Stereotyping

Crash. It is the perfect analogy of how we as a human race deal with life, people and our own experiences. Physical characteristics and racial differences may be interpreted as two distinguishing traits that separate us. I think it’s what keeps us apart. That leaves several abstract questions that the film Crash illustrates. What are the origins of personal prejudice? Do individual experiences fuel standing stereotypes? Is it easier to perpetuate existing stereotypes because “things will never change?” Can people battle internal struggles within their own ethnic group? What prohibits us from overcoming these prejudices? The writers of the Crash managed to extend my viewing experience beyond the 90 minute film, thus forcing me to analyze my own prejudices and racial stereotypes towards others.

I always thought that racism occurred as a result of a person’s upbringing. If your parents were racist, there is a good chance that you will be a racist too. At first glance, Matt Dillon’s character exhibits characteristics typical of this theory. Dillon exhibited a close bond with his father and later, we discover the roots of his racism. I naively assumed that Dillon was absorbing external cues from his father regarding his attitudes towards black people. It turns out that his father was not racist towards black people. It was Dillon who, in combination with his father’s negative experiences and his own as a member of the LAPD, formed his own perceptions towards blacks.
Another example of this occurred at the beginning of the film when the Persian family was attempting to purchase a gun. The clerk at the gun shop made a few blatantly racist comments about the perceptions of the customers. There were several references to the twin towers and planes. It didn’t matter that the two were Persian, not Arab. A reoccurring theme was that post 9/11, all Middle Eastern people became potential terrorists. It is amazing that people have the ability to interpret bad events and cast their own prejudices on different ethnic groups to mask their feeling of anger and frustration.

Certain stereotypes have stood the test of time, no matter how many strides for racial equality have been made. Sandra Bullock’s character made the statement about the relationship between white and black people:
“If a white woman sees two black men walking towards her and turns the other way, she’s a racist. Well I got scared and didn’t’ say anything, and the next thing I knew, I had a gun shoved in my head!”

Perhaps stereotypes like that have maintained their prevalence because there are so many people that perpetuate them. It is often believed that all young black men are destined to be thugs, criminals and drug dealers. Additionally it is a common statistic that the majority of incarcerated males are African American. As a young black man, it must be difficult to break free of that stereotype.

“Things will never change.” That attitude along with the perpetuation of existing stereotypes may be largely responsible for negative racial longevity. Ludacris’ character was one of the most interesting to me. Here was this articulate young black man that spent his life stealing cars from white people. “Rap music is the music of the oppressor,” he said. It is often easier to blame others for your shortcomings than it is to confront them head on.

On the reverse, trouble facing stereotypes can occur anywhere. They are not simply restricted to skin-tone and neighborhoods. Racial discrimination transpires through social class as well. This creates division within the same racial groups. In the film, Cameron was portrayed as a wealthy, black, television actor. He achieved success as a hard working black man, but at what cost?
Cameron faced scrutiny from both of his ‘people,’ namely his wife and from his white producer. It was like a catch-22, if he wanted to be successful, he needed to act like a white man. With that came two major problems. Just because he had a good paying job, he failed to acknowledge that all the money in the world couldn’t change the fact that he was, “Indeed a black man.” Look what happened with the LAPD. They did not care that he was a law abiding Buddhist, he was still black. With the success he had as an actor, it was also possible that he developed a complex, thinking he was entitled to white privileges. As a result of that theoretical complex, he faced a flood of embarrassment, shame, frustration, and anger.

We as a society have gotten so emotionally complicated that we have developed a prevalent selfishness and apathy towards understanding others. It is easier to label someone a gang-banger, because it dehumanized them. Snap judgments are often made because we have it all figured out. Everyone is lumped into their respective categories and we accept it because things are uncomplicated when everything is in a neat little package. Rather than taking the time to move past initial stereotypes and preconceived notions, we often get it completely wrong.

When Sandra Bullock, first saw the Mexican locksmith, she made a snap judgment. “He is a gang-banger because of his shaved head, prison tattoos and his pants around his ass.” She determined that he was going to sell her house keys to one of his “homeys.” Contrary to her analysis, he was a soft-spoken, sensitive family man. Bullock’s discrimination at the beginning of the film could be interpreted as blatant but somewhat covert. She didn’t anticipate that he would hear her comments and if she had, I assume she would have expressed herself in private to avoid the awkward social situation when he left. Regardless, it was wrong and hurtful.

The Persian shopkeeper cast a similar first impression based solely on existing stereotypes. He made the false assumption that the Mexican locksmith was a member of some elaborate scheme to rip him off. The shopkeeper’s brazen ignorance and inability to listen prevented him from hearing valuable information. If he had listened, he would have gotten a new door and thus prevented the vandalism. Neither Bullock nor the shopkeeper took the time to familiarize themselves with him and move past their own prejudices. To them, he was just passing by temporarily to fix the glitch of inconvenience that was disrupting their lives.
Until we as a society can take the time to understand the roots of discrimination and take a good look at our own thought patterns, we’ll never move forward. Films like Crash are forcing us to look outside are own lives and fears, to realize that we’re more alike than we think. Aside from the 2% genetic differences between us, we all have problems and internal struggles. That’s what makes us human.

Stereotyping 7.6 of 10 on the basis of 1590 Review.