World Trust

Mehserle Trial: We need a new way to talk about race

Posted by Shakti Butler on June 28, 2010

Mehserle Trial: We need a new way to talk about race
by Shakti Butler, PhD


The death of Oscar Grant is another example of the need to demand a deeper conversation about race in this country. Another black man dies at the hands of a white police officer. And, judging by OPD’s recent preparations for riot, it is assumed that the white officer will be acquitted. People of color shake their heads and feel the pain they have felt for generations. Meanwhile, many whites believe that an all white jury can be “color blind”.

When an educated person, in this case Loyola law professor Laurie Levenson, can say “it’s a little bit racist” to believe that the all-white jury in the Grant/Mehserle trial would not have adequate empathy for the experience of blacks, it is sign that we must call for a more comprehensive frame that invites a deeper look at racism. Racism certainly remains a subtle and inextricable part of the systemic structures of society in the U.S with devastating outcomes. Our current frame is irresponsibly shallow. We most certainly need an expanding dialogue and the accompanying learning processes to guide healing and address the complexities of racism. And move forward we must. We must address the cycles of violence and hopelessness, and dismantle the divides that keep us from achieving equity across our society.

I invite you to watch this footage from World Trust’s current film project, Cracking the Codes: Race and Relationships in the 21st Century. It features the perspectives of two educators. One, an African American man and the other a white woman. Watch it with an open, thoughtful mind. What do you notice? What makes you uncomfortable? What do you want to learn more about? I invite you to join our live group conversation in Oakland on Sunday, 6/27/10.

Race is hard. Race is complex. We need to talk about it in a deeper way.