Racial Hospitality or Radical Hospitality? Impartiality and Welcoming or Identities and Deep Conversations?

When I write articles for my dear congregation, I do my research.  When I tried to read material on racial hospitality, I found almost no material while I kept “bumping into” lots of material on radical hospitality. Such a small difference in a few letters and their orders and such an enormous discrepancy in these two possible approaches to hospitality. While the concept of racial hospitality evokes immediately the movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?” with its multitude of facets and interpretations of the movie, it evokes in me also the ideas that the concept of race is a social construct and that hospitality can mean a genuine sharing of heritage or small talk and superficiality, as pleasant as long lasting in the memory of the guest.

As an immigrant visitor of the Southern part of this country 25 years ago, I was offered an abundance of very flavorful food and irresistible charm by any local person I was meeting, to the point that the feeling of being part of anywhere I was stood immediate in front of me and seeped quickly in my heart. The following years as resident and then citizen since 2009 have revealed a more complex reality and deeper thoughts, feelings and ideas about my host country.

Offering hospitality to guests in our homes or in places we feel comfortable in (i.e. workplaces, churches, neighborhoods) can mean small talk, food and drink to share for the “time of the staying of our guests” or investing our time and energy and sharing our identity/ies and culture to build long lasting connections. In case we make this second choice, we need to feel ready to show who we really are, our identities, our culture and maybe “drop masks” that can make us feel comfortable as “hosts”. Building a genuine relationship with “others” needs to make us consider, question and share our wholeness and our brokenness, our identity and its flaws, our strengths and our vulnerability.

If race is a social construct defined by the environment individuals live in (i.e. being black can be different in the States than in Nigeria or other African countries), our identities as individuals or parts of a culture invest our deepest selves and impact our communication and exchanges with other. Deep and tough conversations can ask us to give away or give up more of us, but very often can give us so much more than we can imagine and surely tell us more about who we are, who we want to become and how we can be the change we want to see.

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