OPIOID SERIES:

GOP senators renew effort to bridge US racial divide with 'Solution Sundays'

Republican Sens. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordGOP poised to advance rules change to speed up Trump nominees Senators pledge to pursue sanctions against Turkey over imprisoned American pastor Overnight Cybersecurity: US, UK blame Russia for global cyberattacks | Top cyber official leaving White House | Zuckerberg to meet EU digital chief MORE (Okla.) and Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottPartisan tensions rise as Mueller bill delayed GOP dismisses report that tax law will add .9 trillion to debt Gowdy on video questions how long Pruitt is ‘going to make it’ MORE (S.C.) are continuing their efforts to break down racial barriers within the United States by encouraging American households to share a Sunday meal with a family of a different race — an effort they dubbed "Solution Sundays."

“[I]t was just a very simple idea about how to interact with race because I see that as a barrier in America that we still have to be able to cross into that friendship area and to be able to develop ongoing, open conversations,” Lankford said in a new video released first to The Hill.

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The Republican lawmakers first posed the challenge of “Solution Sundays” to their constituents in 2016, arguing that sharing a meal is a simple step that could go a long way bridging the divide between those who come from different backgrounds.

Scott, an African-American senator from South Carolina, argued that Americans need to pop the “homogenous” bubbles they grow up in.

“What this asks is for those folks who come from that homogenous pool to take a step out of it and venture into someone else’s territory and learn as much as you possibly can about someone else,” Scott says in the video, which is slated to be released Wednesday.

Lankford said he decided to act when he noticed the national dialogue about race relations usually came up after “there’s racial tension or when there was a law enforcement shooting of someone that’s an African-American male.”

The Oklahoma lawmaker approached Scott to team up and come up with an idea that can begin to chip away at any such barriers.

“Honestly my first thought as wow, here’s a white guy from Oklahoma who cares enough to address an incredibly important issue to America that is oftentimes seen simply through a lens that happens to black,” Scott said.

Lankford dismissed the need for a star-studded national figure to share a message of unity, instead advocating for a local, grass-roots approach that aims to pull the community together. 

The video comes not long after a white nationalist rally held in Charlottesville, Va., in August, which took a violent turn as fights broke out between demonstrators and counterprotesters in the college town.

As lawmakers across the aisle resolutely denounced the events in Charlottesville, Lankford also renewed his calls for individuals to "engage each other."

Although the senators say their meal challenge is not a result of President Trump or his administration, pointing out that it started before he took office, Lankford told CNN in March that Trump's "rhetoric is not artful to say the least."