Senate subcommittee on Investigations member Sen. James Lankford R-Okla., questions witnesses during the subcommittee hearing on “adequacy of the Department of Health and Human Services’ efforts to protect unaccompanied alien children from human trafficking,” Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

An Idea to Improve Race Relations in America: Solution Sunday

Last July, Senator Tim Scott and I began challenging our constituents in Oklahoma and South Carolina to consider participating in an Initiative called “Solution Sunday.” At the time, the nation was reeling from the race-related shootings of police officers and African-American men in Minnesota, Dallas and Baton Rouge.

Our states have experienced the worst that racism brings out—for example, the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot in Oklahoma and 2015’s tragedy at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, just to name a few. However, our states today have progressed in race relations and reflect the growing cultural diversity of America.

As our nation continues to grapple with the aftermath of Charlottesville, and now the national anthem debate in the NFL, we are releasing a video that provides a solution to try to help the nation be a more UNITED States of America. Our “Solution Sunday” idea is simple – we encourage Americans to address racial tensions by engaging people of another race over meals in their home.

Sunday is a slower, yet significant day, for most Americans. So, we challenge each person or family to give one Sunday lunch or dinner for building relationships across racial lines. Obviously any day of the week works since the goal is to engage on the personal level of your own home to break down walls, ask questions, express concerns, and build trust across our communities.

For those looking for Washington to fix this problem, don’t hold your breath. Remember, Washington DC is a reflection of the nation, not the other way around. True change comes from our local communities.

Prejudice, stereotypes, and confusion occur among many races. It is harder to stereotype when you know people first-hand. Friendships, trust, and understanding happen when we engage and learn from each other’s cultures and experiences.

Unfortunately, social media has only exasperated divisions in our nation, including race. It has become a fortress for social reinforcement instead of a place for respectful dialogue and the exchange of ideas. While it may be more convenient to remain divided, we must pursue more intentional relationships that honor one another.

For those of us who are Christians, we believe that all people are created in the image of God and have worth and value. An appreciation for life and the human dignity of every person is one of the greatest legacies we can model for our community, and leave for our children and grandchildren. We must build respectful unity together, one family at a time. As Tim Scott often says, “You can’t hate what you know.” We think something like Solution Sundays may hold the key to the solutions needed for our nation.

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Senator James Lankford (R-OK)

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