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Construction of Race in the Film Crash

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All life forms, from the microscopic bacteria to humans, on earth have very unique attributes of its or their own and thus can be generalized as different from each other. This is brought about by nature’s evolutionary processes that have molecular basis or maybe due to God’s creative will, depending on one’s own personal belief. This diversity of life on earth is tremendously important since each have distinct functions that are affective to others, bringing us to scientific detailed study of ecology which is needless to be expounded.

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Lower forms of organisms (which can be immediately connoted as non-humans) are not really particular with such differences, they just live their lives and survive. But we humans, considered as the highest form of organism and has the highest mental capacity among others, are very aware and even meticulous with such differences. We are very observant of one’s physical appearance, color, race, language, accent, and many others. We compare ourselves and would even discriminate others, oftentimes treating ourselves and our race with superiority (Kim, ch.

2, par. 2). This way of thinking and dealing with people greatly affects our own attitudes and even daily activities in contrast with lower life forms. This is the ironic reality of racism which is an unbreakable notion in all people, unexceptionally the Americans. Racism and discrimination are rampant and seemingly never ending against Blacks, Latin Americans, Arabs and Muslims, and basically to all non-Americans (wikipedia).


The 2005 Academy Award-winning drama film Crash is a very good example of a film that depicts the reality of racism in the United States. The film illustrated some of the common racist, stereotyping and discriminating attitudes of white people against blacks and of American people against non-Americans or minority groups. Not only does the real situation or condition of reality in the country was reflected or depicted in the film, but also the stereotyping in the presentation of the roles of characters in the said minority groups in films (as well in television).

Racist Attitudes of Whites Toward Blacks

The first stereotyping attitude in the film was shown in the scene when Rick, a white district attorney, and his wife Jean Cabot, walking down the street and upon seeing two black guys (Anthony and Peter), Jean felt a little “colder” and expressed a sense of insecurity by holding on his husbands  arm tighter. Anthony, immediately upon seeing the white lady’s reaction, sensed that he and his buddy were stereotyped as “gangbangers” though they are not dressed as gangbangers. Eventually, Jean seemed to have her assumptions correct as they were carjacked by the two black guys instantly after the events happened as described above. Such stereotyping of whites against blacks was brought about by the tendency of presenting the blacks (or other minority groups for that matter) with specific social problems (Omi 556; Dixon 2). Blacks are presented as people that are associated or linked to illegal drugs and crime. Moreover, the notion that black tend to commit crimes of violence (such as robbery as in the film) against whites and other races are dealt with in crime studies and analyses. This phenomenon was studied by the New Century foundation in their research report entitled the Color of Crime in 1999. Their reports show that on federal crime reports regarding interracial crimes, crimes were committed by blacks around 90% of the 1, 700,000 reported crime incidents against whites (NCF 2, 3; Horowitz par. 2). However, though some might think that blacks commit violence on whites since the former thinks that the latter posses more money and are therefore potential robbery targets, the analysis of “black-on whites” violence reported in 1994 showed that only 15.2% of the reported 1, 140, 670 are robbery cases. The remaining percentage (84.8%) were crimes or violence not related to profit such as rape and simple assaults.

Also in the same year, such crimes of sexual assault reported that about 30, 000 white women are raped or assaulted by black men and about 5, 400 black women by white men. The latter case was also depicted in the film Crash, when two white police LAPD officers followed a vehicle driven by a black guy (Cameron Thayer) with his wife Christine. The officers halted the vehicle and upon inspection, the racist Officer John Ryan sexually took advantage of Christine but the poor lady and his husband were unable to react. Christine, played by Thandie Newton, was born to a white Englishman and Zimbabwean and can be classified as “close to the white ideal” or a mulatto and thus can more “interesting” to white men, another stereotyping that can be a tendency to be shown or presented in films (Omi 556). This also made Ryan’s partner, Tom Hansen, to leave him and search for another officer buddy since he was disgusted by his partner’s racist tendencies. But towards the end of the story, some “turn-arounds” occurred. The assumed racist Officer Ryan saved Christine when she was in a car accident and has even risked his own life. On the other hand, the racist-attitude-hater Officer Hansen gun-shot Peter that he hitched down a street in a cold night. In the middle of an argument, Hansen assumed that Peter was drawing a gun from his pocket making Hansen immediately drawing also his gun first and shot Peter. But Peter unfortunately was not drawing a gun, instead a figurine. Hansen’s assumption clearly shows stereotyping of blacks of being capable to do violence as discussed earlier.

