The Hidden Truth
California,a place full of opportunities and dream, has allured millions of immigrants from all over the world. As a result, California became a place where many different races and cultures are mixed together. California is often seens as an example of multiculturalism, where many other countries wishes to be the same. However, Gregory Jay state in his article What is Multiculturalism, “American society is now often seen as a battleground of special-interest groups, many of them defined by the racial, ethnic, or cultural identity of their members” (90). People believe that when many different ethnic groups come together and live together, there will be little conflicts and misunderstanding and overall, will get along with each other. But, Jay states the idea of a truly multicultural American society is based on false assumption of many different cultures. People of different culture living together have a hard time identifying which are the dominant culture in California. In addition, by analyzing three different genres — the film, Crash; the novel, American Son; and the play, Bordertown— people can understand that racism is predominant in a multicultural California through the view of many characters with different backgrounds.
In the film Crash directed by Paul Haggis, it shows the difficulties of people of different ethnic groups are facing with racism in their daily lives. The movie started out with a car crash signified that a collision, regardless of the intensity, could affect everyone and lead to a series of insult to each other. Detective Graham Water remarks, “Any real city, you walk, you’re bumped, brush past people. In LA, no one touches you. We’re always behind metal and glass. Think we miss that touch so much, we crash into each other just to feel something.” The metal and glass represents cars that people depend on everyday. Car is also represent private lives that each person to their own. But when there is a car crash- representing two different private lives are forced to interact with one another- it creates a friction between the two people. The two ethnic groups, Latino and Asian woman, decide to insult each other cultures because of the accident. Many individuals take pride in their cultures and beliefs, but when they are insulted by someone else toward their cultures, they will not back down.
Later in the movie Crash, Haggis shows the lives of characters as they live in a multicultural city, Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, people with different ethnic groups are constantly collide with one another. Their lives intertwine and create misconceptions between each other. People are used to judging other people based on their appearances and create many different kind of stereotypes. For example, an asian person is good at math and poor at driving; black people are criminals because most of them smuggle or sell drugs to the public; Jews are good at handling money and they are rich etc.. Although some of these stereotypes are true, it does not represent the entire ethnic groups. In the Crash, a Persian family owned a locksmith store, Farhad and his daughter, Dorri, was misjudged by a gun owner when they are in a gun store. The gun owner degraded them and called Farhad, “Osama” because he speaks Persian. Then afterward, Farhad as mistaken by a prison tattoo Mexican American Daniel, when Daniel is trying to communicate with him because of a lock problem. Because Farhad have difficulty of learning and speaking English, Farhad thought Daniel is accusing him of cheating so he refuses Daniel’s demand. So this lead to Daniel wrecking and graffiti the store in the middle of the night. Farhad then vowed to kill Daniel and this misconception brings trouble for both side.
Stereotypes tends to give people the wrong impressions of one another and it lead can even lead to racism. Stereotyping is unhealthy and it lead to most characters in Crash to judge other negatively and wrongly. In the movie Crash, a white LAPD officer stop a vehicle seeing that the passenger is giving the driver a fellatio during a moving vehicle. Earlier in the movie, the white officer was giving a detailed description that there is a gang member on the street carjacking a car, so he stop the couple despite potential mistake given by the detailed description. The couple are African American descent and the white officer immediately suspect them of being a part of a gang. So they give them a “pat-down” in which they search for potential gun or knife on their body. During the “pat-down” another white officer violate the female during the search. The two African Americans couple cannot do anything during the search. After in which they are presumed “clean,” the white officers release them without a citation. This lead to the black female to return home angry while her husband do not do anything. The husband retaliate by saying “this is the correct action” thus making the black female further enrage. This scene prove that a person’s skin color can be assumed to be a part of an gang organization by another person without even trying to understand them. At the same time, the white officer expressed his power by violating the African American female without her have any power to fight back. This “pat-down” is created by stereotyping a person and creating a racist action. The white officer view the black couple negatively and treated them with “appropriate” action. While the black couple have to endure the negative treatment. The effect of stereotyping lead to unhealthy and lead to many judging other wrongly.
