Friday, September 09, 2005


Just finished watching the movie "Crash" with a friend of mine. I know I'm a day late and a dollar short on this one (I don't see too many movies), but this was an incredibly powerful experience.

If you haven't seen it, I'd strongly urge you to rent it. And watch it with your teenagers, if you have any in residence. The conversations it will start will be worth the price of rental alone.

Won't pull any spoilers. The first 45 minutes or so were achingly hard for me (middle class white woman) to sit through. I couldn't believe that people were actually SAYING these things to each other. It was as though someone had torn away the veneer of civility under which I live, hearing the thoughts those around me (my own, as well) were thinking but would never say. Of course, no one I know would actually use the words used. We simply wouldn't say the N word. We'd think disparaging thoughts about African Americans, while still acknowledging the sociological and psychological reasons behind their behavior.

At the same time, the way the characters in the film treated one another felt almost physically assaultive to me. My whole body was taut with, I dunno, fear, I guess. I couldn't believe people could be so casually cruel to one another. Didn't understand why each person was continually seeing the next as something less the individual. Even those who actually had relationships with one another, however shallow or deep, seemed incapable of looking beyond the surface of color or race or ethnicity.

I'm afraid those around me are seeing me in that same way. Not seeing me, but seeing someone white. Someone middle class. Someone defined by my skin color or
occupation (or lack thereof) or financial status Knowing me without knowing me at all.

No one was a hero in this movie. And no one a villain. But as the movie progressed, characters in the film began to, at times, truly see each other. Which made them small heroes for a moment, even as they became villainous in the next moment--or vice versa. What made me cry most was that: our capacity for both villainy and heroism. What makes us choose? How can we choose right?

Seeing this movie fresh from Katrina definitely colored my viewing. Do I believe that the lack of governmental speed of response was racist? No. Yes. I believe the government would have been just as slow to respond to poor white people. I believe the salient factor is poverty, not race. But given that a disproportionate number of poor people in New Orleans are black, it becomes a racial issue because one race is going to be far more affected by this hurricane than another.

This is what I took away from this movie. The world is a very confusing place. Tower of Babel and all that. This melting pot stuff makes living together really hard. Isn't any easier if we stick to one type per country, though, as we still have to live boundary to boundary.

So I need to push myself every single time I see a person to see them as an individual. Each person I can truly see as herself, not as an overweight smoking black female, or greasy middle aged white male with a gold chain around his neck or a teenage white girl with too much spending money and a cell phone, will free both them and me from stereotypes that help neither of us.

Some people will live down to my stereotypes. Some people will live up to them. And some people will trash my stereotypes all to hell. And it'll continue to be my challenge to see all of you as I want you to see me: as me. The whole of me. Not the parts of me that might seem to others to be defining. See me as a feminist (even though I'm a stay at home mom). See me as a handywoman (even if I have to ask you dumb questions at the hardware store). See me as a spiritual being (even if you don't agree with how I live my spirituality out).

If you do that, I promise you I'll do my best to see you, too.

Until tomorrow,


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