What We Learned at CFR’s On the Table Philly Conversation: “Relating in a Divided World”

November 13, 2018

What do a white male UCC pastor, a black female sex educator, and a white female cultural consultant have in common?

Though this sounds like the beginning of a tasteless joke, it is actually the setup for Council For Relationships’ On The Table Philly event last night, Relating in a Divided World. On The Table Philly is a community-wide event, founded by The Philadelphia Foundation and the Knight Foundation, aimed at community engagement and improvement. Across the greater Philadelphia area, hundreds of events like ours brought community members together to discuss how we can work together to make our communities stronger, safer, and more dynamic.

At Council, we saw this as an opportunity to engage with community members outside of our network, to see how they experience Relating in a Divided World.What came up were common struggles and encounters of divisiveness, as well as a desire to challenge themselves to be better advocates for love and connection. Specific themes included:

  • Facing Privilege and Ignorance: How to engage and educate people who are unaware of their privilege, or feeling attacked by those with privilege
  • Responsibility as Leaders: How to put oneself out there, take risks, and stay authentic, especially in positions of leadership and authority
  • When and How to Speak Up: It can be easier to stay silent and passive when someone is being ignorant or offensive. And while silence is NOT consent in a sexual situation, in a group setting talking about race, politics or other things, it can be.

Together, we had a discussion about what to do in scenarios like these. Here are some takeaways from the group:

  • Check in with yourself for clues – if something is making you uncomfortable, is it because it is different from your view, or because it is ignorant and hurtful? This will allow you to make a choice about how to proceed.
  • Remind yourself of the goal of the interaction you’re having. Is it to let the person know they’ve just been hurtful, or to change their entire viewpoint?
  • Challenge yourself and hold yourself accountable. How to do this?
    • Find a new space to get involved and inspired
    • Engage in honest introspection
    • Find a role model for yourself who you can learn from
    • Make it “not optional” to stand up for your beliefs
    • Remember that even small actions can be useful to someone who needs to learn to think differently.
  • Intersectionality means that oppression can be compounded. We should always seek to to understand all the aspects of a person (race, gender, age, ability, etc.)
  • Remember that everyone has been through things that have brought them to the beliefs that they hold. Respect their history as you challenge their views and ask them to see your perspective.

After last night, our diverse attendees left with a common goal – to go forward as intentional listeners and advocates. Through their conversation together at On The Table Philly, they each learned something new about how to do this better. Their hope is to bring this to the rest of the world as well.


On the Table Philly is a forum designed to elevate civic conversation, foster new relationships and create a unifying experience. Philadelphia area residents are invited to again gather in small groups across the region to share a meal and discuss the opportunities and issues we face in our communities. Learn more at https://onthetablephl.org/