Some Chattanooga residents are doing their part to break barriers among groups of people through an interracial group that holds meetings to talk about the perception of an invisible divide in the Scenic City.
Franklin McCallie, an organizer of the group, said he grew up in Chattanooga under the veil of racism as a white man, and he recently returned after 42 years. Organizers said the labels aren't there anymore, but they said the openness between races is still absent. It got emotional for Franklin when asked if the situation has improved much.
"We come back and it's like nothing has progressed. Same questions, same statements (of) 'Well, I don't know if I feel comfortable with someone who doesn't look like me,'" said McCallie.
So, he and a handful of others started interracial dessert conversations to break the barrier. About 30 people showed up to the first meeting last summer, and it grew legs. Now, there are more than 130 people involved, McCallie said.
But he said it goes beyond just being in the same place.
"That doesn't do it. That doesn't make the breakthrough. The breakthrough comes when two people are sitting side by side and one or the other, black or white, says, 'How would you like to go to lunch?'" said McCallie.
McCallie and others said it's about making a conscious effort.
James McKissic, director of the Chattanooga Multicultural Affairs Office, said there are always opportunities to improve.
"We also do a lot of community service. We have a project going on at Carver this weekend where people of all backgrounds, all ages and races, can come together and serve a community in Chattanooga," said McKissic.
The group is meeting this month to talk about what their goals are moving forward, but the organizers said they know for sure the conservation must continue.
For more information on how to get involved, contact Eleanor Cooper at email@example.com
, or Franklin McCallie at firstname.lastname@example.org
.By Briona Arradondo