From a class discussion following our viewing of Crash -
Professor: For those of you who have seen this film before, what did you notice this time that you didn't notice before?
Me: This time, I noticed that there were several scenes with American flags in the background. Just kinda like, "This is our America, this is what it's really like."
Professor: Hmm, and what do you think of that?
Me: What do you mean?
Professor: I saw something in your face change when you said that. ***
Me: Well, I think the filmmakers were using this as a symbol, to remind the viewers that all the things they're witnessing really do happen right here, and to connect the actions with what us as viewers are also capable of . . .
I rambled on something like that, but what I wish I'd said, which is perhaps the true reason why my face changed, is simply, "I'm sad that this is our America."
One of my classmates had brought her Dutch roommate to watch Crash with us, to educate him about American race relations. He had showed us this video, and we all laughed, but explained that it would probably offend Black Americans, but he didn't really understand why.
(I tried to embed this, but it wouldn't paste everything)
I asked him after watching Crash what he thought, since he didn't parcipate in the discussion. With a look of shock and disgust he replied, "I sincerely hope that this movie was exaggerated." "I don't know," I responded, "I'm not sure if it was. All of these things happen, but I guess it is kinda overwhelming to see all of those packed into a two hour film." Then I turned to my classmates, "What do you think? Do you think any of this was exaggerated?" They all responded with an emphatic "No!" My dutch friend just shook his head, and all he could say was "Wow."
When he returns to the Netherlands in January, what is he going to think of our country? He loves our food, even though he sees how unhealthy it is and now understands why America is so obese. He buys a gallon of Blue Bell ice cream of different flavors every week. He bikes to his internship, and my classmate drives him to the grocery store once a week. We've taken him to movies like Dan in Real Life, and to the carnival, where we bought him funnel cakes and hot dogs. He came to the our pre-Thanksgiving dinner and we all talked about our different holidays and our countries' ways of celebrating. And then we showed him Crash. So, when he goes home, what will he say about America? That it's full of fat, racist people? He might not be completely off. But surely the good will outweigh the bad. He'll remember Blue Bell and his kind roommate and her grad student friends who were patient and caring enough to spend time with a 19 year old Dutch kid and answer his questions and buy him hot dogs and funnel cake. And that's the America that I hope we can be.
***Side note: It's really something else having psychologists as professors! They pick up on nonverbal cues a little too well. My first class this semester, I had a professor completely call me out, "Zach, you agree, but you, you're completely stoic. I can't read anything one way or another in your expression." Dang!