Hating on haters: Facing oppression in America in Chinaka Hodge's Chasing Mehserle Gabriel Holesinger

How does the play "Chasing Mehserle" construct a response to hate in the killing of an unarmed young black man through the character Watts' pursuit of the perpetrating officer Mehserle?


In the play Chasing Mehserle the main character Watts represents a faction of the United States citizens that are oppressed by racism and prejudice. The limited options that he faces is hiding or fighting back. This creates a paradoxical relationship because if Watts is to fight back he will only solidify racism beliefs, only because they have Watts do actions like they expect them to do.

The American dream where people of all jobs, color, and culture could become a successful worker in America. Chasing Mehserle, a play by Chanika Hodge depicting Watts.

There is no doubt in the United States that people are different than one another and the acceptance of that fact and each other is in question. Racism and prejudice are starting to be at large in America, not only because people have become increasingly aware of it but partly due to the frustration of its lingering effects. The increase in phone and video footage allows people to become more aware of Racism in America. Increasing population of black people between 1900s and now also contributes to events that have happened in this century and the late 1900s. For example the Rodney king beating was filmed and the video went viral. Almost immediately it lead to riots by African Americans. The protests that have been occurring throughout the 1900s have been proved by the video but the anger that is seen in the video transfers to the frustration of oppressed black people cause a huge lash out. Now even today the current president of the United States has not problem not being objective. Donal Trumps has firm believes and prejudices that he refuses to change. Like after the Charlottesville event, Trump remained objective on a one-sided case. Trump basically defended the Neo Nazis by calling "fine people" on both sides. In this year along around 800 people have been shot by police. Hate and prejudice is still a major influence on some peoples mind's in America and it creates a ripple effect of more hate and prejudice.

In the play Chasing Meserle the main character Watts is an African American living with his mom in Berkeley. The play starts out putting great emphasis on Watt's contemplation of the urban street and his fear of police brutality. His decision never to leave the house was made after the Rodney King beating in 1991. Since he was a child at the time he logically made an assumption that for black people in his world going outside is suicide. Many years later he musters up enough will and is pushed by his mother to go outside and get a job. At this point he learns of the BART police officer, Meserle, shot an unarmed innocent person on the train. This person was lying face down when he was shot. This struck a nerve in Watts he was presented with a new fate that he believed he must fulfill. He set out to find and kill Meserle. This mission led him to various places and eventually to a conjoint cell with Meserle where Watts has a knife in hand and the play ends.

Watts set out for revenge, killing the person who has killed another, and eye for an eye.

While Watt's acts may seem heroic and justified he is planning on murdering another human which creates a hipocratic paradox of murdering. The heinous deed that Mehserle committed came from hating and racial prejudice on African Americans. In this play it is an example of a oppressed person who feels cornered in America. After 200 years since the 13th Amendment was enacted there is still racism and prejudice that drives people choices. The slow process from slavery to now has many faults and horrible events. The KKK at large hanged and lynched black people when they got the chance. Neo Nazis in America and other American institutions against black people or any "other" people they have prejudice against. Martin Luther king and his push for civil rights act was a peaceful protest. Martin strides for a nonviolent path to equality and end to hating on black people. In the end Martin Luther was shot and killed. In the current world Watts cannot push for more civil rights act because there is ideal legal equality among people of different color. Watts in his mind only has one option to fix the problem, or at least this one case, and that is to kill the oppressors.

Gandhi pushes for peaceful protest and that revenge is usually not he answer.

Mehserle's act of killing an innocent black citizen created a ripple effect of hate that was embodied by Watts. In the act of killing perpetuated more hate the set Watts on a killing path. Gandhi and his quote state the hopelessness of the act clearly. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind in true because when Watts kills Mehserle he only confirms hater believe and prejudice against black people. There is no positive outcome to hate. It is easier to embody hate than it is to be resilient to it. This is common theme in media and movies, for example, "Star Wars" has the dark that embodies hate and the light that is resilient to it. Continuing after the play in a theoretical conversation what would Watts say to Mehserle and not kill him. If Mehserle is to be full of hate and prejudice Watts would probably immediately kill him driven by more hate. If Watts had been able to stop himself and potentially forgive Mehserle the outcomes would still be grim, since Watts was arrested by yet another racist police officer. On the upside he would not create a gossiping story that a black man murders someone in cold blood, that would create more hate and prejudice in other people.

Conflict, war, protest all contribute to the current American Identity. Left: The conquistador immigration in the Americas and the start of the process of a long time of conflict and death. Middle: World Wars fought in some respect against the "other", a simple spark starts the flames of war. Right: Even within a country there is a division between ideals and goals that warrant protest and conflict.
"When i was a boy , the Sioux owned the world. the sun rose and set on their land; the sent ten thousand men into battle. Where are the warriors today? Who slew them? Where are our lands? Who owns them?" Sitting Bull

Throughout all of history people of a certain race or culture always will define themselves against the "other". The Spanish conquistadors in America saw Native Americans as the "other" and immediately tried to lay to waste any "other" culture or ideology and assimilate the Native Americans into the Spanish conquistador society. Racism, hate and prejudice arise against the other. Native Americans have a different case then African Americans. Native American had dealt with a history of racism and prejudice against them during colonial expansion and the white man's quest for a manifest destiny. In that quest native Americans where an obstacle in the path there was no real attempt to accommodate them in the quest. There was prevalent hate towards them. President Andrew Jackson is notorious for his path for Native American removal. The trail of tears sprouting from the federal act of forcing a change in home and President Jackson alleged goal for native American ethic cleansing. And Andrew Jackson in on the 20 dollar bill in the United States. Hate still begets hate in this act. Native Americans will not just sit by as the lands they have prospered on get taken over in a matter of months. A hatred is formed by the natives against white colonials which in the end led to war, bloodshed and a blind world. Compared to Watt's case there is seemingly no other way to react to white power and hate. A prominent person who was able to attempt a peaceful reaction to the invaders was sitting bull. When the Indian Removal act had taken place, he at first decided to move away to the North, but found it was unsustainable and was eventually left with the only option to bend under white oppression. There were many evens that occurred during this time, but part of a peaceful protest by sitting bull was simply stating that the limited land and food provided by the white colonist would not sustain there families years to come, and he refused to sign some legal documents based on this fact. Watts on the other hand is similar to most of the other oppressed Native Americans. No choice but to go to war with the white oppressors.

Hating on hates in the world creates a blindfolded reality in which no positive outcomes come from responses and acts. There is still the obvious reason that is occurs, that in the act that people feel as though they are pushed into a corner with no options left but to push back creates an ironic perplexity that is frustrating and unjust. Fighting against haters only confirms haters beliefs and prejudices and peaceful retaliation does not always end with a win either. Hodge bring to question this paradox relationship between the oppression of black people and there limited choices of response.


Hodge, Chinaka. "Chasing Mehserle". Camp Santo and the Living Word Project, Directed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Sean San Jose, April 2014.

“Three Richest People in US Own as Much Wealth as Poorest 160 Million.” South China Morning Post, The Guardian, 20 July 2018, www.scmp.com/news/world/united-states-canada/article/2119052/three-richest-people-us-own-much-wealth-bottom-half.

“Hannah Arendt's Original Articles on ‘the Banality of Evil’ in the New Yorker Archive.” Open Culture, Histroy in Film, www.openculture.com/2013/01/hannah_arendts_original_articles_on_the_banality_of_evil_in_the_inew_yorkeri_archive.html.

Thanks to the help of Dr. Marino and her wonderful insight and advice