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July 21, 2005

Returning to the Scene of the Crash

The newly award-winning Jeff Chang has a great read up on Alternet, discussion with Sylvia Chan about "Crash," the much hyped cinematic exploration of race in America.

Can White Hollywood Get Race Right?

Jeff: ...For Haggis, the “crash" is the metaphor that holds everything together. He seems to believe race is only discussed when we collide with each other, and friction starts. It’s a very interesting concept that resonates post-riots, post 9/11. But there's very little character development in the movie, and even less insight into race...

Sylvia: ...The whole idea that you don’t have to think about race until you “crash” into it is not what most people have the luxury of doing. And that is what white privilege is. White privilege is not having to think about race. Which is why I think many people have the reaction they do of coming out of the movie and bawling, thinking they’ve learned something...

JC: ...During the 60s, Tom Wolfe portrayed black and Samoan activists in San Francisco and New York City as race hustlers and poverty pimps in "[Radical Chic and] Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers." Anthony is just an update of a kind of 60s white liberal take on radicals of color.

He is redeemed at the end of the movie, after taking a lesson from the Terence Howard's bourgeoisie, white-identifying black director Cameron, who sheds his Oreo aspirations by confronting the police harder than Anthony ever would. Anthony then goes on to free the Thai slave workers.

Haggis seems to be saying that the kind of nationalism and separatism Anthony is spouting is not the way forward. What's new in "Crash," if anything, is a recognition that assimilation into whiteness may not be the way to go either. But either way, non-whites need to get over their anger about racism, because they need whites.

SC: At the same time, I thought the white characters were the most realistic characters in the movie, and I probably wouldn't have had as many problems with this movie if it had been structured more like 1993's "Falling Down," where it was about whiteness under siege. If it was about white people being afraid, suspicious, angry, resentful, and confused by non-white people, then it would be very accurate. White people are afraid of non-white people, even if they can’t vocalize or verbalize it...

Posted by jsmooth995 at July 21, 2005 4:04 PM

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