rarely have. She wants people to connect on a more personal level.
“It’s a great opportunity to start relationships,” she said. “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.”
ID badges, food and race
Thursday’s event will have all the trappings of a typical networking mixer: ID badges, food and drinks, giveaways. But it will also feature a “cultural” scavenger hunt that will help attendees learn about the black community, as well as Moses and others from Urban MediaMakers greeting whites and engaging them in conversation.
“We can tell when someone is uncomfortable,” Moses said, so they will go around and break the ice and introduce people to each other.
The reaction to the event has largely been positive, although Moses did say some people were initially taken aback by the event’s name.
One woman told Moses the title pretty much stopped her in her tracks, but then the woman “totally got it” when she read why they were holding it.
If all goes well with this event, Moses said her group would like to make it a regular feature in 2018.