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Ashley Lee
SOC 300
May 10, 2014
Racism Taught By Sciety
All !e!le e"!erience r #itness racism in their e$ery%ay li$es& 'e!le #h encunter racism
can (e ))en%ers ) racism r $ictims& *#e$er, thrugh %i))erent cnte"ts an% situatins, the rles )
$ictim an% !er!etratr can change& The )ilm Crash +2004, illustrates the (lurre% lines ) these rles an%
its a(ility t change in in%i$i%uals %uring %i))erent situatins& Crash retells the stries ) se$eral shrt
racist encunters in Ls Angeles& -arha%, %es!ite (eing American an% 'ersian, is met #ith racial slurs
such as .Osama/& A #hite mi%%le class cu!le, 0ean an% her hus(an% Ric1 ha$e their $ehicle stlen
)rm them (y t# (lac1 males, 'eter an% Anthny& 0ean later assumes that 2aniel, a *is!anic
lc1smith is a gangster (ecause ) his a!!earance& 2aniel later $isits -arha%3s sh! an% they ha$e an
argument& 4hen -arha%3s sh! is (r1en int, he (lames 2aniel an% retaliates& LA'2 ))icers 0hn an%
Tm !ull $er Camern an% Christine #h are (lac1, an% #n a similar car t the ne stlen& Christine
re)uses t cm!ly #ith this %iscriminatin, lea%ing t 0hn mlesting her un%er the !retense ) a !at
%#n& 'eter an% Anthny later attem!t t r( Camern ) his car, an% )ail& Camern (ecmes angry at
(eing !ushe% arun% an% causes a scene& Tm arri$es an% cn$inces Camern t g hme instea% )
cmmitting the crime he !lanne%& Later, Christine is in$l$e% in a serius car acci%ent #here 0hn
arri$es an% sa$es her& 'eter, #h is hitchhi1ing, is !ic1e% u! (y Tm& Tm assumes 'eter is reaching
)r a gun an% shts him, lea%ing t his %eath& The m$ie inter#ea$es the encunters ) se$eral
characters an% %escri(es the racial tensins in these e$ents& 5sing scial theries un%erlying race an%
sterety!es as #ell as im!lementing the cn)lict, sym(lic interactinist an% )unctinalist !ers!ecti$es,
Crash illustrates the i%ea that racism an% !re6u%ice e"ists in each ) us thugh sciety&
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4hat e"actly is race7 Race is cnstructe% (y sciety an% is in)luence% (y thse arun% us& Race
is %e)ine% as a gru! ) !e!le #hse inherite% !hysical characteristics %istinguish it )rm ther gru!s
+*enslin 228,& *#e$er, race is %i))icult t classi)y (y any ne categry& The cnce!t ) race is
ar(itrary, an% is s )le"i(le that ur scial lcatin changes the race #e .are/& -r e"am!le, #ithin
Latin America, !e!le #ere (rn )rm any mi" ) American 9n%ian, A)rican an% S!anish rts& They
#ere i%enti)ie% (y #r%s such as !eninsulares, creles, mulatts, an% mesti:s& *#e$er, they cul%
als (e i%enti)ie% (y Americans as *is!anic r Latin& 9n a%%itin, there is n real %i))erence (et#een
!eninsulares an% creles e"ce!t )r their !lace ) (irth& 4e learn t classi)y ursel$es (y race (ecause
#e gr# u! #ith these assigne% la(els +*enslin 22;,& 'e!le #h are %ar1<s1inne% S!anish s!ea1ers
can chse t (e either (lac1 r *is!anic, r mulatt& The cnce!t ) race is unrelia(le, an% %es nt
create clear %i$isins (et#een !e!le&
Racism is the !re6u%ice an% %iscriminatin ) thers n the (asis ) race& Racism is als learne%
)rm thers& A stu%y (y a scilgist Michael =immel )un% that mem(ers ) ne<>a:i s1inhea%s
6ine% the gru! )r its i%eals ) masculinity, an% later learne% its $ie#s ) hatre% +=immel,& A similar
stu%y (y =athleen Blee ) )emale mem(ers ) the === re$eale% that they #ere nt racists (e)re
