I have just completed watching two seasons of American Crime which premiered on ABC in 2014 and continued on in 2015. Told in the context of racial tensions in the present day United States, the series presents tales of crime juxtaposed with suffocating yet haunting realities of racial tensions in the modern day. Watching this series and based on my countless experiences while travelling across the border and while living in a country not so north of the US, there are some observations that I have to make:
- Nobody should deny that there aren’t any racial or religious tensions
It is indeed easy for the media to paint a rosy picture, but globalisation has polarised people like never before. There is too much unequal division of wealth happening across the world. The inherent biases that comes into the discussions regarding the immigrant or refugee crisis can bear a clear testament to this. Politicians love to bring in more immigrants or refugees because they are a lucrative vote bank. However, the new people who make their way to the Western world are ditched quickly without any conscious efforts being made to migrate them to the new culture and society.
Therefore, the cultural shock that inevitably follows causes many of these refugees to stray away from accepting the conditions imposed on them by the new host country. They then tend to look within themselves, become closed and more conservative and then try to impose on others what they consider to be right and wrong. These efforts cause tension because they will simply not work in the new setting. The tales of the Mexican father in Season 1 and how he ended up at the receiving end of his fellow Mexicans despite having done things correctly (apart from them) to migrate to the United States shows how one needs to assimilate eventually to the culture of its host country, however difficult it may be. His friends failed to do so and ended up stereotyping the entire community that they lived in causing great harm to the former and his son who was implicated.
Living only as an expatriate in the Middle East for a longer time than as an immigrant to Canada, I would say assimilation is not a choice but a necessity and it takes a long, long time.
- Racial feelings can be contradictory
Regina King plays the role of a person who tries to do what is morally right in terms of racial and religious divide that is being seen across the Western world, but gets trapped in her own contradictions. When her company decides to transfer her to a different place, partly due to the leaked emails showing her racial bias and the backlash it received because of her son, she plays the racial victim card to deaf ears. Early in the season, she rebuked her assistant who played the racial card and terminated her employment for doing so-before the same episode could end, she played the same card at the police investigating the misdemeanour that involved her own son.
I had a similar experience once in Detroit, where there was a racial response to a simple request. I chose to ignore it because that’s all you can do in a time such as these. It is indeed about acceptance- accepting both sets of people- those who would like to play the victor or the victim card. We can talk hours and hours about doing the right thing-but often our judgement of what it is gets clouded due to our experiences. The recent shootings in US and the turmoil it has wrought on communities are a testament to it.
- Racial feelings can wreck havoc in a society
American Crime in both seasons showed a divided society which has deep fractures every time there is an issue with race. The backlash faced by the principal of the public school in season 2 when he expelled a Mexican student for beating up a black student, without doing proper follow-up. Later he himself admitted that he was provoked by his own bias when he heard a racial slur uttered at him. This shows how racial feelings made him even forget his own duty as a principal. In the first season, such racial feelings caused the society to take sides, subverting both truth and justice and eventually split the couple to their own tragic ends.
American Crime is a very difficult series to picturize. It only shows a fragment of the real racial tensions that plague America and the Western civilisation. The issues that the series shows arise from unacceptance of the differences among each other.
Summarizing, the series conveys a consistent message throughout that just because something is different, doesn’t mean that it is bad or wrong. It is simply the way it is. Acceptance is that which only matters.
Picture courtesy: http://atvfest.com/2016/screenings/american-crime