ANTHONY: You expect me to pay for that kind of service?
Anthony criticizes the waitress for treating him as if Black people don't tip, but then he doesn't tip. The not tipping ends up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. How true is this of other racial stereotypes?
ANTHONY: You couldn't find a whiter, safer or better lit part of this city. But this white woman sees two Black guys who look like UCLA students strolling down the sidewalk and her reaction is blind fear. I mean, look at us, dawg! Are we dressed like gang-bangers? Huh? No. Do we look threatening? No. Fact, if anybody should be scared around here, it's us. We're the only two Black faces surrounded by a sea of over-caffeinated white people, patrolled by the trigger-happy LAPD. So you tell me, why aren't we scared?
All the characters in this movie talk a lot, which doesn't give other characters an opportunity to question them. So we'll question them. Do you agree with Anthony? If he and Peter weren't armed, would they be afraid of being where they are? What difference would that make?
RICK: Why did these guys have to be Black? I mean, why? No matter how we spin this, I'm either gonna lose the Black vote or I'm gonna lose the law-and-order vote. […] What we need is a picture of me pinning a medal on a Black man.
Rick thinks about race on a superficial level: it's a political headache, as well as a political tool. Is it a bad thing if his intentions are superficial if the outcome is good? To what extent is his attitude still racist?
RICK: He's Iraqi? Well, he looks Black. […] His-His name's Saddam? That's real good, Bruce. I'm gonna pin a medal on an Iraqi named Saddam.
Rick makes a racial mistake, which is embarrassing, but he's also aware of how the public views race—especially Iraqis. Is he doing his public a disservice by avoiding these racial stereotypes instead of addressing them directly?
CHRISTINE: You weren't afraid that all your good friends at the studio were gonna read about you in the morning and realize he's actually Black?
Christine is proud of her Black identity, and by the end of the movie, Cameron learns to accept his, even though it takes a messy confrontation with the cops for him to do so. Still, in the end, both characters are saved by white men.
CAMERON: Sooner or later you gotta find out what it is really like to be Black.
CHRISTINE: Fuck you, man. Like you know. The closest you ever came to being Black, Cameron, was watching The Cosby Show.
What do Cameron and Christine mean by learning "what it is really like to be Black"? What does it mean to be Black? Is there a universal Black experience? What does this movie have to say about it?
ANTHONY: You wanna listen to music of the oppressor, you go right ahead.
PETER: How in the lunacy of your mind is hip-hop music of the oppressor.
ANTHONY: Listen to it, man. Nigger this, nigger that! You think people go around calling each other honkies all day? "Hey, honkie! How's business?" "Going great, cracker! We're diversifying!" […] You've got absolutely no idea where hip-hop comes from, do you? […] You see, back in the '60s, we had smart Black articulate Black men. Like Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, Fred Hampton. These brothers were speaking out, and people were listening. And then, the FBI said, "Oh, no! We can't have that! I know! Let's give the niggers this music by a bunch of mumbling idiots, and sooner or later they'll all copy it, and nobody'll be able to understand a fucking word they say! End of problem."
This sounds crazy—and it probably is—but this theory wasn't created for Crash. Some people believe this is true. It's one of those strange conspiracy theories that people like to throw out there just for the heck of it.
FRED: This is weird for a white guy to say, but have you noticed he's talking a lot less "Black" lately? […] Like in this scene, he's supposed to say "don't be talkin' 'bout that", and he changed it to "don't talk to me about that."
CAMERON: You think because of that the audience won't recognize him as a Black man? […]
FRED: All I'm saying is it's not his character. Eddie is supposed to be the smart one, not Jamal, right? You're the expert here, but to me it rings false.
Well, that's awkward. First of all, Fred is expecting a Black man to speak in only one way. On top of that, that way of speaking is supposed to be understood by the audience as less educated, even less intelligent. In fact, Fred basically says that if you sound "Black," that means you're dumb.
CHOP SHOP GUY: Don't be ignorant. They're Thai or Cambodian. Entirely different kind of chinks.
This guy may be racist, but at least he gets the races right, we guess—unlike the vandals who confused Farhad's family for Arabs. But this guy is also willing to do human trafficking, so there goes any sympathy we had for him. Never trust a smart racist, folks. Never trust any racist, actually.