6ining the gru!, (ut a)ter +Blee,& 9t is sh#n here that 6ining #as the cause ) their racism, an% nt
the ther #ay arun%& Cntact thery is the e"!lanatin that ur assciatins can increase as #ell as
%ecrease racism& A stu%y (y !sychlgist ?ugene *artley als re$eale% that !e!le % nt ha$e t rely
n negati$e e"!eriences )r !re6u%ice against thers t )rm +*artley,& 'e!le #h are !re6u%ice%
against ne racial<ethnic gru! ten% t (e !re6u%ice% against ther gru!s as #ell& *e )un% that !e!le
can )rm !re6u%ices against thers that they3$e ne$er met, an% e$en against gru!s that % nt e"ist&
Racism can als e"ist against ne3s #n gru!& By internali:ing the nrms ) the %minant gru!, a
minrity gru! can assciate negati$e $ie#s #ith their #n race& Racism an% !re6u%ice is learne% )rm
utsi%e in)luences, an% can %iscriminate anyne @ e$en !e!le #h are similar&
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Charles *rtn Cley cnclu%e% that sciety !r%uce% ur .sel)/, #hich is ur image ) #h
#e are& The sel) %e$el!s )rm ur interactins #ith thers, #hen #e internali:e the re)lectin that is
seen in their eyes& *e calle% this the l1ing<glass sel)& -irst, #e imagine #hat thers !ercei$e a(ut
us, an% then #e inter!ret their reactins& This )rames ur sel)<cnce!t an% ur i%eas a(ut ursel$es& 9n
the m$ie, Crash, there #ere se$eral instances #here this cnce!t #as %is!laye%& Anthny an% 'eter
are t# (lac1s males seen lea$ing a restaurant in a (usy !art ) %#nt#n Ls Angeles& Anthny
(elie$es that they #ere un#elcme in this !art ) the neigh(rh%& *e states that n #hite !e!le
#ere seen #aiting as lng as they %i% )r )%& 9n a%%itin, they #ere nt ))ere% any cu!s ) c))ee,
#hile the #aitress !ure% cu!s ) c))ee )r e$ery #hite !ersn there& *e has a negati$e sel)<cnce!t
)rm this e$ent, (elie$ing that he #as intentinally ignre% )r (eing (lac1& *#e$er, he may (e
inter!reting the situatin in )a$r ) his $ie# ) racist %iscriminatin& 9n reality, he %es nt %rin1
c))ee an% 'eter %i% nt r%er any, s they #ere nt necessarily %e!ri$e% (ecause ) their race& Anthny
inter!rete% the situatin as an encunter ) racism #hen it cul% ha$e (een situatinal circumstances&
4hen 0ean an% Ric1 #al1 t#ar%s Anthny an% 'eter t get t their car, 0ean tightens her hl%
n Ric13s arm& Anthny inter!rets this as a sign ) (eing threatene% (y his !resence& *e says, .Au
cul%n3t )in% a #hiter, sa)er r (etter lit !art ) this city& But this #hite #man sees t# (lac1 guys, B
an% her reactin is (lin% )ear& 4e3re the nly t# (lac1 )aces surrun%e% (y a sea ) $er<ca))einate%
#hite !e!le, !atrlle% (y the trigger<ha!!y LA'2& S yu tell me, #hy aren3t #e scare%7/ -ll#ing
this statement, he an% 'eter !rcee% t !int their guns at the cu!le an% ta1e the $ehicle& 0ean )elt that
Anthny an% 'eter #ere %angerus an% threatening, an% they internali:e% these !erce!tins& Anthny
ha% inter!rete% her reactin negati$ely an% this hel!e% )rame% his i%ea ) sel)<cnce!t& The l1ing<
glass sel) le% t the !er!etuatin ) racism in these t# e"am!les&
.9) !e!le %e)ine situatins as real, they are real in their cnseCuences/, sai% 4&9& an% 2rthy
S& Thmas& This (ecame 1n#n as the %e)initin ) the situatin, r the Thmas Therem& Our
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(eha$ir %e!en%s n #hat #e inter!ret is real, #hich is ur %e)initin ) reality& 0ean m$e% clser t
Ric1 (ecause she learne% )rm sciety the reality that (lac1 !e!le !se a %anger t the sa)ety )
