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Crash

     We sat down to write a quick review of the movie Crash the other morning and thought we'd begin with a few musings on racism which is the subject of the film. And then we sat there. And we sat there a little longer. And we sat there some more.
     Racism is what the film is about, there's no doubt about that. It's also a film well worth seeing so we figured it would be sporting to kick off the review by offering a few personal opinions on the matter to sort of set the tone. We here at the Goliard, like most people who live and breathe, have been affected by racial issues our entire lives in one form or another and figured it might be beneficial on some level to explore our feelings before launching into the review proper. 
     The problem, we found, as we sat staring at the blank screen with frozen fingers, is that it seems to be an impossible subject to write about without sounding like a complete idiot. We don't suppose it would matter either what race you are or where you are currently living although, since we've always been the same race, perhaps we can't really be sure about that part of it. But we've lived enough places where we definitely weren't in the majority and ended up on different occasions being physically beaten, cheated, robbed, and ignored specifically because of our race enough times to think we probably have a good idea what it feels like. And it doesn't feel good that's for sure. 
    So racism is an ugly and complicated thing. Every thinking person knows this already of course yet it seems to continue and even get worse as the years go by. To understand it conceptually is a far different kettle than to deal with it daily. Those of us that consider ourselves non-racist and try to conduct ourselves as such in our everyday lives are familiar with the land mines that society hath lain for us merely because people happen to come in different colors. To be non racist, which means to be a person who believes that no race is inherently better or worse than another, and to appear as such, is just not as easy as it should be. Believing you are not racist, and behaving in an 100 percent not racist way does not always naturally follow.
     The fact that folks are forced to constantly process evidence that certain groups of people that look an awfully lot alike also often behave in certain similar ways is some of the problem. Porky real estate agents in SUV's, saggy panted homies, drunken frat boys - All conjure up images and it is natural to think that you know what you are going to get from a person who seems to fit a certain prototype before you even get to know the individual. And often, based on what you've seen before, you are not all that interested in becoming acquainted with individuals in certain groups with the result being that you then understand the group less and less. At times race distinguishes these groups but it can also be clothing, religion, lifestyle, demographic, or even gender. Resistance of the urge to stereotype is a constant battle, and to many people it doesn't even seem to be one worth waging?
     Then of course there's the US and THEM thing. For every group of US it seems like there has to be a THEM to go with it and you know how they are? Who's they? You know, those people. Those people who aren't like US. We understand US and we have to stick together so we don't become like THEM.
     Another thing that's clear is that, as human beings, we seem to have a need or urge to constantly categorize people and things into manageable groups. One reason for this may be no more sinister than simply to save time. It's a lesson that follows from just living life. If all the lemons you've sucked on are sour, than it is helpful to be able to assume that the next one will pucker you up as well. If it is your unanimous experience that bees will sting when they land on you, it would follow that you would be excused from cruelty to animals charges if you were to flick one off in the event that you noticed it on your arm. The problem when it comes to people as opposed to lemons and insects is that looks can be very deceiving.
    So where does all this leave us other than sputtering about and pounding out gibberish on the keyboard. We all know what it's like when racism rears it's unexpected head and the discomfort it brings to seemingly innocuous dealings.
Trying to discuss it with strangers when not sure of their beliefs, the joke with the differently ethnic buddy gone to far, our country's bloody history, the trap of trying to convince others of personal beliefs on the matter once the issue comes up. Broaching the subject makes one immediately suspect and the old "Some of my best friends are _______" trap is one that most have fallen into. Ideally, of course, a person's heritage, religion, sexual preference or skin color wouldn't even enter into daily exchanges but they sure seem to come up, don't they? With alarming regularity and with a tendency to inspire uncommon passion. 
     Most of this can be attributed to the fact that people are very different. On the other hand, people are incredibly similar. So what the fuck?
     Another constant problem people have is reverse racism. This is when one assumes, often due to overwhelming evidence that they would be stupid to ignore, that members of another race or group aren't going to particularly like them all that much just based on their appearance. Let's say, for example, that a Goliard were to go traveling among the Eskimos on a journey seeking ultimate consciousness. And say the Goliard finds on this journey that at each village he enters, the natives come charging out to spit on him and pelt him with whale blubber and pound him about the face and neck with walrus tusks. One would think that bystanders and commentators on our Goliard's situation wouldn't take issue with him were he to begin packing a raincoat and football helmet on subsequent visits or perhaps even begin avoiding Eskimo villages altogether and seek another path. Would this make him racist against Eskimos? What if the Eskimos were only behaving this way in the first place because gangs of visitors, all who looked just like our conscious seeking straw man, had been coming around for years sodomizing their huskies and taking blow torches to their igloos. Who's the racist in this story? Or say that our Goliard had only heard third hand accounts before he left of beatings with tusks and as a result, avoided Eskimos completely and what's more, counseled his kinfolk to cease doing business with them as well. What's the deal then? Does the fact that our example shows Eskimos behaving oddly make us racists for using it? Can't we all just get along?

    And the above, believe it or not, is exactly what Crash is about. We realized this as we were getting ready to delete the whole damn thing and try again to produce a more regular review. Rarely does a movie so completely embody its subject and become as frustrating and hard to predict as the phenomenon it's exploring. Memento is the only other film that comes to mind but Crash succeeds at it as well so check your preconceptions at the door and give it a look see. When you come out you should feel like you've been traveling around to Eskimo villages getting pummeled about the face and neck.

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