The dinner invitation

Let’s turn the clock back again. This time let’s turn it back a little further, back to 1971. A white sixth-grade kid in Houston, Texas, decides to invite a black sixth-grade kid over to his house for dinner. No big deal, right? It didn’t get on the evening news. It didn’t generate any publicity. But it made a difference. It turns out that the black kid who got invited to the white kid’s house was named David Bown. Fast-forward thirty-nine years. David Brown is the chief of police in Dallas, Texas. On his watch, a racially motivated sniper shot fourteen Dallas police officers. Five of those officers died. It was July 7, 2016.

When the news conference regarding the shootings was held, an entire nation leaned in to listen as Brown tried to make sense of things. During his comments, he talked about that dinner with a white family to which he was invited so long ago. He said,

I felt like Sidney Poitier in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. It really was one of those surreal moments when you don’t know whether you’re going to be uninvited. And his mother comes out with pot pies, and we sit there and have a really nice dinner, and they make me feel at home. And they made me feel no different than them.

Brown says he carries that memory with him when confronting racism. Brown further reflects,

I wonder why aren’t we smarter than 6th graders? Why can’t we figure this out? It takes not a big group, not yelling and screaming, but let’s sit down and listen to each other and invite someone home for dinner.

So it turns out that a little white kid back in 1971 did something that, forty-four years later, would help a nation as it continued to struggle with racism. The dinner invitation didn’t stop the shootings, but it set an example that modeled the importance of relationships in addressing issues of race. And it gave David Brown a place to stand as he confronted the chaos of racist hatred. 

From “Black and White: Disrupting Racism One Friendship At A Time” by Teesha Hadra and John Hambrick