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The Portrayal Of Racism And White Privilege In American Films

2170 words - 9 pages



White privilege is incredibly in evident in Rush Hour through the roles of the FBI agent in charge of the case. When the Chinese consular calls Lee for backup. The FBI agents feel threatened and annoyed and use the excuse that Lee will simply become a distraction and liability on the case. To the agents, Lee is a foreigner whose crime fighting tactics are subpar when it comes to the almighty FBI of the United States of America. They believe their department is the number one enforcer and that Lee will simply be a pest. As a result, they assign Carter, who is African American, to babysit him. As a result, the entire film is about their desire to find the consul’s daughter despite the ...view middle of the document...

(Desmond and Emirbayer 40)
The FBI agents were well aware of their position in society and were reaping all the benefits, never once worrying about the repercussions. Hollywood’s depiction of these agents reinforce the existence of white privilege and the idea that exercising white privilege does not produce any negative consequences. Although this inequity is clouded by the comedy and light-heartedness of the film, it is still present, inviting audience members to question why racial disparities still exist.
12 Years a Slave exposes audiences to the roots of racial discrimination and forces them to understand our country’s racial past. In 12 Years a Slave, Solomon Northup, a free man, is kidnapped and sold into slavery. For twelve years, he faces hardship and lives the life of a slave, only to be rescued with the help of an abolitionist and his white friends from the North. Aside from the obvious discrimination from the incredibly inhumane practices of legalized slavery, racial discrimination can be seen on the plantation through the amount of work required of the slaves versus the poor white individuals. When Armsby, a poor white drunk looking to earn some cash, comes to the plantation, he works all day only to collect fifty barrels of cotton. Master Epps believes that the average slave should collect two hundred barrels of cotton a day. If they do not reach that quota, they are subjected to lashes. However, when Armsby presents his humiliating fifty barrels, Epps says, “That’s okay, Armsby. It was your first day. You’ll get a hang of it” (12 Years a Slave, 2013). It is evident how differently the two racial groups are treated despite their similar situations. It is also unfortunate that the slaves, many of whom had the purest of characters, were subjected to this vile treatment, while this one man who had lived a lifetime of inebriation and mischief was pardoned for his shortcomings and treated humanely. This difference in treatment based on skin color still exists today, as Desmond and Emirbayer state,
Although it is true that poor whites experience many of the same hardships as poor blacks, it is not true that poverty somehow de-whitens poor whites. In other words, though they are in a similarly precarious economic position as poor whites still experience race-based privileges, while poor blacks are oppressed not only by poverty but also by racism. In a similar vein, well-off people of color cannot "buy'' their way out of racism. Despite their economic privilege, middle- and upper-class nonwhites experience institutional and interpersonal racism on a regular basis. (D&E 36)
Solomon Northup was well known in his community in the North for his musical talent. He was respected and treated with the same respect as everyone else in his community. However, that sentiment was not shared across the United States at the time, resulting in his kidnapping. This way of thinking still occurs in society today, where blacks are often caught and receive...

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