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Ethnocentrism and Stereotypes in the Movie “Crash”

The movie Crash is a brutally honest film that depicts the harsh realities in today’s society. It tells of a convoluted story that shows how intertwined the lives are of people from all walks of life, from all kinds of races and cultures and value systems. Without shame nor apology, the film exposes the ambivalence of some people to adhere to their own inherited cultural values or to conform to what is currently upheld by American society. It is a present waiting to be opened, wrapped with a thick cover of racial discrimination and prejudice, stereotypical beliefs, abuse of power, malice, and taken-for-granted value of life.

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The film literally bursts with the theme of racial prejudice as a multi-colored cast careens in and out of the screen to make their presence felt. From the first frame, it already shows a black man sitting with a Hispanic woman, both police officers in a car that got bumped by another. This woman gets insulted by the Chinese lady driving the car that bumped into theirs and called her a Mexican who “Blakes (translated as a brake) too fast.” She, in turn, wields her sword of a tongue to throw back the sarcasm by commenting to the petite Chinese lady that “Maybe if you see over the steering wheel, you’d blake too!” Indeed, one can’t help but judge one another based on physical appearances and the stereotypes they represent.

The same goes for the American gun dealer who gets impatient with foreigners who speak their language in front of him, making him feel left out. Sensing that these Mediterranean customers are Arabs, he snaps at them by saying, “Play your jihad on your own time.” When the customer reacts angrily, saying he is an American citizen who has the same rights as everyone else, the dealer goes on his offensive oration on how these foreigners have no right to destroy America. He is suggesting that the customers are would-be terrorists, relating it to the “recent” September 11 terrorist attacks. The man is sent out of the store, leaving her daughter behind while the dealer continues his hostile verbalizations. In doing so, he is unaware that he himself is terrorizing a lady.

The overly- ethnocentric black car robber who constantly complains about how blacks are being unfairly discriminated against in L.A. is one example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. He believes that the white server in the restaurant ignored them because they were blacks and because blacks are not known to give tips, proved her right by not leaving a tip at all, justifying that they had poor service. A while later, he spots a victim in a white woman who avoids their direction. He knows she did so because she thought they were black muggers and was fearful they would rob her. And true to his “calling,” the black man and his companion do rob her and her lawyer-husband of their car. Society might have ingrained in these black people how to behave, and they automatically do so even if they think and feel deep down inside it is offensively unfair. However, they play the role society expects them to.

A wealthy black couple dressed to the nines may be an exception to the rule, but they nevertheless get their share of prejudice because of the color of their skin. Pulled over by white policemen, they never expected to be treated inhumanely. The white racist cop seems to be intent on pinning something on them being a fluke in the hierarchy of multi-racial culture. He decides to humiliate them for the lewd behavior of the woman performing fellatio on her husband in the privacy of their car while moving in the street. In the guise of doing his duty, he harshly pushes them against their car and feels them for guns. He then molests the black woman by maliciously feeling her body all over and does not hesitate to let his hand rest on her private parts while her husband looks on. This is an example of abuse of power because he was in a position to arrest them, and they were helpless under his control. The black man, seeming to bow down to the white cop’s power, even apologizes and requests that they let him and his wife go. This helpless act further degrades them and strips them of their dignity while the white cop leaves victorious of “putting them in their place.”

The younger partner of the racist cop was being disillusioned by his ideals. He was a witness to his older partner’s display of racial prejudice and abuse of power and felt uncomfortable being part of something so wrong. He requests to be reassigned so he could fulfill his duty according to his own values – being a just and honest policeman blind to one’s skin color. He gave a black hitchhiker a ride and realized they had so many things in common – love for country music and hockey. The black man was amused that his new friend was likewise superstitious, having a religious icon of a saint on his dashboard, and reacted to this coincidence by laughing. The white man, offended that he was being made fun of, ordered his passenger out of the car. When the black man pulled something out of his pocket to show why he was laughing, the cop shot him thinking it was a gun he was pulling out of his pocket. He belatedly realized it was a similar icon he had on his dashboard. The white, idealistic cop realized that he himself had deep-seated prejudice against black people, and it reared its ugly head when he felt threatened. He is another victim of society’s labeling system, although he belonged to the league of the advantaged because he was white.

The Mexican-American locksmith gets his regular share of suspicions that he is out to cheat people. His physical characteristics – bald, shaved head, tattoos all over his body, low-waisted pants give the impression that he is a regular gangster. His white lady customer wanted the locks changed in the morning because she realized it was he who fixed it. His Persian customer insists that he is cheating him just because he suggested that more than the locks, the man needed to change his door. In reality, he is an honest family man devoted to his daughter. He does not give in to the stereotype labeled to him and continues to live a peaceful existence.

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A white district attorney keen on keeping his position and maintaining his clean image shows his hypocritical attempts to tone down racially motivated events that happen to his life, like being robbed by black men and defending a white cop who shot black people. He wants to stand out as upright and without prejudice, but he himself scoffs at a righteous Iraqui man named Saddam, thinking it’s a joke, and it simply is not possible.

His wife is a hostile, angry woman who feels bad about the ills of society. Badly shaken after being held at gunpoint and having their car stolen by black men, she feels totally unsafe in a world she shares with multiethnic people. The fact that her husband does not share her sentiments in the protection of his position in society, she reaches out to someone who would simply listen to her. She finds solace in her Mexican housekeeper, who takes care of her when she suffered a fall from the stairs. She realizes that her deep longing to connect to another authentic human being is answered by her humble maid, herself, ethnic.

The film is filled with ironies that make the viewers think deeply about human relations. Although we are fraught with a host of human emotions that make us jaded individuals, we are still awed and moved by miracles. The frustrated Persian storeowner who attempted to shoot the Mexican locksmith blaming him for his misfortune shot at the man’s little girl instead. It was amazing to discover that the girl did not even bear a scratch. Her “invisible cloak” protected her. This cloak may symbolize the girl’s innocence of the evils of the world. As long as she has it, she is secure in the belief that she is safe. The miracle that happened opened the eyes of the Persian man that, indeed, the little girl saved him instead (from the consequences that would have followed his crime) and gave him hope that life is worth living after all.

The saving grace of all the seemingly negative themes of the movie is compassion – the compassion of the white racist cop for the black lady he molested when he saved her from burning in her car, the compassion of the same white racist cop for his suffering, ailing father, the compassion of the black robber for the caged Cambodians whom he freed, the compassion of the young, idealistic white cop for the husband of the wife his partner molested by letting him go when he was supposed to be arrested….the list goes on. It just goes to prove that in the most trying moments, the human spirit chooses what is good. It transcends deeply embedded prejudice against different skin colors. No matter how different we all are outside, deep down, we are all the same, desperately wanting to be treated right. This is what the present is, under all that thick wrapping. All we had to do was unwrap it and appreciate its beauty and worth.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 17). Ethnocentrism and Stereotypes in the Movie “Crash”.

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"Ethnocentrism and Stereotypes in the Movie “Crash”." StudyCorgi, 17 Oct. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Ethnocentrism and Stereotypes in the Movie “Crash”." October 17, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Ethnocentrism and Stereotypes in the Movie “Crash”." October 17, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Ethnocentrism and Stereotypes in the Movie “Crash”." October 17, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Ethnocentrism and Stereotypes in the Movie “Crash”'. 17 October.

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