Racism in Criminal Movie “Crash” Analysis

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The film “Crash” focuses on the topic of racism, highlighting how physical traits and racial distinctions divide people in society. It takes place in a diverse city, Los Angeles, symbolizing the meeting points between individuals. The movie delves into the differences among ethnic groups like African Americans, Caucasians, Asians, Latinos, and Arabs. Each group strives to conquer their fears while navigating through each other’s experiences. Ultimately, the film demonstrates how everyone is interconnected through hidden occurrences and their effects on one another.

The main idea is that our lives are interconnected and we must interact with others, regardless of their differences. Society will benefit from realizing this sooner. The opening scene depicts a crash as a metaphor for the lack of physical interaction. We depend on each other for survival and must establish connections. The ultimate objective is to positively impact each other’s lives rather than violently colliding. This prompts self-reflection on personal prejudices and experiences that contribute to stereotypes. It forces consideration of internal struggles within one’s own ethnic group and the ability to overcome biases and see others as fellow humans. Racism is influenced by upbringing; being raised by racists increases the likelihood of adopting racist beliefs. John Ryan, played by Matt Dillon, exemplifies this notion.

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In the movie, Officer Ryan’s connection with his non-racist father uncovers the origins of racism. Initially, it was believed that Ryan developed racist views towards black people because of his father’s influence. However, it is later revealed that Ryan’s father is not racist. Instead, it is Ryan’s own experiences as a Los Angeles police officer that contribute to his racism and attitude towards black people.

Another instance of racism occurs at the beginning of the film when an Arab-looking father and daughter attempt to purchase a gun. The store clerk makes racially insensitive remarks assuming they are Middle Eastern, mentioning the September 11 attacks. Despite being Persian rather than Arab, the stereotype persists that all Middle Eastern individuals are potential terrorists. It is astonishing how negative events are utilized by individuals to fuel their prejudices against different ethnic groups. Certain stereotypes persist despite advancements in racial equality.

Sandra Bullock’s character embodies this concept when she avoids two approaching black men and is labeled as racist for doing so: “Well I got scared and didn’t say anything, and the next thing I knew, I had a gun shoved in my head” (Crash 2004). This mindset arises from fear of African Americans resorting to physical violence.African Americans have faced mistreatment, including beatings, abuse, and loss of life, throughout history. White individuals may possess an underlying fear that African Americans will seek retaliation and retribution for the injustices they have endured, especially during the civil rights movement.

The perpetuation of existing stereotypes and a mindset of “Things will never change” are likely responsible for the negative racial longevity and popularity. Ludacris’ character, Anthony, expressed anger towards those who held negative views about him. He was upset with the black waitress and Sandra Bullock’s character for assuming he was a thug. Unfortunately, instead of disproving their stereotypes, he played into them by carjacking Bullock’s character and her husband at gunpoint.

It is important to acknowledge that stereotypes can apply to anyone regardless of skin tone or neighborhood. Racial discrimination goes beyond social class, causing division within racial groups. In the movie, Cameron portrayed a successful black television actor who faced scrutiny from both his wife and white producer. He found himself in a predicament where he had to conform to a white man’s behavior to please his producer while his wife wanted him to embrace his blackness and be more assertive. These conflicting expectations caused significant issues for him.Despite his high-paying job, he failed to acknowledge that money could not change the fact that he was “a black man.” This became evident when he was pulled over by LAPD; his adherence to the law as a Buddhist and positive contributions to society didn’t matter – only his race did. Having achieved success as an actor, he may have developed a belief that he would be treated equally or even better than white individuals, leading to embarrassment, shame, frustration, and anger when Officer Ryan harassed him and his wife. He realized that regardless of what he did, he could never satisfy the people in his life by being either white or black enough. Similarly, Jean Cabot’s character in Sandra Bullock’s movie made a snap judgment about the Latino locksmith based on his appearance. Assuming him to be a gang member due to tattoos and a shaved head, she believed he would use her house keys for burglary. In reality, he was a soft-spoken family man just trying to earn a living. Cabot openly discriminated against the locksmith without concern for whether he heard her prejudiced thoughts. Despite facing prejudice and stereotypes at his expense, the locksmith struggled but managed to remain composed and silent. Discovering Cabot’s preconceived notions deeply hurt and defeated him.

The Persian shopkeeper, like Cabot’s character, initially judged the Latino locksmith based on stereotypes, assuming he was planning to deceive him. This ignorance prevented the shopkeeper from listening to reason, as seeking the locksmith’s advice could have prevented vandalism when purchasing a new door. Neither Cabot’s character nor the shopkeeper took the time to truly understand him beyond their preconceived notions, viewing him as merely a temporary fixer of inconveniences in their lives. Another instance of social exchange and weighing costs and benefits is seen in the scene involving Sgt. Ryan and Mrs. Thayer. Mrs. Thayer, having been assaulted by Sgt. Ryan the previous night, initially resists being rescued by him using his authority as a police officer. However, when Sgt. Ryan assures her that he will not harm her and that he is her only option for help, she must reconsider her prideful hesitation in seeking his aid, as rejecting it would result in her death.The payoff of his assistance is being able to see her husband alive, but the idea of that specific officer offering help must be challenging. The situation has now changed; instead of being the one who violated her, Sgt. Ryan is now the one saving her, bringing some light and changing the theme of racism throughout the film. Our society has become so emotionally distant from each other that we have developed a prevailing selfishness and apathy towards understanding others. It is easier to give someone a negative label because it dehumanizes them. Quick judgments are often made because we don’t take the time to truly know people. Everyone is categorized, and we find comfort in that because things seem less complicated when neatly arranged in boxes.

Instead of making an effort to overcome stereotypes and preconceived notions, society often takes the easier route. The film depicts social issues caused by Caucasians exploiting and oppressing minority groups, resulting in conflicts. However, these conflicts also prompt characters to reassess their own prejudices. In reality, modern society exhibits significant disparities in wealth and power that contribute to prejudice. These inequalities are among the main causes of racial and social problems in today’s society. The movie provides a profound reflection on our present-day world. It is necessary for us to take the time to understand the origins of personal biases and examine our perceptions in order to progress. Films like Crash challenge us to look beyond ourselves and confront our fears, recognizing that we share more similarities than we may realize. Besides minor genetic differences, we all encounter similar problems and internal struggles in our daily lives, reminding us of our shared humanity. Our true identities extend beyond mere outward appearances; there is more depth within each individual. By diminishing our fear of others, we can enhance our lives. Developing empathy and transcending race and ethnicity enable us to recognize the interconnectedness that exists among all individuals.

Work Cited
Crash, by Paul Haggis. Released September 10, 2004 (film).

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Racism in Criminal Movie “Crash” Analysis. (2016, Jul 20). Retrieved from


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