Saira Rao and Regina Jackson call their business Race2Dinner. The business model is pretty simple. They capitalize on the popularity of Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility by offering woke white women a more immersive experience. You gather a group of your white friends together and book a dinner. Then Rao and Jackson show up as your own personal diversity trainers.
Yesterday New York Magazine published a piece catching up with Rao and Jackson. Not surprisingly they had a surge of interest last year and they’ve also doubled their price from $2,500 per dinner to $5,000. Not bad for a few hours work.
What I find really amusing about Race2Dinner is the undisguised contempt they have for their own customers. Rao even insults the white woman journalist interviewing her:
Jackson and Rao ask guests to describe racist things they’ve recently done and press them on any evasions. Often the examples that emerge involve silence: failing to speak up or intervene. Sometimes they consist of thoughts or feelings: assuming that the Black teens pulled over in a white neighborhood must have been doing something wrong. Sometimes the guests struggle to think of what to say. “Not knowing is classic white behavior,” Rao told me. “You don’t know, because it would ruin your entire image of being the perfect, nice white lady. I’m sure you’re intimately familiar with this, being a white woman.”
Some of the women who hire Race2Dinner are clearly looking for a pat on the back. After all, they are spending their own time and a decent amount of money to get woke. You might think at $5,000 per dinner, Rao and Jackson would at least offer some slight indication that the elevated commitment to social justice shown by the women attending is appreciated. But no. In fact, Rao just finds their neediness funny.
“It’s so funny how many of them want to be our friends,” Rao said. “We’re like, We don’t want to be your friends. Be your own friends! ”
Their whole business is really dependent on that desire among a lot of women for someone to approve of their efforts. The article describes the dynamic when talking about a virtual dinner over zoom that did not go well. [emphasis added]
Last fall, shortly before the election, they did a Zoom with a group of women from a wealthy Connecticut enclave that Jackson and Rao agreed was one of their worst events yet. Rao: “They were apathetic. They were bored. They were openly box–checking. There was some eye-rolling.” The Connecticut women were all gathered on one screen while Rao and Jackson called in from Denver. “It almost felt like they were together ganging up against us,” said Rao. “They could do their united thing in opposition,” Jackson said. The undercurrent of defensiveness that competes with guests’ desire for approval predominated in this case. “They wanted to know, over and over and over again, ‘What is cultural appropriation? Give us definitions,’ ” Rao said. “And any definition we gave, they would combat us and be like, ‘Well, no, that’s not it.’ ”
The guests challenged one of Rao’s premises and she couldn’t offer a satisfactory answer. That would probably happen a lot more often if their dinner parties weren’t made up of women who self-select for a certain experience, i.e. being lectured about their racism.
But the need for that pat on the back keeps coming up. At one dinner, someone asked Rao if she saw the people at the dinner as any different from those who had just rioted at the Capitol:
And we both said, ‘No.’ ” The assembled women, a group of Colorado business and nonprofit leaders, “lost their entire minds,” Rao recalled.
Again, this is par for the course. You pay $5,000 to these women to learn about racism and their job is to tell you you’re a lowly worm. The only thing I can compare it to is Greta Thunberg who travels the world as a kind of human hair shirt, i.e. someone you bring in to lecture everyone about what complete losers and failures they are. And people smile and clap and generally just adore her for it.
Now the Race2Dinner duo are launching a new $750 8-week program focused specifically on “whiteness.” It will be led by a third member of the team who is described as the group’s “resident white woman.” But if you want the full experience of being treated like dirt by minority women who do not want to be your friend you’ll have to pay a bit more.
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