When Sunday Morning Is No Longer the Most Segregated Hour In America

It's Thursday night, and a group of the faithful have gathered under symbolically multicolored bulbs strung festively above a backstage meeting room at Irving Bible Church. There are 12 people representing African, Anglo, Asian and Hispanic forebears, and the question they're discussing is, "When did you first become aware of your race?" Their responses are telling: None of the white attendees has an answer. "I guess I've never had to think about it," one says. But the non-white attendees all have stories: the first time they were called a name, or told they couldn't date someone's daughter. 

A week later, another group of believers gathers for a discussion of the book White Rage: the Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide. They meet in a conference room on Pacific Avenue in a crumbling part of downtown Dallas with a view of new Uptown development, their meeting marking the center line of the north-south boundary of Dallas wealth. The leader of the meeting, pastor J.R. Forasteros, says he was inspired to start the book club from an internet trope "17 Books on Race Every White Person Should Read." The conversation is animated, bordering on heated, before Forasteros closes in a prayer for unity.

According to experts, scenes like these are happening more frequently than ever before in American history, even more frequently than during the Civil Rights movement when there were few opportunities for community-level interracial conversation. The intersection of race and religion, once the purview of segregated pulpits, is busy with neighbors, immigrants, book clubs, families and multiethnic gatherings like these. And, increasingly, faith communities provide the venue for discussion.

Ryan Sandersrace, religionComment