The movie, Crash is set in Los Angeles and traces the lives of several characters over a brief period. The characters literally crash into one another and this leads to the occurrence of tumultuous events that expose the seamy underbelly of life in Los Angeles with its simmering racial conflicts. The film attempts to portray the many racial issues that existed in the past and which persist to this very day. Furthermore, it captures the essence of being white.
In order to understand the distinct characteristics and qualities unique to the white race, a look at its origins is imperative. This helps us understand why white is represented the way it is by the visual media. According to Dyer (1997), "White genealogy has focused on the Aryans or Caucasians" (p. 20). The term "Aryan" became infamous as it was used by the Nazis and white supremacists as they carried out unspeakable acts of terror. The Aryans were believed to have occupied what is now northern India. They were fair of complexion and having chased the dark-skinned Dravidians to the south, they propagated the caste system in India, thereby setting the tone for the eventual subjugation of blacks by the whites in the ages to come. They themselves occupied the highest position in the caste hierarchy and were referred to as Brahmins. Meanwhile "Caucasian" is the term used to refer to fair- skinned people occupying parts of Europe, America and Asia. It is believed that the Aryans made their way past the Caucasia Mountains and came to be called as Caucasians.
Whiteness - Its Invisibility, Power and Privilege
Dyer talks about the invisibility of whiteness and states that it is the key to white power.
Whiteness is the norm; everything else is nothing but an aberration called race. Pickering states that, "In contemporary discourse, 'race' refers to people who are non-white, and denotes cultural 'differences'. 'Race' is used as a way of designating certain categories within our culture, and it does this from an invisible, undesignated position. This is the position of whiteness" (as cited in Spencer, 2006, p.20).
This invisible quality of whiteness is felt throughout Crash. All the characters feel its presence or absence to such an extent that it becomes a tangible presence in their lives. Their behaviour is shaped by their reaction to its overwhelming presence. The subtle but powerful nature of whiteness most profoundly affects the lives of two characters - Cameron (Terrence Howard) and Officer Hansen (Ryan Phillippe). Cameron is a black director whose life is thrown into disarray when he becomes acutely aware of the injustices that are meted out to people of his colour and his own role in perpetuating the negative beliefs that exist about his race. His white superiors induce him to portray blacks in poor light for the benefit of the viewing audience and he can do nothing but stew in the bitter juices of his impotence and humiliation. Officer Hansen, meanwhile, is a staunch anti - racist but by an ironic twist of fate, a fateful decision he takes makes him the epitome of