Opportunities for people to connect and find a common purpose across racial lines are often centered on cultural and sporting events.
Across regions and demographic groups, most residents agreed that they are frequently brought together by sports, arts, common cultural interests, and events. Sports came up most often as a unifying force. According to a 2011 ESPN survey, 72 percent of respondents believed that sports do more to unite people across racial lines, whereas only 6 percent believed that sports do more to divide people across racial lines.
Many local arts and cultural organizations pointed to a lack of resources or tools necessary to ensure these spaces are utilized to their fullest potential. Most wish there were more opportunities, outside of school and the workplace, that focus on bringing diverse groups of people together and providing the space for people to connect across cultures and identities. Some people also pointed out the barriers to participating in such enriching opportunities, including expense and transportation.
Faith was the next most noted theme, but both as something that unites and divides communities along racial lines. Tragedy was also noted as something that consistently brings people together.
“But to me recreation, schools, cultural events are very important and I guess the sense of community. You’ve got a great divide in the community and it’s hard to bring them all together.”
— White male, 54, Knoxville
“If you are talking about diversity coming together, there’s still not a lot of that happening unless you’re talking about game day football basically. High school football is still a great time.”
— White male, Jackson
“Here, everything costs literally hundreds of dollars whether it be cheerleading or basketball or track or football or basketball. And with three kids in school trying to do three different sports and each one is a $300 to $500 investment, it makes it hard, it makes it hard.”
— Black male, 40, Knoxville
“Most of the parks have Friday night flicks, and they’ll have movies in the park...And so it provides a place for people to meet other cultures.”
— White female, Bentonville