Crash is a 2005 movie that won three Oscar awards for the best Edition, Original Screenplay, and Picture. The film mainly focuses on ethnic and racial tensions in Los Angeles and narrates a fictional story that concentrates on a series criminal activities around the Los Angeles area involving a racially dynamic mix of characters (Hsu 142). The primary theme of the movie is that all individuals subscribe to ethnic and racial stereotypes and that such stereotypes are manifested in many ways as members of society interact with one another. Movie critics have touted the film as being a film that handles the issue of ethnicity and race uniquely. Some critics have also suggested that the film is capable of making viewers stop and start thinking about behaviors and attitudes on the subject of ethnic relations and interpersonal race. This brief essay use will discuss the meaning of stereotypes, what they say about people who subscribe to them and how they have affected my life.
As defined by Tyree stereotypes are generalized beliefs concerning the characteristics or qualities of a particular group of individuals (394). Besides, stereotyping refers to a way of judging or representing other people in fixed or unyielding terms. Stereotypes revolve around an alleged trait of the category of people to which it is tied. Although stereotypes may be negative or positive, negative stereotypes may lead to unfair or unequal treatment of a member of society. There are so many stereotypes demonstrated in Crash such as the case of an Arab who went to buy a gun and the case of the Mexican who did not know how to drive (Tucker n.p.). Both cases are mainly aimed at a specific race. People assumed automatically that because he was a Mexican, he was probably not legal and therefore could not drive. Also, since the man looked Arab, people assumed that he was probably a Muslim extremist who could use the gun to execute an attack. Although these assumptions may not be valid, they reflect how the human brain thinks.
People who subscribe to stereotypes develop negative perceptions against other groups, which may make them be treated unequally. Stereotypes tend to say far more about the people who stereotype than their targets. Usually, those who stereotype hold themselves as superior in some ways as compared to those who fall as objects of stereotypes (Tyree 396). There are some cases when stereotypes may speak a sense of deficiency in people’s identities or a sense of separation from their own cultures. Stereotyping as a practice may also act as a way of validating elements of a cultural hierarchy or social order. It may do this by forming symbolic boundaries between individuals and cultures. For example, the negative feelings in the U.S. against Latino immigrants are related to the way immigration is influencing the American culture. The population of Latino immigrants has increased in the U.S. making many Americans to feel that their culture is being eroded by what is being imposed by foreigners. The social claim of Latinos as threats to national security, the American culture and the cause of different criminal activities depicts the Latino as a criminal, a foreigner, an “illegal” and groups them as people who come to the U.S. to cause chaos.
There are some cases whereby individuals adapt themselves to putative stereotypical traits, at least in specific circumstances. They internalize the stereotype under the pressures of censure and social conformity or fear of what may occur if they oppose the stereotype. This may appear to validate and confirm it. However, what it does it to cover up and possibly hedge in the subjectivity of the stereotyped individual as well as the self-determination capacity upon which subjectivity relies. It is often easy to overemphasize individuality and forget that people are members of different social groups that share certain ways of living and viewing others when contesting stereotypes (Schmader 14). Individualism is a fallacy that lies in the concept of personal uniqueness. For cultural, historical and cultural reasons, every person partakes in the traits of a specific social category like that of their social status, gender or ethnicity. People associate themselves with different groups and acquire the insider knowledge needed to operate within those groups efficiently.
Racial stereotypes are common especially in the U.S., whereby African Americans, Latinos, and Hispanics are viewed as poor people with a high tendency to commit crimes. These stereotypes have also affected my life on several occasions. For example, in 2016, I stopped by a nearby A.T.M in the street in Chicago to withdraw some money, because I felt hungry and wanted to buy some lunch. A group of young Hispanic looking men was talking to each other happily discussing, just a few steps from where I was. I took my 200 U.S. Dollars and started to walk away when one of them suddenly started following me. I kept looking behind and quickened my space. However, the young man managed to catch up with me, holding something in his hand. I realized that it was the bank card that I had unfortunately forgotten in the A.T.M. He gave it to me with a broad smile that seemed to acknowledge that I was scared. I am not sure whether it was their race or situation that made me assume that they were of no help. In retrospect, I should have probably given them the benefit of the doubt.
My encounter with the young Hispanic looking man made me feel very embarrassed. This is because I had viewed them as poor people who could not be of any help. Therefore as he followed me, I felt very uncomfortable and scared thinking that he would robe me. However, I later learned that I was wrong. Although I have since learned to respect everybody regardless of their race, racial stereotypes have contributed to increasing the cases of racial discrimination in the U.S. Most people who succumb to these stereotypes view themselves and their race superior to other races (Schmader 15). I have watched Crash several times, and it reminds me of my encounter with the young Hispanic man.
In a nutshell, it is critical to determine the level and nature of stereotyping and prejudice of different groups in contemporary society accurately to intervene adequately in these areas. To do this, the members of society should agree that stereotypes still exist today. The world has made tremendous progress since the period of slavery and the stereotypes that backed it. It seems that a lot of people are still unaware of the remaining stereotypes, acts of oppression and negative attitudes toward specific groups like African-Americans, Hispanics, and Latinos. Since stereotypes are most of the times accepted as the truth, identifying and defining the problem is the first step of intervention. Stereotypes generally make some groups and races to feel superior to others. In most cases, victims of stereotypes tend to feel inferior and develop a stereotype threat.
Hsu, Hsuan L. “Racial privacy, the LA ensemble film, and Paul Haggis’s Crash.” Film Criticism 31.1-2 (2006): 132-157.
Schmader, Toni. “Stereotype threat deconstructed.” Current Directions in Psychological Science 19.1 (2010): 14-18.
Tucker, Ken. “Accidents Will Happen.” NYMag.com, nymag.com/nymetro/movies/reviews/11872/.
Tyree, Tia. “African American stereotypes in reality television.” Howard Journal of Communications 22.4 (2011): 394-413.