Racial Conversation as Long Table Performance

The rules of the Long Table.

Can a conversation about race be a performance? What does that simple framework shift do to the conversation? The answer: everything.

The long table conversation is a fascinating thing to watch unfold. Participants come in and out as they please. There is snacking and scribbling, mostly on topic. Some people were determined watchers, setting up camp on the chairs on the far edge of the perimeter. And others eagerly queued up in the seats closest to the table, waiting for the moment they could tap someone on the shoulder, sending that performer out and putting themselves into the conversation.

The Long Table – The Beginning

The conversation starts off immediately. There aren’t really any awkward pauses. The presence of the table as a speaking space created a flow that participants respected. I wondered if an art project gave people license to break the rules and conventions of conversation. I felt inspired to draw a circle around an errant blueberry on the table. And at times, I felt the urge to run around, to lean over someone and circle their scribble, to interact out of order and out of place. After all, isn’t that art? Responding to stimuli?

But that will have to wait for another long table. People needed this space – stories flowed alongside tears and while this may have been intended as an art project the space morphed to accommodate mass catharsis.

Defining racial equity.

Race Scrawl.

(TRA is an abbreviation for transracial adoptee.)

Racial Scrawl 2.

The session draws to a close. Many are in tears. Some feel a profound shift. Others looked at the way inequality replicated itself at the table. There is no solution. But in art, does there need to be a neat resolution?