So I ask the question, is it racism being depicted in the clip below from a film titled “Windowbreaker?”
Let’s examine the basic elements of what we just viewed. It opens with two, small Asian children setting up a booby trap with marbles that is intended to act as an alarm should someone attempt to break-in their home. A Vietnamese woman is feeling fearful and vulnerable because of recent break-ins in here neighborhood. She is treated condescendingly by a white shop owner. A group of Asian youths is playing basketball on the street. We learn the hoop belongs to the white shopkeeper’s white assistant. Among the teens is an angry Asian youth. He is initially presented as being a real asshole. But we don’t know why he is an asshole. We just know that he is an asshole.
The children are left alone at night because mother has something she must do. The marble booby trap works; someone attempts to break in and wakens the children. The small boy goes to investigate, discovers the intruder, who is injured because he slips on the marbles and cuts his arm on the broken glass.
Next day, the white shopkeeper arrives at the woman’s house to install an alarm system. Outside, police are questioning all the Asian youth in the neighborhood. The officer hones in on the angry Asian youth.
The shopkeeper’s white assistant shows up at the house, his arm in a sling, to help install the alarm. He pauses when he sees the broken glass door. He turns to see the small boy. They recognize each other. At the end of the clip, we learn that the white shopkeeper has been paying his assistant to break into homes that people will become frightened enough to buy alarm systems from him.
Although this is just an 11-minute clip of a feature film, I think we can safely presume that the filmmaker’s intent with the clip is to give us a glimpse as to the nature of his film. And what I see being depicted is a white society operating under a presumption that the recent immigration of Vietnamese to the neighborhood is almost like an invasion. The Asian youths that play basketball are not using their own hoop; they come from somewhere else. The shopkeeper’s assistant is allowing them to play because he knows how they will be perceived. And it works. When another break-in is reported, who do the police question?
What we don’t know yet from this clip is why the angry Asian youth is so angry. My guess is that the film will eventually lead to two conflicts: one involving the young boy and the shopkeeper’s assistant, the other between the angry Asian youth and the shopkeeper’s assistant.
If we view things as they really are, it means that sometimes we – people who probably don’t think of ourselves as being racist, who would take extreme offense at the notion that we harbor racist feelings – must recognize that our actions are not well-thought out, that they are often automatic and proceed from a perspective that we perceive is normal, but which is perceived by others as oppressive and even racist.
This is a very difficult conversation for even the most “enlightened” among us to have.
What’s your reaction to the film clip?