Racist Attitudes of Americans Toward Hispanics and Arabs

Blacks are not only involved in discrimination, racist and stereotyping scenarios of whites but of also other races or nationalities. After the carjacking incident to the Cabot couple, they decided to increase security in their house and contacted a locksmith named Daniel who is a Mexican-American and a devoted family man. Jean wanted to change the locks again the following day since he assumed (and stereotyped) Daniel as a gangbanger since he has shaved head, tattoos and baggy pants and that he might sell the keys of the lock to his “hommies” and thus might break in the house and rob them. Jean somehow employed the same stereotyping thinking to Daniel as he used to Anthony and Peter. Again, this assumption could be brought about the report discussed earlier. But this is somehow not affirmative of Omi’s assumption that Latinos are associated only with illegal immigration. A slightly implied racism and stereotyping was shown in the scene in the film wherein the black LAPD detective Graham Waters was having sexual activities with his Latina partner Ria. In the middle of their sexual romp, a phone call by Graham’s mother interrupted and consequently disgusted Ria. Not only the interruption has caused her disgust but by Graham’s manner of talking to his mom and his description of her being a Mexican. Ria is not really a Mexican because her mother is a native of El Salvador while his father of Puerto Rico. This shows how blacks (and whites) stereotype any Latinos or Latinas as Mexican or other race. Also, as Omi discussed, Latinas are considered as exotic sex objects (555). Arabs and Muslims are also harshly discriminated and stereotyped. In the film, Farhad, a Persian store-owner was annoyed when he heard some assumingly racist remarks by the store owner to whom he buys a gun to protect his family and his store. The gun store owner became frustrated when he cannot understand what the Persian man was saying and then became frustrated leading him to racist remarks and refusal to sell the gun. This also an example how Americans discriminate non-Americans by language barriers. As with regards to Farhads nationality, this may be brought about by the long-time tension between the American government and the Arab world that has lead to wars and recently, the September 11, 2001 terror-attack of the World Trade Center in New York. After the said incident, there was a reported increase in of discrimination and racist-related violence against Arabs or Muslims as well as other religious and cultural group. After 2001, 34% of Americans have been reportedly hearing prejudiced remarks against Islam and 25% consider themselves as prejudiced or discriminatory against Arabs. This increasing proportion of Americans having unfavorable perception against the Islamic religion was based on the poll conducted by the Washington Post – ABC news poll in 2006.

Racist Attitudes of Americans Toward Asians

The film also shows how Americans see Asians. Asians (which are Cambodians in the film) are connoted as slaves and workers. They were about to be bought for $500 per head and can be sold as workers. Chinese, Vietnamese and other Asians are legally or illegally brought or trafficked to the US with the promise of better lives from education and work (Wilson 1; Kaye par. 6). However, they find themselves forced to work on something they have not been committed to. Sadly, some of them, particularly children, are sent by their own parents in exchange of money. And worse, they become sex slaves or workers and exploited to pornography. These slaves are kept powerless due to language barriers, cultural barriers, physical coercion, and psychological coercion (2). These factors are depicted in the Cambodians which are caged and chained and are pathetically unfamiliar with the English language.

Racist Attitudes of Between Minority Groups

Not only do Americans discriminate non-Americans. Non-Americans also do discriminate their “fellow” non-Americans living in the US. This was somehow depicted in the story of Farhad and Daniel. Farhad became a client of Daniel in repairing the door locks of his store. Farhad had a difficulty in understanding the explanation why Daniel is suggesting of not only changing the door locks of his store but the door itself. This lead to Farhad hastily judging Daniel as a “cheater”. In the event when his store was broke open and was robbed, Farhad unhesitatingly assumed that it was Daniel’s fault. He attempted to shoot him with his previously bought gun but was saved by Daniel’s daughter by some mysterious phenomenon. But if deeply look into, it was not really discrimination based on race, but actually due to language barriers and slight stereotyping that have caused misunderstanding and hasty generalization and decision (Armas par. 9).

Small Details in the Film Where Racism is Depicted

            Small details in the story can also be suggestive of the racism and stereotyping in the country. As discussed above, people are judged on the he or she dresses and the way they talk (Anthony and Daniel for instance). But it can be surely overlooked in the story that even names of people and the music they listen can be suggestive of what kind or what race they are, thus bringing us back to stereotyping based on even small details.

