Racism and Stereotyping in Crash

The Crash is a compelling film that depicts racial tensions and stereotypes in Los Angeles. Paul Haggis directed the film, which is based on a true story about him being carjacked outside a video store in 1991. The Crash weaves together several stories that depict collisions of various personalities and racial stereotypes, as one of the characters, Don Cheadle, puts it in the opening scene, “We crash into each other, just so we can feel something” (Haggis, 2005). According to the film, victims of racism are prejudiced in different ways depending on the context and situation. The actions and words of racism used are not malicious, but purely out of misconceptions and cultural stereotypes.

In humble suburbs of Los Angeles, two black men, Anthony and Peter experience racism in a hotel. They emerge from a hotel furiously accusing of the hotel’s waitress for serving white customers and ignoring them. Anthony says, “That woman poured cup after cup to every white person around us” (Haggis, 2005). However, his friend reminds him that they did not order anything, and the waitress was in fact Black. Anthony continued to believe that the waitress demonstrated stereotyping behaviour towards blacks, despite being Black herself. As they were walking out, they see two white people and make stereotypical racial comments again, and carjack them.

This part of the movie is an example of very many incidences of stereotypes, racism and prejudice involving Whites, Blacks, Hispanics and Asians. In the above incident, the Black man feels offended and sees racism everywhere he goes. His comments and attitudes are assumptions on White people which are genuinely ignorant and stereotypical (Haggis, 2005). Anthony also portrays the racial stereotype that Black men do not offer tips (monetary rewards for services). The scene indicates how races are stereotyped in terms of beliefs and actions.

Racism and stereotyping are also seen in several other parts of the movie through several characters who exhibit racial attitudes and stereotypes. For example, a Black detective called Cheadle experiences several issues of racism as he investigates criminal activities. On one occasion, a cop called Matt Dillon humiliates a black man and mistreats his wife while on duty, as his colleague Ryan Philippe watches. Michael Pena who is a Hispanic also works for the woman who was carjacked by Peter and Anthony, but the woman still sees his tattoos and attire as a sign of being a gangster (Haggis, 2005). Jean, the white woman, invites Michael Pena to replace a lock in her house; but when she sees the tattoos she thinks that the locksmith might give their keys to his fellow gang members to steal from her. In this case, the woman stereotypically thinks that anyone who has tattoos and dresses in a certain manner is a criminal.

An Iranian shop owner is also shown in the movie as a man who thinks the world is taking advantage of him for being an Arab. In other cases, white police officers kill black men, including fellow policemen (Haggis, 2005). Apparently, the police in the department exchange racial comments. For example, Hansen requests his superior to switch partners for him, accusing Ryan for being a racist following the killings of Black people in previous operations.

Indeed, Crash represents a wide range of incidents that represent the real experiences of racism and racial stereotypes that occur in various societies and countries of the world. Set in Los Angeles, U.S.A., it is even more relevant to the U.S. racial perspectives than any other country of the world. The movie shows how Black people, Hispanics, Arabs and Whites are stereotyped in different ways based on their color. Blacks are seen as criminals and ungenerous while whites are considered as racists. The movie shows several collisions of characters which result in loss of trust for any group or individual. Therefore, racism and racial stereotypes have significant negative impact on social relations.


Haggis, P. (2005). Crash. Santa Monica, Calif: Lions Gate Entertainment.

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