Higher Learning shows students from different social backgrounds facing interracial tensions, violence, responsibility, and the meaning of “learning” at the university campus. The film has three storylines demonstrating three key characters: Malik, Kristen, and Remy (Singleton, 1995). The first storyline introduces African American Malik, an athlete trying to become a decent person and start making money with his mind and not muscles. The second crucial character is a white girl named Kristen who joins the chastity women’s club, where the girls help each other become stronger. The last storyline tells the story of Remy, a notorious white boy who does not know how to earn the respect of his classmates and cannot find his place in society.
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Higher Learning discusses many vital issues, especially the problems of discrimination and racial hatred. Moreover, the piece depicts the course concepts, such as managing diversity and equal rights, prejudice and discrimination, and inclusion. The accents in the film are set correctly; this is a youth film with deep meaning. Malik, for instance, invented his problem of prejudice and discrimination because he constantly repeats the idea that he is being oppressed on racial grounds – “As a black man in America, my stress comes from everywhere. Recognize. Take a look around you” (Singleton, 1995, 1:19:35). At the same time, nothing of the kind happens, which is stated by his mentor, professor Phipps. The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Laws Enforced by EEOC,” n.d.) emphasizes that discrimination against someone based on color, race, religion, national origin, or sex is illegal. Malik’s girlfriend Deja generally believes that prejudice should be overcome even if there is discrimination, as everyone has equal rights.
Despite that, Malik falls under the influence of the well-read leader of the university named Fudge. Notably, Fudge is one of the Black Panthers members who blame everything on “white people” and their racist attitude towards “black people.” I admit that the problem of discrimination is crucial and needs more attention from society. For instance, Bhopal (2017) affirms that inequalities still exist in our community, and it is critical to address discrimination based on race and gender. Consequently, universities and other educational institutions are vital in breaking race frames through merit, equality, and inclusion.
In Higher Learning, the discrimination and exclusion concepts are illustrated through other protagonists, who, while adapting to the university world, also fall under the influence of radical seniors. Kristen is looking for support from lesbian Taryn and wants to become independent and strong. Still, she is scared of being rejected by society and hampered by feelings for a fellow student. Moreover, Remy joins the neo-Nazis, skinheads, who blame the other races for everything, occupying white America and displacing the “real” people, the Aryans, from their country. The leader of the nep-Nazis group asks Remy, “Tell me, Remy, how does it feel to know that your country no longer belongs to you?” to awaken the hatred of other races in him (Singleton, 1995, 56:33).
I wondered how easy it was to mentally break a weak person like Remy and instill Nazi ideas in him. For example, in a dialogue with Malik, he says, “This is my world! This is my country! This is my world!” (Singleton, 1995, 1:52:08). With his nationalistic words and ideas,,, he disgusts the audience. Another scene that impressed me is when Remi pointed a gun at his roommates and argued that they did not deserve to live just because one is Jewish and the other is African American.
Despite the sad end, namely the death of Malik’s girlfriend and the suicide of the frustrated and confused Remy, the final scene of the handshake between Malik and Kristen has a profound meaning and explains the concept of inclusion. Higher Learning takes the racial issue even more profound; through the character quintet, the audience listens to a lecture on the role structure of racism.
To conclude, the film raises quite serious social issues such as racism, exclusion, and discrimination against minorities which were learned during the course. I would suggest that the critical film’s characters accept that all members of society are equal and essential regardless of their skin color, orientation, and gender to effectuate more satisfying results. Higher Learning is imbued with the freedom spirit of the 60s, the struggle times of Afro-Americans for their rights, and hippies’ calls for love and peace. From my point of view, this remarkable film is a hymn to a passing era, calling us to learn all the lessons from past mistakes.
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Bhopal, K. (2017). Addressing racial inequalities in higher education: equity, inclusion and social justice. Ethnic and Racial Studies, 40(13), 2293–2299. Web.
Laws Enforced by EEOC. (n.d.). Web.
Singleton, J. (1995). Higher education [Film]. Columbia Pictures.