RIA: I "blake" too fast? I "blake" too fast. I'm sorry you no see my "blake" lights. […] Officer, can you please write in your report how shocked I am to be hit by an Asian driver.
Ria is a police detective, which means the racial prejudice she displays here could be considered actually discriminatory in other aspects of her job. We would be alarmed if a woman this reactive and short-tempered were on a case that our life depended on.
GUN CLERK: Yo, Osama! Plan a jihad on your own time.
The gun clerk is rude to Farhad, yet he doesn't discriminate against him by refusing to sell him a gun—he'll take that sweet cash from anyone, in the end. Money: showing hypocrites for what they are since the beginning of time.
ANTHONY: Did you see any white people waitin' an hour and 32 minutes for a plate of spaghetti? And how many cups of coffee did we get?
PETER: You don't drink coffee and I didn't want any. […] We didn't get any coffee that you didn't want and I didn't order, and this is evidence of racial discrimination? Did you happen to notice our waitress was Black?
ANTHONY: And Black women don't think in stereotypes? You tell me something man. When was the last time you met one who didn't think she knew everything about your lazy ass? Before you even open your mouth, huh? That waitress sized us up in two seconds. We're Black, and Black people don't tip. She wasn't gonna waste her time.
Is it possible for someone to be prejudiced against his or her own race? If so, is it internalized racism? How do Anthony's attitudes affect his relationships with people of his own race? Does he confirm his own prejudices?
JEAN: I would like the locks changed again in the morning. And you might mention that we'd appreciate it if next time they didn't send a gang member. […] Yes, the guy with the shaved head, the pants around his ass, the prison tattoo.
Why does Jean stereotype the locksmith? Is it because he's Mexican, or is it because he has a shaved head, saggy pants, and tattoos? She doesn't suspect her housekeeper of stealing from her, and her housekeeper is Mexican. Is she prejudiced against a lower class, or is she racist against Mexicans? Or is it a little bit of both?
RIA: You want a lesson? I'll give you a lesson. How 'bout a geography lesson? My father's from Puerto Rico. My mother's from El Salvador. Neither one of those is Mexico.
WATERS: Ah. Well then I guess the big mystery is, who gathered all those remarkably different cultures together and taught them all how to park their cars on their lawns?
Ria expresses her prejudiced attitude toward Kim Lee at the beginning of the movie. Is it then hypocritical for her to call Waters out on his own prejudice against Latinos? Is one prejudice worse than the other, in her mind?
JEAN: I just had a gun pointed in my face! […] and it was my fault because I knew it was gonna happen. But if a white person sees two Black men walking towards her and she turns and walks in the other direction, she's a racist, right? Well I got scared and I didn't say anything and ten seconds later I had a gun in my face. Now I am telling you, your amigo in there is gonna sell our key to one of his homies and this time it'd be really fucking great if you acted like you actually gave a shit!
Jean has a certain point here, but does she understand that the real issue here is white assumptions about Black criminality? If there weren't a cultural perception of young Black men as "thugs," then no one would be crossing the street to get away from innocent Black men. But here, Jean blames the Black men themselves, and their actions will define her perception of everyone else who looks like them.
FARHAD: Dorri, that man could've killed your mother. You think I should let crazy people do what they want to us?
Farhad lives a life of fear. Why is that? Is his fear valid? People do harass him and attack his store, after all. What would you do in his position?
FARHAD: Then go and fix the fucking lock, you cheater. […] You fix the fucking lock, you cheater!
DANIEL: Hey, I'd appreciate if you'd stop calling me names.
FARHAD: Then fix the fucking lock!
DANIEL: I replaced the lock! You gotta fix the fucking door!
Farhad is scared for his safety, but his solution is to lash out and be angry at Daniel, even though it isn't Daniel's fault. His anger keeps people at bay, and it isolates him—which only puts him in more danger. Why do you think he feels the need to take it all out on the locksmith?
RIA: Why do you keep everybody a certain distance, huh? What, you start to feel something and panic?
Even though Ria is talking to Graham Waters here, she could be talking to Farhad. The characters in Crash ultimately seem to be afraid of one thing: feelings. But that means that these people basically never communicate with each other—which only adds to the problem, since if they never communicate, they have no way of really understanding each other. And that just leads to more fear and anger.
ANTHONY: The man steals from Black people. Only reason Black people steal from their own is 'cause they terrified of white people.
