Have Dinner With Families of Other Races, Senators Scott, Lankford Say

(Photo: Reuters/Brian Frank)Sen. Tim Scott speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa Aug. 9, 2014.

When did you last have dinner in your home with a person of another race? That's a question Republican Senators Tim Scott and James Lankford have been asking, urging Americans to devote at least one Sunday lunch or dinner to be part of the solution to racism in America.

Called "Solution Sundays," the initiative started by Scott of South Carolina and Lankford of Oklahoma seeks to bridge the racial divide with a meal.

"For me, it's hard to hate what you know," Scott, the first black Republican congressman from South Carolina since 1897 and currently the only black Republican in the Senate, told CNN. "And it's just so simple. It's hard to hate what you know."

Lankford commented, "Sunday is a significant day for most families in America still, in whatever way with their families, or faith or whatever it may be. And we said, 'If you want to be part of the solution for race in America, set aside lunch or dinner and just invite a family over of another race, and just sit down and have a meal together."

Scott said that surprisingly many people come back and say, "They're just like me."

"What did you expect?" he said, laughing. "It's one of the reasons why people are comfortable with people like themselves. What they don't realize is that we're all about the same. We all struggle with finances, with kids, with spouses, some people struggle with the Patriots. I love the Cowboys."

The two senators thought of starting the initiative in 2015, around the time when African Americans and law enforcement officers were clashing across the country. "There seemed to be this dichotomy that was growing which you can either be for the police or what was happening in the black community, but you couldn't be both," Lankford recalled. "And our response was no, you can be."

Scott revealed last month that he had been attacked with racist messages questioning his blackness for supporting President Donald Trump's embattled pick to lead the Department of Justice, Sen. Jeff Sessions.

"I know that I don't have to remind my mother or my family but just as a reminder to those who are listening to the conversation that when I leave the U.S. Senate one day, I'm still gonna be black, an African American. Black every day, black every way and there is no doubt," he said. "This is an important part of the conversation because as I read through some of the comments from my friends on the left, you will wonder if I ever had an experience as a black person in America."

Scott and Lankford wrote about their initiative in Time magazine last July, stating:

"Americans do not really get to know their neighbors and fellow citizens at a rally or a big event, we get to know each other typically over a meal, especially in our home. What if Americans intentionally chose to put our prejudice and broken trust on the table by putting our feet under the same table? If it seems too simple and obvious, let me ask you this question … have you ever had dinner in your home with a person of another race? Many Americans have not … The goal is to engage on the personal level of your own home to break down walls and build trust across our communities. It is harder to stereotype when you know people first-hand."

In 2013, when Scott was sworn in, he spoke about his faith experience.

After quoting some lyrics from the hymn "Amazing Grace," Scott recalled his college years when he came to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior. "Those words never meant more to me than on September the 22nd, 1983. I was on a little college football scholarship at Presbyterian College and they had this thing called the FCA, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes," said Scott. "I remember walking down the aisle and I got down on my knees as a person who is so selfish, but when I rose back up the Lord had become the Master of my life."

Adding that he had "never been the same" since that day, Scott tied his personal experience to the broader issue of the nation. "I have good news for all of us: God is not finished with me yet and God is not finished with you yet. But perhaps the best news is God is not finished with America yet," said Scott.