thers& -ll#ing the encunter, she sai%, .9 6ust ha% a gun !inte% in my )aceD An% it #as my )ault
(ecause 9 1ne# it #as gnna ha!!en& But i) a #hite !ersn sees t# (lac1 men #al1ing t#ar%s her
an% she turns an% #al1s in the ther %irectin, she3s a racist, right7/ 9t %i% nt cme )rm the )act that
the %anger #as real, (ut )rm her ha$ing gr#n in a sciety that taught that the threat )rm (lac1s are
The #ay that #e learn t $ie# things as g% r (a% )rm ur interactins #ith thers is calle%
the scial cnstructin ) reality& This is h# #e learn t inter!ret e"!eriences in li)e an% cnstruct
reality& 0ean, )earing mre %anger )ll#ing the r((ery at gun!int, ha$es a lc1smith cme $er t
change the lc1s n her huse& 2aniel is *is!anic an% has a sha$e% hea%, mustache, tatts, #ears a
#hite shirt an% sags his !ants& 0ean %eman%s that the lc1s are change% again in the mrning (ecause
she assumes that 2aniel is a gangster& .An% he3s nt gnna g sell ur 1ey t ne ) his gang (anger
)rien%s the mment he is ut ur %r7 B ># 9 am telling yu, yur amig in there is gnna sell ur
1ey t ne ) his hmies&/ Because ) his a!!earance, 0ean (elie$es that he #ill als en%anger her
sa)ety& *a$ing (een a $ictim ) r((ery alrea%y, she3s nt #illing t (e $ictimi:e% again& She (elie$es
that he is a %anger, an% she3s nt #illing t ris1 ta1ing chances again& -arha% is in a gun stre an% is
accuse% ) (eing assciate% #ith terrrism an% the EF11 attac1s, %es!ite (eing 'ersian an% an American
citi:en& The gun stre #ner calls him Osama an% says t him, .Au3re li(erating my cuntry, an% 93m
)lying se$en )ur se$ens int yur mu% huts an% incinerating yur )rien%s&/ The gun stre #ner
learne% t $ie# !e!le #h l1 Mi%%le ?astern as e$il terrrists& *e $ie#s -arha% as threatening
(ecause ) sciety3s im!resse% $ie#s ) terrrists& -ll#ing EF11, Americans )ear terrrism an% are
#ary +t this %ay, ) !ercei$e% threats ) terrrists& *is scial cnstructin ) reality is sha!e% (y
American sciety an% its $ie#s n %angers t its state ) (eing&
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*# % !e!le i%enti)y themsel$es in terms ) their racial<ethnic i%entity7 'e!le #h )eel a
sense ) (elnging #ith the !art ) the ma6rity an% )eel $ery little %iscriminatin #ith the gru! that
they i%enti)y #ith ha$e a l# sense ) ethnicity& On the ther han%, !e!le #h ha$e a heightene%
sense ) ethnicity ha$e lesser !#er an% )ace %iscriminatin, i%enti)ying %i))erently )rm the .natinal/
i%entity& Camern, a mi%%le class (lac1 man, is a Bu%%hist an% )ar )rm a sterety!ical (lac1 man& *e
is su(6ecte% t %iscriminatin #hen he meets 0hn the ))icer& Be)re, he may ha$e )elt a l# sense )
ethnicity, an% )elt less %iscriminatin (ecause ) his scial status& *#e$er, he cannt change (eing
(lac1, an% is remin%e% ) this %uring this encunter& As a %irectr, a #hite c#r1er later remar1s that
the (lac1 character in the sh# #as nt acting .(lac1 enugh/& *e is )rce% t recgni:e that racism is
nt limite% t scial status& *e is angere% )urther (y the thught ) (eing !#erless in st!!ing his #i)e
)rm (eing $ilate%& *e is )inally !ushe% t his limits #hen Anthny an% 'eter attem!t t steal his car&
They are sur!rise% t see a (lac1 man sitting in this carH they nly steal cars )rm !e!le #h are #hite,
an% cn%emn thse #h steal )rm ther (lac1s& They )ail t ta1e his car, an% Camern creates a scene
that attracts the attentin ) t# !lice cars& *e !lans t %irect all his anger t#ar%s the ))icers an%
