Making Connections

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In our modern world nothing is perfect, but everything doesn’t have to be perfect to function properly. However discrimination and disempowerment are still two defining factors that make up and contribute to our society. Discrimination is the unfair treatment of a person or person due to their race, age or gender. Disempowerment is the deprivation of power or influence. These two teamed together are one of society’s downfalls. This theme is evident in the poems “Girl in the Park” by Hone Tuwhare and “City Johannesburg” by Mongane Serote, the film “Crash” directed by Paul Haggis and the novel “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey. These themes are recurrent throughout all of the texts and film.

Firstly in the movie Crash directed by Paul Haggis, the theme of racial discrimination is evident and is conveyed through camerawork, dialogue and characterization. Through the characterization of Farhad, Haggis is showing how racism manifests its self within our society. After 9/11, there was an increase in racism towards those who are Middle Eastern. Farhad, a Persian man, went to buy a gun to protect his family but was told “Yo Osama! Plan a jihad in your own time.” The viewer feels sympathetic towards Farhad at this point because he is being discriminated against for what race he is. We see him as a newly American Citizen who is just trying to charter a new life, but still gets confronted because of his appearance. The irony of the situation is that Farhad, later in the movie, verbally abuses Daniel a Hispanic man. He sees Daniels attire (low riding pants, tattoos, shaven head), and judges him a “gangbanger” when Daniel tells him he needs to fix his door. He immediately jumps to the conclusion that Daniel’s lying saying “You cheater. You f**king cheater” while pointing an accusatory finger. Daniel, like Farhad is a family man shown through his interaction with his daughter. Farhad is stereotyped against, but he also stereotypes, showing that racism is a ruthless cycle. Also, the symbolism of Officer Hansen is used as he was perceived as being innocent and pure, therefore the viewer naturally tended to associate with him as he was a breath of fresh air. Knowing this, Haggis develops the idea of stereotyping and isolation through him. He is perceived as very likeable, but ends up committing the worst act of racism. He stereotypes Peter, an African American, but is more subtle in the way he shows it. He felt threatened by Peter, and instantly jumped to the conclusion that Peter was intending to harm him, resulting in him shooting him without stopping and thinking about his actions. Through Hansen, Haggis shows how we should not always act on first instincts because it could lead to actions that we regret. He conveys the idea that we need to stop and think about what we do rather than jumping the gun. Hanson stereotyping and racism lead to the death of an innocent man. Haggis is showing the viewer the consequences of racism, and how we need to think before we act.

Much like Crash, the poem City Johannesburg by Mongane Serote also highlights the theme of racial discrimination within society. The poet wrote it about his life during apartheid in South Africa. He conveys the difficulties felt by the black people as the law required them to carry around a pass at all time or else they will be prosecuted and sent to jail. The black race had many restrictions placed on them and were unfairly treated by their white counterparts. Serote tells the reader “My hand pulses into my pocket for my pass, my life.” This juxtaposition of the words conveys how in reality, his pass and his life is the same thing, but to him are two very separate entities. He depends on his pass to keep him safe and out of harm’s way, but despises the fact that he is being forced to carry it in the first place. They are being stripped of their black identity and are being forced to conform to the rules of the city in order to enter. Serote is evoking sadness...
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