This is the most 2020 business model I can imagine. Two women, one black and one Indian American, are charging small groups of white women $2,500 per dinner during which they give a lecture about their hosts (and the other guests’) white supremacy. They call it “Race to Dinner.”
A white woman volunteers to host a dinner in her home for seven other white women – often strangers, perhaps acquaintances. (Each dinner costs $2,500, which can be covered by a generous host or divided among guests.) A frank discussion is led by co-founders Regina Jackson, who is black, and Saira Rao, who identifies as Indian American. They started Race to Dinner to challenge liberal white women to accept their racism, however subconscious. “If you did this in a conference room, they’d leave,” Rao says. “But wealthy white women have been taught never to leave the dinner table.”…
It seems unlikely anyone would voluntarily go to a dinner party in which they’d be asked, one by one, “What was a racist thing you did recently?” by two women of color, before appetizers are served. But Jackson and Rao have hardly been able to take a break since they started these dinners in the spring of 2019. So far, 15 dinners have been held in big cities across the US.
Saira Rao, the Indian-American half of the partnership, made a name for herself running for office in Colorado back in 2018. She was supported by Justice Democrats, the same group that supported Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. After losing that primary race, Rao announced that the problem was America, more specifically white people:
The American flag makes me sick.
— saira rao (@sairasameerarao) June 2, 2019
White people have done everything to make my life miserable. Yet I'm supposed to not hate white people?
— saira rao (@sairasameerarao) June 3, 2019
In fact, she said last summer that it was time to give up on white people completely:
Short and long answer: YES.
Should I Give Up on White People? https://t.co/MD0JDNgFNx
— saira rao (@sairasameerarao) July 5, 2018
The Race to Dinner website explains the moment when Rao realized there was a potential market for bad mouthing white people in small groups:
It all started with Saira’s run for Congress in 2018. When Regina joined the campaign, she noticed the throngs of white women anxious to meet Saira with the sole intent to tell her that they weren’t racist. There was a whole lot of “not me” and “not all white women”. Saira accommodated these meetings for a long time. Then one day Regina mentioned how a white friend of hers “really needed to talk to Saira about this race stuff”. Saira mentioned she was done getting berated by white women and declared, “how about this, I’ll do a dinner to talk to several white women at once as long as you are there”.
Thus, Race 2 Dinner was born.
The early attempts didn’t go perfectly smoothly. It turned out Rao was mean and lacked self-awareness:
In the beginning, Rao’s dinner-party tone was much more argumentative. But it left her looking less like a human and more like some kind of real-life trolling bot. Women at the dinners were always crying. Some of those dinners got out of hand – attendees have tried to place their hands on Jackson and Rao, and racial slurs have been thrown around.
“My blood pressure went up. I’d work myself up into a frenzy at every dinner. I realized [that] if I walk away feeling I am going to have a stroke, we should try a different tactic,” Rao says.
Susan Brown attended one of those earlier dinners. She says she felt like Rao and Jackson were angry at her the whole time, without ever learning why. She found Rao needlessly provocative and mean-spirited, unaware of her own class privilege, and divisive. She felt the dinner set her up to fail.
Another previous attendee, who did not want to be named, says she found Rao to be dogmatic, and presented a distorted depiction of history, leaving out facts that do not fit her narrative. At one point, she referred to Rao as “the Trump of the alt-left”.
Since those early days, Rao and Jackson have toned it down a bit, though if you look at their website, the goal is clearly harsh confrontation.
Dear white women:
You cause immeasurable pain and damage to Black, Indigenous and brown women. We are here to sit down with you to candidly discuss how *exactly* you cause this pain and damage.
The dinners are a starting point. A place to start thinking through how you actively uphold white supremacy every minute of every day.
What you do after you leave the dinner is up to you.
Regina Jackson & Saira Rao
Again, this really does capture the zeitgeist of 2020. It’s actually quite brilliant. The more they hurt you, the more it shows you deserved it. This is the meaner, more personal version of the 1619 Project. While 1619 is sending a version of this message to kids in schools, Rao and Jackson will be shouting at adult women one dining room at a time.