Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Confronting Race in an All-White Classroom

I'm feeling really guilty because all I want to do in class today is show a video and give out a writing assignment. I'm not feeling very inspired this week, and I feel like I could use the mental break. The truth is that I am waiting to hear form The Foundation today and I don't really want to be concerned with planning the perfect class session. The truth also is that even though showing a video is a slight cop-out as far as lesson planning goes I will still make it worthwhile. I am going to show the film Crash which was really popular a couple of years ago (won Best Picture I think). I would like to use it to initiate a conversation about race and geography in Los Angeles. How is race represented in the film? How is it dealt with as a social topic? What is the message of the film? And how do films in general help us to either confront or not confront race?

The truth is that I really abhor this film. I think it simplifies the issue of racism, and provides a ridiculously simplistic solution to racial confrontations. It suggests that if we were all "color blind" we could all just get along and be happy. It makes no suggestion or reference to the way that racism, particularly in Los Angeles has been institutionally supported for years. How about the housing covenants that prevented "minority" families from moving into exclusively white neighborhoods? How about the systematic criminalization of black male youths from the "ghetto"? There is a history to racism and spatial segregation and a film that attempts to deal with issues of race might the least bit address this?

Anyhow the film is a great start to a discussion about representations of racial conflict. I'm hoping that the students will find similar problems with the film, but I'm doubtful. As long as it opens us up to dialogue then I think it serves its purpose as an educational tool, and not merely a strategy to "waste time."

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