The Gospel of Excellence

The Gospel of Excellence February 13, 2020

I’m over at Stand Firm this morning, thrashing my way through the entirety of American culture. 


I have been mulling this article over for the last few days, finding it a curiosity that I can’t quite catch hold of, but can’t walk away from either. Indeed, it was actually the thing that made my word for 2020 take shape in my own mouth. The word is Decadent, in case you are too lazy to click on the link.

In sum, there is a bit of an industry growing up, whereby people of color make themselves available, for large sums of money, to rich white women, over an expensive dinner, in order to confront those rich white women with their own racism. Here are just a couple of the “money” (for it does seem to me to be a lot about money) quotes:

This is 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.”


Rao and Jackson believe white, liberal women are the most receptive audience because they are open to changing their behavior. They don’t bother with the 53% of white women who voted for Trump. White men, they feel, are similarly a lost cause. “White men are never going to change anything. If they were, they would have done it by now,” Jackson says.


“We began to expect more of them,” says Rao. That meant asking the women to speak up. To own their racism. It meant getting them to do the required reading, as well as follow-up discussions, where they decide how to do better anti-racist work. In the conversation that followed the dinner, Campbell-Swanson, who couldn’t get her racist thoughts out, committed to writing a journal, jotting down daily decisions or thoughts that could be considered racist, and think about how to approach them differently. Lisa Bond, who was hired because Rao and Jackson thought there would be instances when participants would feel more comfortable expressing their feelings to another white woman, says this will help her see how unmonitored thoughts can lead to systemic racism. “If our ability to spot these things increases, our ability to challenge it will increase,” says Bond.

Truly, you should read the whole thing, because the pictures are rather gorgeous. And because the article is pretty careful and, I think, fair, in a reporting sense.

Earlier in the week, I asked—and I was thinking of this instance then, though I didn’t say—what is so bad about mediocrity. It isn’t something Americans are excited to embrace. Nor am I really advocating it as a purposeful way of life. I don’t think waking up in the morning and saying, ‘today I’m going to be as bland as possible, and not even try,’ is actually a useful thing to say to yourself. When you wake up in the morning, I recommend not really thinking about yourself at all, but trying to wrap your tired and troubled mind around the idea of Jesus, who…read the rest here!

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