I echo (her) sentiments that it would be wonderful to sit at a table at which everyone is comfortable, regardless of race, color, creed, etc.
For now though, I humbly admit that I am often uncomfortable around folks that are not like myself. There are some differences that we have taught ourselves to find divisive-money, race, religion, politics. It just happens that race and color are often the most obvious. But, again, I struggle with a lot of other things as well. I struggle with not knowing what to talk about, with feeling like I am inadequate, with feeling like I’m better, with feeling like there’s something wrong, with thinking that someone else thinks I’m inferior, etc, etc. Everyone struggles with these things to one degree or another.
And when we’re not struggling with these things directly, there’s probably some tension because everyone is thinking about the things that might cause tension and wonder if, indeed, those things are at play. At times like these, I find it’s best just to pass gas and make sure everyone knows by saying so. Everyone can relate to that and it really takes their minds off of the other stuff. Before that moment has even passed though, another best practice of mine is to just start asking questions until something resonates.
Once there is something in common, something most of the people can identify with, conversation gets a lot easier and there is an opportunity for people to see past their differences and enjoy what they have in common. I think once we’re comfortable with our commonalities, we can really start to enjoy, even revel in, our differences.
And seriously, while I don’t actually break the cheese to break the ice, it definitely can help to bring up something funny that everyone can identify with.