Crash: Racism as Americana

Last weekend’s otherwise visionary annual Denver Pan African Arts Society Film Festival included a pre-release screening of Crash, honoring actor and producer Don Cheadle for his recent film, Hotel Rwanda. Crash is an important film to understand. Cheadle argued that he likes the film because it shows people to be imperfect and human. In a lightweight version of Tarantino’s charming intervention, Crash makes us hate the heroes and love the villains — at least for a moment. But the lynchpin of the humanity portrayed is racism. In Crash, racism is the humanity we have in common.
Crash is in the genre of those laugh-at-Los Angeles movies, the ones that make even Californians mock our special wierdness (ordering decaf double nonfat lattés) with more than a little secret pride. Only this time the cultural kookiness being celebrated is racism. It’s racism as Americana: everybody has it, it’s who we ARE in this crazy multicultural city.  We all get the latest jokes, nobody takes offense, we all partake…In the closing scene the fierce Black woman who stood up to the racist white villain turns out to be a racist too.

Of course the movie provides no vision whatsoever of anti-racism. It’s racism as equity and social redemption, a tantalizing cultural-political seduction.

Please do come to next year’s Pan African Arts Society incredible film festival. The festival has a special and growing focus on hip hop, as well as hosting African, diaspora, and African American independent films which we have little opportunity to see and panels and dialogue which are also rare in our region.  ( <> )