“Meet A Black Person” Networking Event: Helpful Or Patronizing?
By Ryan Velez
CNN reports that a Georgia networking event is offered a novel tagline: the chance to meet a Black person. The "Come Meet a Black Person" event, took place last Thursday in Lawrenceville, near Atlanta. It was supposedly an honest attempt to bridge the racial divide, even if it seemed like a bad joke on paper.
This is the creation of Cheryle Moses, the founder of Urban MediaMakers, a group of independent Black filmmakers and content creators. Moses thought up the event after seeing a 2013 study from the Public Religion Research Institute that showed about 75% of white people in America don't have any non-white friends. The study also found that for most whites, their circle of friends is about 91% white. Other findings included the fact that 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." Moses is looking for the event to go beyond a simple racial conversation, but an opportunity to build relationships.
"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."
What can an attendee expect? For the most part, you can see many of the parts of a traditional networking mixer, like ID badges, food, drinks, and giveaways. However, there will be some other surprising events, like a cultural scavenger hunt designed to help people learn more about the black community. Moses and her colleagues also plan to greet white people and engage 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. As for the reaction? She says that most people like the idea, though the name is a surprise to a few. She tells the story of one woman that was “stopped in her track” by the title, but “totally got it” after reading more about the purpose of the events. If things go well, Moses mentioned that she would love to make this a regular event in 2018.