This past Monday I had the privilege to sit around a table with five other brave participants and discuss race and ethnicity in America. Dallas Dinner Table, an organization founded in 1999, holds annual dinners to bring together people who may not have found each other otherwise. We answered questions about where attitudes, perspectives, and understandings of race come from and how they limit or define our reality? The goal of the two and half hour gathering, in simpler terms, is to learn to drop assumptions. We should judge people on the merit of their character and not because they are white, woman, Mexican, male, rich, or poor.
But can we?
This question came to mind for me several times during the night. Can we drop all of our assumptions when seeing and watching people from a distance? Our forefathers, who were cave dwellers, made assumptions to move quickly, assess a situation in order not to starve, or worse, be killed.
I believe we make assumptions to shortcut real thinking; to bypass connection and relationship, making assumptions is more accessible and less convoluted. I think it speeds up the process in the short term and limits us in the long run because we miss out on engaging people and experiences. It’s people and our communication with them that give us our greatest lessons in life. But we only have so many hours in the day. We only have so many interactions that don’t involve our family and friends, so many hours to process our news feeds, our place in the world, and how we are perceived. Here in America, we live in an individualistic culture, where a majority of the time self-interest is placed above “the other.”
We make assumptions out of necessity.
However, meetings like the Dallas Dinner Table allow us to step outside of our beliefs about other people for a moment. These occurrences enable us to see a different point of view and maybe even empathize if we are willing to go deep. These moments create space for us to be bigger than ourselves.