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
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
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
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
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.