Do you believe Anthony is right here? What about white people are Black people scared of, in his mind?
CHRISTINE: I got scared, Cam. It's not like I haven't been pulled over before. You know? But not like that. And, yes, I was a little drunk. And I was mouthing off. I'm sorry. But when that man was putting his hands on me…
Being molested by a cop scares Christine. How can she feel safe when the authority figures become the enemy?
CHRISTINE: Don't touch me! Don't touch me! Keep away from me!
RYAN: Lady, I'm tryin'... I'm tryin' to help you.
CHRISTINE: Fuck you! Not you! Somebody! Anybody else! Please, somebody! Not you! […] No! Get your filthy fucking hands off me!
RYAN: Stop moving. Lady, I'm not gonna fucking hurt you! Okay. Okay.
CHRISTINE: Please don't touch me. Don't, don't.
RYAN: I'm not gonna touch you. But there's nobody else here yet and that's gasoline there. We need to get you outta here right away. Okay? […] Look at me. Look at me. I'm gonna get you out.
Christine's fear is so extreme, it is practically a PTSD episode. She freaks out when Officer Ryan approaches her. How does he handle the situation? Do you think she regrets being afraid after he rescues her? One other thing to note here is that it takes a crisis situation for Ryan to forget about his own prejudices and just act like a good person (and a good cop). Is that really what it takes to make people behave like humans?
CHRISTINE: Don't you "ma'am" me. Who the hell do you think you're talking to? […] You keep your filthy fucking hands off me! You motherfucking pig!
Even before Officer Ryan sexual assaults Christine, she does not appreciate the way he treats her. Is she right to defend herself?
CHRISTINE: You thought you saw a white woman blowin' a Black man. That drove your cracker ass crazy.
Cameron wants Christine to shut up and submit to the white cop, but she won't do it. Cameron says nothing while she is being groped, and he apologies to the cop even though he did nothing wrong. If Cameron has principles, he sets them aside when he's cornered by the cops. Why does he do this? Is he right or wrong to do it? Why?
CHRISTINE: Do you have any idea how that felt? To have that pig's hands all over me? And you just stood there! And then you apologized to him?
Why does it bother Christine so much that Cameron apologized to the cops? Why are her principles more important to her than their safety? We all know what would probably have happened to Cameron if he had tried to stand up for himself. Was his apology necessary, though? Christine doesn't seem to think so. Why not?
ANTHONY: But you have never seen me steal from a Black person ever in your life.
This line is a bit of ironic foreshadowing, because Anthony will later accidentally compromise his principles when he carjacks Cameron. That leads Cameron to tell Anthony that he should be embarrassed with himself—and that statement causes Anthony to reform. Maybe compromising your principles can be a good thing, if your principles are wrong?
ANTHONY: You have no idea, do you? You have no idea why they put them great big windows on the sides of buses, do you? One reason only. To humiliate the people of color who are reduced to ridin' on 'em.
Anthony's principles are a little…weird. Does anything he say have an element of truth?
CHRISTINE: I can't believe you let him do that, baby. Look, I know what you did was the right thing. Okay? But I was humiliated! For you. I just couldn't stand to see that man take away your dignity.
Why is dignity so important to Christine? Is it worth Cameron risking his life for it? Is it fair of her to criticize Cameron, knowing that if he had spoken up, he might have lost his life, when hers was probably not at stake?
FARHAD: This store is all we have.
Farhad's store is his entire livelihood. He feels that if he doesn't defend it, then he has nothing to live for. What he doesn't see is that his own prejudice—against his Latino locksmith—has kept him from doing just that. Then, when his store is vandalized, he tries to take it out on the only person he can—again, the locksmith.
FLANAGAN: The D.A.'s squad loses its lead investigator next month. Rick is quite adamant that his replacement be a person of color. It's a high-profile position, and he wants to send the right message to the community.
WATERS: And the right message is, "Look at this Black boy I just bought?" Well fuck you very much, but thanks for thinking of me.
Waters allows himself to be bought, but at the cost of trying to save his brother's life. Does he do the right thing? Why or why not? What other choice could he have made?
ANTHONY: Shoot this motherfucker, man!
Anthony says that Black people shouldn't steal from other Black people, but later he has no problem ordering his friend to shoot and kill another Black man. Is he a hypocrite?