When Rick Cabot, who is the district attorney of Los Angeles and is trying to preserve his political standing, talked to his constituents after the carjacking incident, he realized that the event would make a negative implication since two black guys carjacked his vehicle and ironically, blacks and Hispanics are his major constituents. To “neutralize” this problem, Rick asked his constituents to search for a picture of him pinning a medal to a black firefighter (to imply a good image of him) but it turns out, upon knowing from his constituent, that the firefighter is not black but an Iraqi. He got mad not because he did not pin a medal to a black but to an Iraqi and worse, his name was Saddam. Another incident of the same type is when Officer Ryan called the health service to consult about his father enduring the pain of urinary tract infection. When Ryan asked the person on the other line who her supervisor is, the lady answered that she is actually the supervisor and her name is Shaniqua Johnson. Ryan was surprised upon hearing her “black-sounding” name and uttered a dirty word. There are studies that show (Cambridge University in 2000) that black-sounding names could end up being an “economic impediment” or hindrance. The paper also added that black sounding names are connoted or associated with lower socioeconomic standing but concluded that the names are really not a burden (Pope par. 14, 15). Blacks are also perceived as lacking the requirements or qualifications of holding positions such as field managers and general manager (in Omi 550); only have great musculatures and physical strength but are dim-witted (Omi 554).

Even music people listen can be suggestive (or stereotyped) of his or her race. There are two scenes in the movie that show this aspect of racism: when Anthony was driving with Peter and when Officer Hansen hitched Peter a ride. Peter, “ironically” favored Country music over Hip-Hop that caused surprise to both Anthony and Hansen. This is another clear depiction of the cultural preferences (music) of the different races, since there is a connotation that lacks favor music such as Rhythm and Blues, Soul and Hip-Hop while whites favor Country, Western or Heavy metal (Omi 558).

Turn-around of Events in the Film

Towards the end of the story, things have some quite turn around. Officer Ryan, though seen generally as a racist, did the call of his duty when he saved Catherine in a car accident. He did the most ethical and humane thing in the act though Catherine, recalling the malicious acts on her, refuses to be saved by him. Jean, after falling downstairs when slid, was still helped by her Hispanic maid named Maria though the poor maid was quite harshly treated by Jean. In turn out Jean realized that what she did to her was wrong and that Maria is still nice and helpful to her unlike her close friends. Anthony, though has stolen another vehicle that contains Asian slaves, realized that those chained and caged people are also victims of maltreatment in the US and freed them and even giving $40 to an Asian man belonging to group of slaves to buy food. It can be observed that the turn around has something to do with what is humane and ethical. Racial differences were set aside and the needs of each other were compensated.


The film crash is a great example of a movie that reflects and depicts the sad reality of racism, discrimination and stereotyping in the US between and among races and/or minority groups. People are prejudiced of his or her social role based on the physical characters that can be perceived first-hand on them. Not only does these physical characters are heavily scrutinized, but also minor aspects such as language or accent, clothing, names, music and many others. Fact is, this social concept is a very huge and saddening drawback of human intelligence and is a seemingly an unbreakable problem. But still, being on the humane and ethical side of things is always a worthy and moral act.


Armas, Genaro C. “Language Barriers Cause Problems.” CBS News. 6 Aug. 2002. 20 Apr. 2007. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/08/06/national/main517706.shtml

Deane, Claudia and Darryl Fears. “Negative Perception of Islam Increasing.” Washington Post. 9 Mar. 2006. 17 Apr. 2007. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/08/AR2006030802221.html

Dixon, Travis L. “A Social Cognitive Approach to Studying racial Stereotyping in the Mass Media.” 20 Apr. 2007. http://rcgd.isr.umich.edu/prba/perspectives/winter2000/tdixon1.pdf

Horowitz, David. “Black Racism: The Hate Crime that Dare Not Speak Its Name.” Front Page Magazine. 16 Jul. 2002. 19 Apr. 2007. http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=1912

Kaye, Jeffrey. “Slavery in America.” Online Newshour. 8 Mar. 2001. 18 Apr. 2007. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/law/jan-june01/slavery_3-8.html

Kim, Iggy. Origins of Racism: A Marxist Perspective. New Course Publications: 1997.

NCF. “The Color of Crime: Race Crime and Violence in America.” 1999. New Century Foundation. 20 Apr. 2007. http://www.amren.com/color.pdf

Omi, Michael. “In Living Color: Race and American Culture.” Cultural Politics in Contemporary America. Eds. I. Angus and J. Shally. Routledge: 1989. 549-559.

Pope, Justin B. “Black Names A Resume Burden?” CBS News. 29, Sept. 2003. 18 Apr. 2007. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/09/29/national/main575685.shtml

Wilson, Jamie K. “Slavery in America – Today.” Associated Content. 15 Mar. 2007. 19 Apr. 2007.http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/170731/slavery_in_america today.html


Cite this Construction of Race in the Film Crash

Construction of Race in the Film Crash. (2016, Oct 02). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/construction-of-race-in-the-film-crash/

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