In an attempt to address the country's growing racial tensions following the recent spate of officer-involved shootings, a reverend in Sunnyvale, California, decided to get a bunch of self-identifying racists together in one room to talk openly about their views, KQED reports.
Reverend Ron Buford chose to start holding weekly "Racists Anonymous" meetings at his church in order to treat racism like an addiction. Every week, a small number of people meets up at the Congregational Community Church of Sunnyvale and follows Buford's 12-step program.
"Racism in the world is real. We should stop being in denial about it, the way an alcoholic is in denial about alcoholism," Buford told KQED. "We should say instead—yup, we are racist, and we are working on it."
People from all different backgrounds have attended Buford's meetings, and discussions range from African American names to the stereotype that Asian people are poor drivers. Members are encouraged to listen and offer helpful suggestions on how to challenge hurtful tropes and hopefully alter racist behavior.
"It was very difficult to say, 'Hi, my name is Casey, and I'm a racist,'" Casey Ream told KQED. "It made me feel humility. It made me feel embarrassed. But it also made me feel like—OK, if these other people are not going to lash out at me right now after saying that, and if they are going to say it, too, then maybe this is a good starting place."
Buford's unconventional approach seems to be catching on in other parts of the country, too. According to KQED, churches in North Carolina and Florida have started hosting their own Racists Anonymous meetings as well.