Tuesday, July 19th, 2005

Can White Hollywood Get Race Right?: Me and Sylvia On "Crash"

So when I was in the BK early this summer, Paul Haggis’ film “Crash” opened and a breathtakingly huge number of my friends went to see it. Most came back raving. So I went to check it out.

What could I say about it? A lot actually.

So I sat down with my homie, the brilliant Sylvia Chan–who writes often for the Bay Guardian–and here’s the result.

If you dig what we did–even if you don’t agree with us–please post your comments on the piece there and let the good folks at Alternet know.

It’d be great to know that Sylvia and I are just two people of many who would love to see more dialogues on race, culture, and politics, on Alternet and other progressive websites.

posted by @ 9:12 pm | 5 Comments

5 Responses to “Can White Hollywood Get Race Right?: Me and Sylvia On "Crash"”

  1. ronnie brown says:

    white people have been DEATHLY afraid of Black folk asserting themseves INDEPENDENTLY for generations. When we finally learn that fellowship/coalitions are desirable but NOT NEEDED, the unholy tie will at last be broken.

    The problem is not MORE dialogues on race, culture and politics, but the lack of CANDOR in the discussion.

    Race oppression/domination is an exercise of POWER, not indifference, “ignorance” or a lack of understanding of the other. You dominate a group through violence, create a co- dependency by insecurity, break their will to resist, making them co-laborers in the oppression…like the pimp rulin’ his ho with his pimp stick…

    white folk have set themselves up as culture definers. they are the gatekeepers…they determine how much “multi” is in American culture…they determine what’s valuable, what’s to be ignored or cast aside…they can finance it or let it die on the vine…and we allow it because we are convinced that their validation MATTERS. So any unity among ourselves whether it be as a coalition of people of color or as separate ethnic entities is seen as something slightly lesser than because white people aren’t in it…

    do we really believe we can live life independently of white folks input or opinion?

    How do you think the pimp is able to engender such loyality from his ho?…by convincing her she can’t live WITHOUT him…that the security of abuse (however measured) is more tolerable than the unknown of INDEPENDENCE.

  2. mr says:

    Hey, this is pretty sharp. It’s good to see Sylvia back in the mix. Interested to hear what you guys think about “Hustle and Fake”…uh, I mean “Hustle and Flow.”

  3. Champion says:

    Usually I just blaze through my blogdex, dropping pithy comments regarding the indier-than-thou MP3 selections of my peer.But this stopped me dead in my tracks.
    I have so much love for you two, for openly addressing these issues and initiating a much needed dialogue on this subject.

    Thank-you for your thoughts.

    Thank-you for your voices.

  4. ronnie brown says:

    methinks some of us have fetishized “dialogue” on racism rather than committing to eliminating it…

  5. Tram says:

    Hey Jeff and Syliva – thank you for this terrific intervention on the Crash discussions. I read the Alternet reader comments with fascination… On its merits as a movie, I found Crash by turns tedious, irritating, and artless. On its politics, I was frustrated at the muddled, mostly simplistic treatment of race and racism. Yet I was surprised that many of my friends and colleagues, mostly people of color and all activists of some sort, appreciated this film.

    Why? The arguments I heard were: it was nuanced, it was complex, it managed to make race explicit and put it in front of a mainstream audience. With the exception of Terrence Howard’s performance and the moment where Don Cheadle is faced with the ethics-challenged white lawyer who urges him to help the black man, I didn’t really see the nuance. But anyway, accepting the point that I might not be the target audience for this film and may be harboring too many ideological expectations for Hollywood, the argument about giving props to Crash for dealing with race in this colorblind cultural vacuum is the one that sticks out to me.

    I think it’s because of this very vacuum, though, that Crash is so problematic. In the larger political context (which you guys very brilliantly and helpfully explained), the way it deals with race is not very productive at best, and at worst harmfully distorted. Politics with a small “p” as Gary likes to say (btw, he liked it. go figure.)

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