The film Crash is based on racism and discrimination within contemporary America, its focus is on the stereotypical types of people from different cultural backgrounds and how they all react and work together within the American society. The opening of the film we hear Don Cheadle's character saying “Its the sense of touch, In any real city you walk, you know, you brush past people, people bump into you, in LA nobody touches you, we're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much that we crash into each other just so we can feel something.” I think what Haggis is trying to get at here is that people are so afraid of each other that they keep their distance because they don't really know who people are and what they are about because of these built up perceptions they have of people which have grown and infested within society and the only time people do come into contact with each other is when they are forced to collide by a series of consequence of their own actions.
We see different types of racism and discrimination throughout the film, which are based on the personal views of the characters and their appearances as well as their voices and names. The language that is spoken and used is a key element in the film, one early scene we see a Persian man in a gun store attempting to purchase a gun after the store owner asks if what the Persian man is say is the closest he can come to English they begin to argue and the store owner jumps in and assumes that he is maybe a terrorist and tries to blame him or his people for 9/11 by saying “you're liberating my country and I'm flying 747's into your mud huts and incinerating your friends”. This shows the anger and hatred some American's may have for people of different cultures because of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.
Later we see two young African-American guys (Chris 'Ludacris' Bridges & Larenza Tate) leaving a café and they are discussing racial discrimination when Ludacris' character notices that a white woman clings to her husband when she sees the two black guys walking towards them, he then states that if anyone should be scare it should be those two as they are surrounded by white people and the “trigger happy LAPD”. The two young men then pull guns out on Sandra Bullock and Brendan Fraser's characters and steals their car. We later see that the car-jacking has affected Bullocks character when a Mexican-American locksmith comes to their house to change the locks she tells her DA husband that she wants the locks changing again because the guy the company sent is a gang member who is going to sell their key to his friends. This is based on her fear of what has happened earlier that night and what the locksmith looks like as she describes him with the tattoos and the clothes he wears and how he wears them. We later learn though that the locksmith is a family man and he moved neighbourhoods so his family would be safer.
We also see how people mistake other people's nationalities and ethnicities based on their looks. The DA husband (Fraser) talks with his employees about a man who he say “looks black” when actually he's Iraqi. Also when Bridges and Tate's characters are driving the vehicle they stole they run over an Asian man who they refer to as a 'Chinaman' and also Cheadle's character never gets his partner's ethnicity right and she has to tell him she's not Mexican and her parents weren't from Mexico. This shows that people are judged on the colour of their skin as well as what they wear.
There's a sense in the film that white people can get away with almost anything just because they are white and they have power, for example the scene with the African-American couple (Thandie Newton and Terrence Howard) are pulled over by the police (Ryan Phillippe and Matt Dillon), one officer shown throughout the film as a racist then sexually assaults the woman and the husband and the other cop just stands there and does nothing. Later we see the cop saves the woman from a car accident and pulls her to safety just before the car blows up. This is when the cop realises how he treats people and starts to feel ashamed and guilty for it.
Everyone in the film is guilty of something, whether it be discrimination, racism or human trafficking. I think the Haggis' aim for the movie was to shoot the character's in the way he did so that it would be easier for the audience to relate to what kind of people they are and what role they play in society and how their actions and discrimination and prejudices affect everyone. Haggis has picked out the key elements of what kinds or racism and discrimination people have to deal with on a day-to-day basis because of their skin colour or their cultural background. Throughout the film we only see the murder of the young African-American (Tate) he is shot by a cop (Phillippe) because he thinks he's is reaching for a gun, through the film we see Phillippe's character not act upon his fears but when he is on his own with a someone of a different race he jumps to conclusions and he kills the kid. Then when he realise he was reaching for a statue figure he dumps his body and burns his car.