By Robbie Owens

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Finding a safe space to talk about race.

That’s been the goal of the Dallas Dinner Table for years.

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“No baby comes out of a womb hating someone else,” says DDT volunteer Peter Aguirre. “They get taught that at the dinner table.”

So why not turn the dinner table into a platform for change? Aguirre, as a veteran facilitator with DDT, has helped to guide those awkward conversations for years. The effort launched in 1999, following the dragging death of James Byrd by three white supremacists in Jasper, Texas.

Aguirre says communities were shocked to learn that racism hadn’t just faded away.

“People now own it– people now understand: ‘I can’t talk about this once a year on MLK Day’. Just the whole community has to change its way of thinking as it applies to racism– because our thought is that it’s getting better and it’s going away– and we know that’s not true.”

Aguirre admits that his privileged upbringing shielded him from a lot. So even as a facilitator, he says he is continuing to learn and grow as well– and that racism is bigger than a black and white concern.

“We are not going to heal as a community unless everybody is having this conversation,” says Aguirre.

Held annually on the MLK holiday, everyone is invited to participate; but, registration in advance in required.

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The dinners in previous years have been held in homes, restaurants, churches and community centers. Now with COVID-19, the conversations have been forced to go virtual, but supporters say what matters most is that they continue.

Aguirre admits that he is a social being and likes the face-to-face interaction at the intimate dinners. But, even about the format, he’s been open to change.

“As I’ve grown, I like it a lot better,” adds Aguirre. “Because people from Minnesota, Florida, that have excellent facilitation skills and have learned our process are going to be facilitating tonight. I feel good that this can help our process scale.”

Dinners can also be planned beyond the King holiday, such as those arranged over the summer in response to the Black Lives Matter protests.

Aguirre is still applauding the moms who led by example.

“They said, ‘this is not on the schools, this is not on the companies. It’s on us as families to teach our kids, not to be racist’. And those moms were owning it.”

And that, says Aguirre, is the challenge for us all.

“We all have to buy it into and we have to buy into the solution,” he says.

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