retaliate against them (ecause ) his ina(ility t st! his #i)e )rm (eing $ilate%& 9n this #ay, he is
attem!ting t )ul)ill the sterety!e ) a (lac1 man #h )ights against the authrities& Tm, the ))icer
#h #itnesse% the inci%ent ) Christine3s $ilatin, arri$es at the scene an% cn$inces Camern t g
hme instea%& This situatin lea%s t his heightene% sense ) ethnicity an% he recgni:es that he is
(lac1, an% cannt change this %e)ining characteristic ) his sel)<cnce!t&
-rm a -unctinalist !ers!ecti$e, sciety is seen as (eing cm!se% ) $arius !arts& ?ach !art
has a rle, r )unctin that cntri(utes t sciety3s eCuili(rium& R(ert Mertn sai% that )unctinalists
nee%e% t analy:e (th structure, h# these !arts )it tgether t ma1e the #hle, an% )unctin, #hat
each !art %es an% h# it cntri(utes t sciety& Racism an% !re6u%ice #ere )unctinal )r generating
negati$e )eelings a(ut !e!le& 9t creates in<gru! sli%arity an% %estrys human relatinshi!s& 9n
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Jermany, the >a:is create% sca!egats ut ) the 0e#s, an% t1 a#ay their !r!erty an% 1ey !sitins&
They later ga$e these !r!erty r 1ey !sitins t ther mem(ers ) the >a:i !arty as incenti$es& This
resulte% )rm the )rustratin that they e"!erience% in Jermany #ith high in)latin an% ther tru(les as
a result ) their %e)eat )rm 4rl% 4ar 9& Racism an% !re6u%ice are %ys)unctinal )r sciety, an% hel!s
t create mre insta(ility& 2ys)unctins un%ermine a system, an% re%uces the ca!a(ility ) the !arts )
sciety t #r1 tgether& By creating these cn%itins in Jermany, the >a:is le% an unsta(le cuntry
cmmitte% acts ) genci%e against 0e#ish !e!le& Millins ) !e!le #ere mistreate% as a result ) the
*lcaust& 9n a%%itin, the R#an%an genci%e #as the mass genci%al slaughter ) Tutsi !e!le an%
*utus& 9t le% t the %estructin ) in)rastructure an% a se$ere %e!!ulatin ) the cuntry, causing
challenges t ecnmic gr#th an% sta(ility& Racism an% !re6u%ice in these e"treme cn%itins can
#r1 against sciety&
-rm the Cn)lict !ers!ecti$e $ie#!int, racism an% !re6u%ice are use% in the struggle )r
!#er an% access t resurces& Cn)lict therists say that !#er)ul gru!s cntrl an% mani!ulate ur
sciety3s institutins& These gru!s maintain their !ri$ilege% #ealth an% !#er& 4r1ers are s!lit alng
racial<ethnic lines an% #ea1ene% an% e"!lite% (y #ners& -r e"am!le, #hen 0a!anese la(rers struc1
against the !lantatin #ners in *a#aii, the #ners re!lace% then #ith =reans +0eng,& This is calle%
the s!lit la(r mar1et& 9t creates )ear ) cm!etitin an% ) (eing re!lace% t 1ee! #r1ers in chec1&
These %i$isins amng #r1ers %e)lect anger an% hstility a#ay )rm thse in !#er, an% re%irect
these emtins t#ar%s racial<ethnic gru!s instea%& These #r1ers learn t )ear an% %istrust ne
anther rather than #r1ing t#ar%s their cmmn interests an% mutual #el)are& T%ay, the s!lit la(r
mar1et #r1s in terms ) gen%er, racial<ethnic, age, r ther lines& Men 1n# that #men can easily
re!lace them, an% the el%erly 1n# that there are !lenty ) yunger !e!le rea%y t ta1e their 6(s&
-rm the 9nteractinist !ers!ecti$e, racism in)luences (th in%i$i%ual an% small gru! (eha$ir,
!rimarily #ith )ace<t<)ace interactin& They stress that the la(els #e learn )rm sciety a))ects h# #e
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!ercei$e !e!le& These la(els create selecti$e !erce!tin (y lea%ing us t see certain things #hile
