The inclusion of the 2006 film “Crash” in a multicultural psychology class is an interesting way to show that prejudices within certain cultures can develop because they are based on the reality of the situation and that prejudices develop equally within all racial groups. No one group is more or less prone to racial prejudice than any other. “Crash” is also a study is extremes as virtually every character in the movie presents a view of other races that is based on biases, anger and misconceptions.
Unfortunately, two of the scenes in the movie seem to reinforce stereotypes and that was a bit disappointing. The initial scene with Anthony and Peter discussing the stereotypes of being black men in an all white neighborhood and other people shying away from them was impacting and disappointing when it turned out that they two of them were in fact there for nefarious reasons. And, when we discover that Kim Lee’s husband was trafficking in Chinese slaves was also a sad stereotype that made the movie more impacting, but also was a disappointment that the writer resorted to that stereotype.
The movie is so full of examples of prejudice that it is hard to determine where the commentary on the racism begins and where it ends. For example, in an early scene, Farhad and Dorri are attempting to buy a handgun from a local gun shop and the store owner immediately assumes that they are Arabs, based on skin color and accent. In a later scene, Dorri is talking with her mother who says, in response to “raghead” and other slurs spray painted on their store walls, “they assume we are Muslims when we are Christian”.
(Haggis, 2006). The gun store owner reacts with anger assuming that Farhad is a terrorist and attacks him with any number of racial slurs based on his broken English. Farhad assumes that the Caucasian gun store owner was attempting to cheat him and continues with that prejudice later when Daniel arrives to fix the broken lock on the door of his store. One of the saddest commentaries the movie makes on the affects of racism is the scene between Daniel and Farhad, resulting in Farhad’s accusation that Daniel is trying to cheat him.
Daniel is one of two characters in the movie who generally is shown as treating people the same regardless of how they treat him. When Jean Cabot has a screaming fit about the fact that she has been robbed at gunpoint by African Americans and that her locksmith is Hispanic, Daniel says nothing, just slams the key on the counter and leaves. He does instigate the attack on Farhad’s store, but that is motivated by the fact that Farhad will not pay him, not by any racial animosity, or at least no animosity that is demonstrated in the movie.
Farhad’s daughter Dorri is the only other character whose racial behavior is not offensive. Dorri expressed disappointment at other’s actions towards her father and her father’s actions towards others, but she herself does not exhibit racism. Another interesting study in racism in the movie is in the conversations between Anthony and Peter. At one point, Anthony lectures Peter on the difference between stealing from people outside of the African American community and within the community.
He also argues that gangsta rap is a government conspiracy to make the black community fight within itself. Peter shows his racism in his assumption that all country music is a racist plot against African Americans. Later, Peter’s inability to let go of his own joke about the country music costs him his life. In the scene when he is killed, Peter is laughing about the music and virtually picking a fight with the police officer played by Ryan Phillipe who picks him up on a cold night while he is hitchhiking.
The officer, Tom Hansen, who has objected to racism over and over throughout the movie to this point, shows his prejudice when Peter says that he wanted to play ice hockey and then get irritated with the way that Peter mocks his music. When Peter finally finds the common ground that could bring them together, a statue of St. Christopher on the dashboard, he fails to come right out and say so. Instead he pulls his own statute out of his pocket. Had he simply spoken instead of taking action, his death could have been avoided. Again, the death is a sad commentary on the way that prejudices develop.
When Hansen first encounters racism on the police force, he is offended and wants to be removed from the partner, John Ryan, who was openly racist. Later, Ryan tells him, “Wait until you lived a little longer” (Haggis, 2006). Ryan’s character is a blatant racist, pulling over the Thayers, a 40-something black couple for no reason other than to screw with them and molest Christine Thayer under the pretense of a search for weapons. Hansen is offended by the way Ryan treats the Thayers and then a night later shoots and kills a black teen, dumps the body and torches his own car to cover the crim.
Even the “good” character is racist in this movie. Ryan explains to the HMO representative Shaniqua why he has developed his racist attitude but does so only after insinuationg that she received her job only because she was a black woman and after insulting her. For her part, Shaniqua could have overcome Ryan’s racism by doing the right thing herself, but because she encountered so much racism over the course of her lifetime, she perpetuated the racism by not doing the right thing and approving additional care for Ryan’s father.
Ryan later sort of redeems himself by going into Christine Thayer’s burning car to rescue her after an accident, proving that even a bigot can do the right thing sometimes. In many ways the most disturbing form of racism shown in the movie is that of Jean and Rick Cabot. Jean Cabot explodes in anger after being robbed, attacking her housekeeper for not putting away the dishes from the dishwasher and assuming that her locksmith will sell her house key to gang bangers who will then rob her. By the end of the movie, her attitude is changed when the only one who will come to her rescue is her housekeeper.
After getting treatment, she tells her husband that her friend of 10 years wouldn’t come take her to the hospital because she was getting a massage. Her husband and his staff were unavailable and only the housekeeper, whom she had yelled at earlier in the day and was, contemplating firing for no apparent reason, would take care of her. At least her reactions to other races were genuine. More disturbing were the actions of Rick Cabot. He treated all the races as equal stepping stones to his political career. His only question about a hero firefighter was “Does he look black?
” until he learned that the man’s name was Saddam. Then he spent the time yelling at his publicist to find a better way to spin things for him. He allowed his people to offer to fail to prosecute a black detective’s younger brother, peter, for car theft in an effort to add an investigator of color to his inner circle. He ignored evidence that a white cop killed a black cop because the black cop was corrupt, not because the white cop was a racist, which he might have been. The examples of racism in the movie are too frequent to list in a paper.
There’s the Puerto Rican/Guatemalan police woman who mocks a Chinese driver for not seeing her “blake lights” and not being able to see over the steering wheel. Her African American boyfriend tells his mother he’s sleeping with a white woman, explaining to her that it will upset his mother more than saying he’s sleeping with a Mexican. The Chinese woman, Kim Lee, says with authority that Mexicans don’t know how to drive. In a bit part, Tony Danza argues with an African-American television director that his co-star “sounds less Black” and that his character is supposed to be the smart one.
All in all, “Crash” is an interesting commentary on racism across the culture, showing that many races share the same wrong perceptions of the other races. The movie is one stereotype after another, both coming out of the mouths of the characters, and in the characterization of the people within the movie. However, it is in fact a good way to learn that all cultures make the same mistakes and that they all need to stop making such biased assumptions. WORKS CITED Haggis, Paul. (Writer/Director), 2006, “Crash” USA: Bull’s Eye Entertainment.