The Oscar-winning film Crash directed by Paul Haggis in 2004, is an incredible movie that discusses racism, prejudice and stereotyping and their effects on the different races of people living in Los Angeles. The film stars a variety of blacks, African American, Hispanic characters, Asians, Persian family, and whites. These characters have life-changing experiences coming from different socio-economic classes and attitude towards multiculturalism. Throughout the movies, Haggis manages to show the audience a change from the dominant ideologies about class, race, and ethnicity. The movie challenges the viewer to confront their uncomfortable feelings on the racial stereotyping that is the society today. This essay will discuss the impact of racism and stereotyping as depicted by some main characters in the film.
The race is the social construction of almost every scene of Crash, and it separates the society into different layers; the dominant and minority groups. The dominant holds the majority of the resources, and an example is the DA (Richard Cabot) and his wife, Jean (Haggies Np). They live in a fancy home, drive a luxury a car and have both financial and political powers. On the other hand, the minority group shares the smaller and unequal portions an example is Farhad, a Persian. This character plays a controversial role, where he gets discriminated against and at times, he is the discriminator. The Persians in the movie are persecuted against and cheated by the dominant group. The minority group in the film is less powerful in society and is unequally treated because of their skin color and cultural differences. The white individuals in Crash are more powerful than Middle-Eastern Individuals, Latinos, or African-American.
The primary language of the Persians takes away their social status in the movie. An example is Farhad. There is a scene where Farhad and his daughter, Dorri are at a white-owned gun shop speaking Farsi to one another. The shop owner feels threatened by their language and ethnicity. He says, “Yo Osama plan a jihad on your own time,” to them (Haggies Np). This incident is typical for many Arabs in the community today; they are seen as terrorists because of their primary language, religion or immigration status. Communities also associate them with 9/11 event, the Taliban, Osama Bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein. Probably, if Farhad and his daughter were discussing bullet types in English, the owner would not feel as threatened.
On the other hand, the dominant group is at an advantage because of their socioeconomic status. Jean forces her husband to change their house locks again because she felt Daniel, a Latino, was going to sell their new keys to a gang. According to her, all were gang members. The situation would have been different were it for the minority group; the whites had the status, power, and authority to change locks whenever they felt unsafe.
Stereotyping has become a significant issue in society today. People have fixed impressions, beliefs or perceived ideas about a particular ethnic group based on physical appearance or primary language (Crenshaw 67). It is easy to make judgments based on someone’s race and in most cases; people criticize each other and make wrong assumptions. People associate blacks with criminal activities. Crash depicts stereotyping individuals in different forms. An example is in a scene, where to black guys, Anthony and Peter are walking towards the DA and his wife, Jean. She is seen grabbing her husbands arm and giving her clutch to the husband for security purposes (Haggies Np). Jean is a typical racist white woman judging the young black men as criminals and dangerous. Another example is with the Persian store owner and the Mexican. The store-owner fears that the latter is trying to rip him off which is untrue. The Mexican is trying to help him with some vital information, but the Persian cannot get past his race and listen to him. He does not pay attention, and he loses a lot of money when his store is broken. He also found racist messages painted on the wall. He remembers the conversation with the lock maker; he had a prejudice against him. Had he listened to the locksmith, that incident would not have happened.
Institutionalized racism is the established laws, practices, and customs that systematically reflect and produce racism in society. The ethnic minorities are discriminated against by the dominant group present in public and private bodies.
The movie highlights different incidents of prejudice and racism that include the characters as either discriminators or victims. An example is when the white LAPD officer, Ryan sexually assaults the African American woman couple. In this scene, the officers show the action-orientation prejudice level through his discriminatory actions. He goes ahead to justify his disgusting actions to Hanson, his partner, who applies for a transfer after that incidence. As a police officer, Ryan had no right to behave the way he does especially after being in the force for years. Even in the society today, white police officers implicitly discriminate against black people. According to a research done, it is likely for the black residents to experience types of forces such as being pushed to the ground, getting pepper-sprayed or handcuffed without arrest by an officer because they look like a criminal (Weir Np). White police associate blacks with criminal activities. The biased treatment comes from unintentional and unconscious beliefs that the society have planted on individuals.
Conflict theory of intergroup relations is the disagreements existing between two or more social groups and their members (Assari Np). Although, corporate America has come a long way in ensuring people of color have a fair and equal workplace; There is racial tension between the blacks and the whites in the United States when it comes to resource distribution. Blacks have structural barriers that they face in their daily lives; The Whites generates a higher health gain than Blacks even when the two social groups share the same resources have equal access to resources and assets. The labor market, for example, is full of policies encouraging discrimination and racism thus becoming difficult to eliminate the racial health/resources gap in the nation (Assari Np). Even as the number of African Americans increase in the workplace, Blacks believe that the Whites, the dominant group do not consider them as real insiders. It becomes hard for Blacks to accumulate wealth and resources as whites. Blacks are fighting for promotions which the whites hold privilege for; racism becomes something active and aggressive in the society. People of color lack easy access to obtaining these privileges.
In our current community, people experience white supremacy in their day-to-day life, particularly in America. Whites are highly favored than blacks and other minority groups. An example is on an employment opportunity. Being an African American is a liability in finding a job whether with better papers than a white person with no documents and have a criminal record. It is more likely for a white applicant with a felony conviction for receiving a job response than a black applicant with no criminal record. Such discrimination based on religion or immigration status is still constant in society today.
This movie and essay illustrate the reality of the current society; racism, stereotyping, marginalization, and oppression as shown in the film, remains constant today. It shows the audience how prejudice crash in different incidents and cost the life, honor, and dignity of people. Prejudice is more than white and black. In a liberal, politically correct society people still hold stereotypes about others which results in the love-hate duality between them. The solution to overcome discrimination, stereotyping and prejudices that have been ingrained firmly in the society is to quit passing down these negative beliefs from one generation to another. Leaders of the community should look for viable solutions to the causes of discrimination against the minority group. The media should also stop reinforcing prejudices and stereotypes in society. Crash does an excellent job in showing the audience of the conditions of ethnic and racial groups in Los Angeles and their relationship. The movie brings attention to the audience of the most subtle racial issues; race is a significant factor to everyone’s life; the least that can be done is failing to support a society that exploits certain social groups.
Assari, Shervin. “Unequal gain of equal resources across racial groups.” International journal of health policy and management 7.1 (2018): 1.
Crenshaw, Kimberle. “Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A Black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory, and antiracist politics .” Feminist legal theory. Routledge, 2018. 57-80.
Haggis, Paul. Crash. 2004.
Weir, Kirsten. “Policing In Black & White.” Https://Www.Apa.Org, 2016, https://www.apa.org/monitor/2016/12/cover-policing.