A Crash Course on Racism and Contemporary Society Essay
A Crash Course on Racism and Contemporary Society
When you see the word crash, it always summons to mind an unfortunate event that has to deal with vehicles. Someone even told me that it is prohibited to say this word when you are boarded on an airplane because you might cause panic among another passengers. Planes, cars and even computers crash. Crash basically means collision. Similarly, the title of Paul Haggis recent movie is Crash (2005). However, viewers will see not only collisions involving cars, but collisions involving race, culture and classes.
The movie ”Crash” tackles the cross-cultural panorama of Los Angeles urban life, involving people interconnected to each other in vestiges of crime, racism, corruption, obligation, indignation and chance over a two-day period. The storyline superimposes the complexity of the multifaceted narratives of their lives entwined under the numerous social and psychological issues usually hidden inside the closet of the American consciousness. The Plot: Crash or Clash
The story revolves around two cops, one senior and the other junior. The other jaded and abusive, the other one is a novice and willing to learn the ropes. These cops are played by Matt Dillon and Ryan Philippe respectively. One day, when they were assigned in their beat site, they pull over and eventually harass a black couple (Terrence Howard and Thandie Newton) because the SUV they’re driving vaguely fits the description of a carjacked vehicle that was reported.
More complications swiftly supersede within 24 hours, these characters all cross paths again in separate incidents of incredibly high tension that challenge both the prejudices that have formed between them and the assumptions we draw out from their different perspectives about race and culture as a whole. It turned out that Christine (Thandie Newton) was surprised that she encounters Sgt. Ryan (Matt Dillon), the racist cop who sexually molested her during a traffic stop the previous night, the officer on the scene who pulls her from the burning car.
To further intricately muddle the conflicts, characters encounter and reencounter one another in highly convenient ways. For example, a young African-American criminal Peter (Lanrez Tate) is murdered. Fortunately, he has a brother, Graham (Don Cheadle), an LAPD detective, who discovers Peter’s dead body in the desert. Prior to learning of his brother’s death, Graham is thwarted by the district attorney’s office into suppressing evidence that may partially absolve a white police officer charged with killing a black cop.
Incidentally, the district attorney (Brendan Fraser) is looking for a conviction that would help him gather enough support from the black community, since he is trying to manage a potential media scandal. He and his wife (Sandra Bullock) were carjacked in Sherman Oaks by two young black men. Moreover, more table-turning events are revealed in the lives of the characters because actual carjackers is Peter and his friend (Larenz Tate and rapper Ludacris).
Surprisingly, the carjackers and their victims – these four are, in turn, connected through other events to a young Hispanic locksmith (Michael Pena) desperately trying to make a better life for his 5-year-old daughter after moving out of a crime-ridden neighborhood, and to a struggling Iranian shopkeeper (Shaun Toub) desperately seeking to lay blame for the vandalization of his convenience store, and to a pair of internal affairs detectives (Don Cheadle and Jennifer Esposito), whose lives and jobs are complicated by politics, tested principles and personal secrets.
As film involves various crashes and clashes, forcefully it does not just invoke commonly hackneyed racially charged confrontations found in some films, but it almost subliminally showcases how passive prejudice and pre-conceived notions are often prevalent in simple day-to-day life. Thus, people could just collide and all these complications happen within a blink of an eye, unaware that they are villains and victims all at the same time of the milieu they are placed in.
Although the dominant illusion that Crash could perpetuate among its viewers about its own narrative is that each character does something virtuous in one situation, and something unconscionably racist in another. Entirely, this is not the case because some characters could be deemed as purely good people. The Latino locksmith Daniel exists solely to incur racist threats and insults from other characters, then to belie their opinions through his role as the most upstanding of family men.
Unfortunately, other characters display no redeeming traits, like the DA’s wife, Jean Cabot (Bullock) is depicted as a self-involved rich and uptight woman who is there to speak the unspeakable ‘truth’ when justifying her fear of black men. Eventually, she stops just short of calling Daniel a wetback, and undergoes a quite insincere transformation that resulted from her inability to understand that her housekeeper Maria (Yomi Perry) is nice to her when she fell down some steps and fractured her leg, and nobody else has given her sympathy. She had no choice, but be nice to the person who helped her (Sicinski, 2005).
Craig Detweiler (December, 2005) analyzed that Haggis portrays the film as a depiction a fine interconnectedness of realistic portrait of pertinent issues with a subliminal touch of magic realism. The movie offers a range of familiar types, attempting to prick his viewers’ consciences without being overbearingly preachy or nearly jingoistic. As the film kicks off, tempers are already surging as invectives and epithets are blurted out without batting an eyelash. Prejudices are looking for confirmation. “I am angiy all the time, and I don’t know why,” laments a frustrated housewife.
The first half of the film whips up the melting pot of complications, with racist assumptions spilling out of the characters ears. Viewers relish a platter of racism and crime, seasoned with sexual harassment, a broken health-care system and the purchase of firearms. In the softer second half, Detweiler explains that the isolated moments suggest a possibility of redemption for the characters. A motorist hassled by the cops for “driving while black” turns out to be a conflict-avoiding “Buddhist for Christ’s sake. ” But that doesn’t dissuade the police from violating his humanity and that of his wife.
A statue of St. Christopher shows up at surprising times, but it ultimately proves ineffectual. A protective icon inspires a random act of violence. As Christmas unfolds in the movie, we see images of the nativity that could only summon unrealized prayers for “peace on earth” (Detweiler, 2005). Circumscribing the “circle” that goes around the film’s plot, a realization could smack its viewers that in the small world we are living in, we are connected to each other, like it or not. Conclusion Racism is a topic well-tackled among discussions.
We are aware that it is generally loathed by people and we heard calls of putting a stop to it. We have seen the fall of Apartheid, we have seen those protests voicing out equality, but people still commit racism unconsciously as they encounter each other in their daily lives. Is prejudice primarily a question of color? How do differences of language and culture play into our misunderstandings? What must be done to bridge understanding and permanently inculcate the ugly face of prejudice regarding our differences? The film Crash does not present the ultimate panacea to racism and prejudice.
But certainly, it is a mirror of what American society has become. It is presenting a consciousness about the interconnectedness of people and the situations that made them come up with their own realizations. Thus, the film invites its viewers to come up with their own realizations about the contemporary cross-section of American society and provide a space about perspectives on how to deal with their own prejudices. Works Cited Detweiler, Craig. Cultural Collisions. Sojourners Magazine. Washington, (December 2005), 34 (11): 45-46. Sicinski, Michael. Crash, Film Review. Cineaste. New York, (Fall 2005), 30 (4): 51-54.