Republican senators James Lankford (Oklahoma) and Tim Scott (South Carolina) are promoting Solution Sundays: invite a family of another race to have a meal in your home so you can talk. They believe that this will help us resolve some of the racial tensions and differences in our country.
In the 1950’s social psychologist, Muzafer Sherif, conducted a series of studies to explore Realistic Conflict Theory the most famous of which is the Robbers Cave study. He believed that group conflict, negative prejudices, and stereotypes were the result of competition between groups for desired resources. In his studies, he created two groups, devised scenarios where the groups were in conflict, and then helped them overcome the resulting prejudices and stereotypes that resulted.
He knew that simple contact between the two groups would not resolve their conflicts. To help them form as a single group, they would have to work together towards a goal. When he had the groups combine to achieve superordinate goals. These goals are tasks that would benefit both groups.
Sherif’s ideas led to Henri Tajfel’s Social Identity Theory in which our identity is derived` from the groups that we see ourselves part of. These are in-groups. Other groups are out-groups. If the self-esteem of the in-group is threatened, these groups will often denigrate the out-groups.
If we apply these ideas to Solution Sundays, we would first find that it probably won’t result in closer relationships, reduced stereotyping, and overcoming prejudice. They would be doing better to have the two families prepare the meal together. Secondly, by acting as one group preparing a meal, your identity begins to come from this group in addition to other groups. If members of the group are from an out-group, it becomes more difficult to denigrate the out-group.
It’s an intriguing idea. Let us know in the comments if you participate or your thoughts on Sunday Solutions.