In addition, in the play Bordertown, Culture Clash gives their view on the reality of stereotyping across all different type of ethnic groups. The cultural discrimination and hatred among different countries throughout all the characters on stage as a representation of conflicts of culture because of multiculturalism. For example, a white La Jolla woman stated that “When I first moved to La Jolla, they wouldn’t allow Jews to live here in La Jolla or in Rancho Santa Fe. Isn’t that awful?” which shocked the audience the degree of discrimination toward a certain ethnic group to even denied their rights on occupying a piece of land. This statement explains a darker aspect of multiculturalism to a state where minor ethnic groups are denied of their basic rights in which the law stated to protect them. John Locke’s famous quote, “All mankind.. being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions” as a law that is incorporated into America that provide freedom for all of it’s citizen. However, due to stereotypes and unhealthy culture discrimination, this law is being suppressed and ignored. During the first inspection show that people are prejudice against another ethnic group or “race” appears in the conflict between Mexican and militia man. The Mexican are American citizen that are doing their merry business when they are stopped by the militia man — who does not work for border patrol– who assumed them to be illegal immigrants with drugs. He do not give the Mexican the basic rights and insult them with, “I said, shut the fuck up! Just pipe down, goddammit” and “Gonna wait for the Border Patrol to pick these boys up. Possible drug runners, over.” The militia man have a firm belief that stereotyping Mexicans to be potential drug dealers who illegally cross into America with dangerous weapon. He even assumed that everything they carried are stolen goods. This further lead to the act of him treated the Mexicans like dirt because of their appearances. Then, when the Mexicans show their proofs of identity, the militia man let them go but he stills harbor intense stereotyping feelings toward them. This is portraying the harsh reality between one race and another race as the social and racial tensions and harboring negative stereotypes.
In a different perspective, Bordertown, second inspection gives a different view from the first inspection because the role is reverse. The travellers are two white Americans crossing the border and they are stop by a Mexican militia man. The Mexican militia man stop them and apprehend them but the moment he sees their proof he let them go like the first inspection. However, he do not suspect them of carrying drugs and do not report to border patrols. This goes along with the assumption that people make by the look of their skin color. Culture Class is trying to portray the similarities between the two inspections by showing their similar actions. This prove that regardless of race, both side of cultures will show discrimination and racism toward each other.
In a similar setting, Brian Ascalon Roley’s novel American Son depicts the harsh reality of living in a multicultural city, Los Angeles. American Son portrays an experiences of two half white and half Filipino brothers, Tomas and Gabe, and the relationship to their mother, Ika. Their family just recently moved to Los Angeles and Roley’s describe the family struggle to assimilate into American culture instead of expressing their culture because of the intense discrimination toward Filipino culture. Because of the fear of discrimination, Tomas, older brother, decides to protect the family by becoming a gangster. Tomas shaved his head, tans his skin, wear a beater t-shirt and smoke pots. He describe himself to be fearless in protecting his family by acting as a Mexican gangster.Tomas fight against the struggle and discrimination by stealing goods and gives them to his mother as gifts. At the same time, he owned business by raising attack dogs with German names and sell them to Hollywood. Tomas lead a life of violent because this is his method of assimilating to the American culture and his method to survive in this multicultural city.
However, Tomas’ little brother is different from him. Gabe, who Roley describe as weak and timid, is afraid in living in this multicultural city. Gabe is ashamed of his Filipino heritage and culture. He is embarrassed of his mother who he described to be “self-conscious about her English.” After being beat up by his brother, Tomas, he decided to run away from everything in Los Angeles and his identity as being white and asian. Gabe’s fear of racial discrimination reaches deep inside his mind where he bump into a white woman and surprise by no aggressive action from her, “Lifting my glance, I am surprised to see no hostility in her frosty blue eyes, only that she and her boyfriend seem curious, though her attention lasts only a few seconds before she rushes after her friend to tell her something.” Afterward, Gabe experience social discomfort when a truck driver stated as he demeaning several ethnic groups, “But it isn’t near as bad as San Pedro. Cambodians, Vietnamese, Laotians,” he continues “All those mute Asians won’t even learn to speak English” (84). Gabe is shocked because the truck driver do not treat him as an Asian person and he is happy that he finally find a place to be accepted. He overcame his fear and follow his brother as his way of assimilating into this culture. American Son is a story about fail assimilation of differeth ethnic group into a multicultural society. They struggle with their own heritage and culture and decide to falsely accepted a new culture that is full of violence, racism and full of ambiguity. Tomas and Gabe become a reflection of Los Angeles culture of misconception of different culture groups and harboring negative views toward other ethnic groups. There is plenty of confusion and misunderstanding toward many ethnic groups in a multicultural society.
In conclusion, the three different type of genre portray the dominant racism in a multicultural society in California. Although California claim to be diverse, where social and racial tension to be at a minimum, but in reality it is actually full of discrimination and negative stereotypes. Living in a multicultural society is very different from people’s perspective of peaceful coexistence, it is actually the complete opposite. The film, Crash; the play, Bordertown; the book, American Son, are all depict what true multiculturalism in America. People judge other to be aggressive and arrogant because they believe one race, or ethnic group, is better than the other; the fear of racial discrimination causes people to change and act differently; the negative stereotype that judges people from their skin color are all negative aspect in a multicultural society in California. If people can change their view slowly and accept another culture and more people are proud of their own culture, there can be a great change in living in a multicultural society.