Building Black/White Trust Serves Community: Lesson Learned

Written by Tod.


So my last two blogs (see have been about learning to rid myself of negative expectations when interacting across race, particularly with white men.  Because of my experiences, that has been my bugaboo over the years.   I mentioned my commitment to treat white folks individually rather than based on past experiences.  I also mentioned a specific example of a white male filmmaker (Brian Grimm) who wanted to interview me for his new documentary film Racial Taboo and how my commitment was tested before, during and after the interview.

Well the two evening premieres of that film happened two weekends ago in Wilmington, North Carolina. Over 300 people attended and the film was extremely well received.  

Reflecting on the whole experience of working with Brian, several perspectives emerged, but one stands out for me.   Having an outward looking orientation and a common (as selfless as possible) desire to serve the community can be a catalyst to building trust across race and it can provide motivation to hang in there when things get dicey, racially speaking. 

When Brian approached me for the film interview, he made it clear that he was just learning about dimensions of race. That sent red flags up for me.  I wondered how he could dare make a film about something so sensitive when he was just learning and thus had prejudices of his own.   But along with my apprehensions, I sensed a level of sincerity to serve the Black and White “community.”    So I decided to support the effort.  I sort of tiptoed in and then over time stepped in and now I am jumping in. 

What I learned is that two people (or two communities) who come from races that have historic  suspicion and distrust - and who themselves are products of that history and exhibit characteristics of that history - can still build bonds of unity over time if they both can keep the commitment to serving the community in mind.   If their commitment to service is strong enough, it becomes a motivating factor for addressing, in real time, those historic fears, doubts and suspicions that will inevitably arise during their collaborative effort    And if they’re honestly addressed in real time, at least two things happen.   A relationship can be forged and the community being served becomes the beneficiary of the merging of their diverse perspective.  Historically in these situations the relationships take on a dominant-subordinate dynamic, depriving the project of “the best of both worlds.”

The best of both worlds (not just between Brian and myself but among the other contributors as well) is what happened with this film.  Brian and I talked several times before the final product was complete.   Though we did not always name race as an issue in our different views, the concerns almost always had racial implications.   We addressed them as best we could as they arose.  Given our different racial life experiences we sometimes saw things differently and given our common human experiences we saw some the same.   

Most certainly there were uneasy times; doubts crept in and trust was challenged, but the commitment to serving the community with this film sustained our motivation to continue.   A powerful film was produced and a much deeper friendship developed.  (I am guessing Brian experienced versions of what he experienced with me with some other Black cast members)

Based on what we (Brian and the Race Story ReWrite team) learned in working together, an exciting idea has emerged.  Sunday is still the most segregated day of the week.  How powerful it would be if we could bring White and Black churches together to view this film, engage them in the kind of dialogue that would help them rewrite a better  future in their relationship with one another,  and then, most importantly, use that relationship to serve the community in an agreed upon way.   What could happen across America if this took hold?  SO I HUMBLY ASK YOU ALL TO  PLEASE HELP US IDENTIFY CHURCHES THAT MIGHT BE OPEN TO THIS IDEA!!   CONTACT US.   LET US KNOW.  HELP THE MOVEMENT GROW.