A crash with reality
Melody Malakooti reflects on the face of racism
My friend, so often disenchanted by contemporary film, recently shocked me by granting high praise to the
movie Crash. So I dragged two friends along with me knowing only that this "gripping" film involved the
intertwined lives of people in Los Angeles. Little did I know that the best introduction to the film would occur
en route to the cinema. The movie was about racism, prejudice and stereotypes. The characters were
crafted with a great deal of sophistication, allowing the viewer every opportunity to pity, despise, love and
understand them. The victims of prejudice became its perpetrators in an ongoing cycle that most people
should reluctantly recognize as familiar. Having visited Los Angeles more often than I'd willingly choose to
visit family, I can say from personal experience that the film's depiction of racism towards Mexicans was
highly understated. Mexicans in Los Angeles are integral to the vast majority of services and yet are rarely
recognized as valuable members of the community.
This is especially disturbing since one of their regular jobs is raising the white
children who will later also fail to hail them. The distinction between Iranians and
Arabs made in the film was also troubling. As an Iranian, I'm well aware of my
community's power in Los Angeles, particularly in the film industry. No, we are not
Arabs, but I find it curious that this was the film's focus of racism towards Middle
Eastern people—not the actual rabid racism against Arabs, but the fact that
Iranians become victims because they are confused as Arabic. I think it was a self-
serving way to ignore a bigger issue. The film also allowed the viewer a
particularly close look at the way varying positions of power interacted with race
(and more subtly, gender). The inclusion of the police into the mix demonstrated
how prejudice and racism are structurally permeated, and tied so well into what
happened en route.
On my way over to Paramount I saw a fight between two men, one of whom was
trying to drag a woman out of a car while she cried and tried desperately to hold
on to her seat.
I immediately used my cell phone to call the police as I walked away, feeling the call would suffice as I had no intention of getting physically
involved. Unlike the gathered crowd, I found it unnecessary to watch if I wasn't stepping in.So I was transferred from 911 to the area police.
"Are they black, ma'am?" I thought I had misheard him. He must be asking about the cars, right? "Sorry?" I asked, and he repeated, "Are they
black? Are the men Black?" I whispered, "No." "Are they Latinos?" Again I whispered no. I told them the race of the men and quickly hung
up.These are our police? Protecting us all?!It's easy for me to look to the United States and be angry about how, as Iranians, my family feel
they need to plaster their cars and stores with "Support the Troops" stickers and the American flag. It's easy for me to be upset when my
male family members are profiled at the airport and forced to take a two-hour detour to justify their business travels to the States. It's easy for
me to displace my anger: the them over there are so awful.It's easy for me to displace my anger. But then I make an emergency call here in
Montreal and have the police officer insist on telling me that he knows what the face of violence looks like. And I say nothing.
by: Melody Malakooti
courtesy: The Link, Concordia University