creating (lin% s!ts t ther things& 4e !ercei$e mem(ers ) a gru! as ali1e #hen gi$en certain la(els&
Sme sterety!es an% ethnic la(els are !#er)ul )r (lc1ing ut ratinal thught a(ut ther !e!le&
Sel)<)ul)illing sterety!es als !r%uce the (eha$ir that is %e!icte% in the sterety!e& -r e"am!le,
Anthny an% 'eter are carrying guns s that they )eel sa)e in the #hiter neigh(rh%s& Because they
!ercei$e #hite !e!le t (e against them an% the LA'2 ))icers as targeting them, they )eel li1e they
shul% !rtect themsel$es& *#e$er, this hel!s t rein)rce the sterety!e that (lac1 !e!le are
%angerus an% are li1ely t cmmit crime& These negati$e sterety!es a))ect #hat !e!le .see/ (y
creating r rein)rcing !re6u%ice that encurages an% 6usti)ies %iscriminatin& Camern als #as
!lanning t )ul)ill this sterety!e #hen he (ecame angere% (y his ina(ility t act against the !liceman&
*e t1 Anthny3s gun an% #as rea%y t sht the ))icers& Because he 1ne# that they sa# him a (lac1
man #h #as %angerus, he #as #illing t sh# them that they #ere right&
Culture hel!s t rein)rce the i%eas ) racism an% sterety!es& 9n me%ias such as tele$isin,
(1s, m$ies, music, amng thers, the i%eas ) race an% !re6u%ice cntinue t thri$e& 9n a
multiculturalistic sciety li1e the 5nite% States, #e learn a(ut all 1in%s ) sterety!es& 9t hel!s us t
(ecme a#are ) the i%eas that are ut there, an% #e learn that #hile there are sme cases #here these
sterety!es can (e a!!lie%, it %es nt encm!ass e$eryne int certain characteristics r int certain
#ays r actins& The sterety!ical (lac1 character in Crash #as Anthny& *e is seen as a $igilante #h
has a gun an% an agen%a against #hite !e!le& *e steals cars mstly )rm #hite $ictims an% he is un%er
the (elie) that #hite !e!le are generally %is<)a$ra(le t#ar%s (lac1 !e!le an% that the LA'2 is
al#ays targeting (lac1s& *#e$er, Camern #as a character #h challenge% this sterety!ical
character& *e #as a mi%%le class (lac1 man #h #as a Bu%%hist& *e %es nt #ear (aggy clthing r
sags his !ants, an% he %es nt cmmit crimes& *#e$er, he %es ha$e a $en%etta against the !lice,
#hich is an i%ea that e$eryne hl%s a(ut !e!le #h are (lac1&
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The m$ie crash hel!s t highlight sme ) the un%erlying i%eas a(ut race, an% #hy racism
ccurs& 4e learn that i%eas a(ut race, sterety!es, an% !re6u%ice are learne% )rm sciety& 4e
internali:e $ie#s that thers ha$e a(ut us, )rm the l1ing<glass sel)& 4e als learn t inter!ret
situatins as real (ecause #e (elie$e them t (e real, #ith the Thmas Therem& 4e learn that ur
i%eas a(ut ursel$es are sha!e% (y h# #e thin1 thers thin1 a(ut us, an% h# #e i%enti)y ursel$es
in the larger !icture& 9) #e ha$e a l# sense ) ethnicity then #e are less li1ely t e"!erience
%iscriminatin an% #e ha$e a greater sense ) (elnging t the natinal i%entity, such as (eing
i%enti)ie% as American rather than (eing i%enti)ie% as a Chinese<Kietnamese<American, )r e"am!le&
4e als learn that racism !lays certain rles thrugh the $ie#s ) the Cn)lict, 9nteractinist, an%
-unctinalist $ie#s& Racism )uels cn)lict (et#een %i))erent ethnic gru!s an% (et#een clashes ) ther
gru!s& 4e als learn t internali:e !re6u%ices against ursel$es r ur gru!s, as #ell as %e$el! i%eas
such as sterety!es against thers& Culture in)luences racism, an% hel!s t instill i%eas a(ut thers&
The )ilm Crash hel!s t !r$e that racism, ) any %egree, e"ists in e$eryne thrugh sciety&