The Oscar for Crash is another reality check for Los Angeles, a city which seems inherently unable to recognize its racial and economic fissures. In the classic tradition of denial, the Los Angeles Times review claimed the film exaggerated the city's conflicts. The Times' news coverage highlighted critical comments about Crash by Joe Hicks, a local African-American who has become something of a David Horowitz in blackface, a former black communist who has degenerated into a virtual neo-conservative
Hollywood, despite a deserved reputation as fantasy capital of the globe, apparently chose Crash for the realities it dramatized. These realities include:
- Ninety-three thousand LA young people between the ages of 18 and 24 are both out of school and out of work.
- Dropout rates in inner city public schools average about fifty percent.
- After the 1992 riots, "Rebuild LA" promised six billion dollars in private investment to create 75,000 jobs in five years. The organization closed its doors two years later. The riot zone lost a net 50,000 jobs in the next decade. Its failure is erased from official memory.
- As a result of these conditions, the LA metropolitan area has the largest street gang population, and greatest number of gang-related homicides in the country. In addition to the void in Watts and South Central, Los Angeles has become the center of the globalization of gangs through mass deportations of Latino immigrants.
- The Los Angeles police department continues resisting fundamental reform despite a federal court order.
- Unlike New York and Chicago, its rivals in homicide numbers, LA has virtually no independent and efffective grass-roots opposition movement in its inner city. Its reformers become a caste of their own, with the same names and faces often serving on blue-ribbon reform commissions from one decade to the next.
Despite its claims to be a "global city," the LA political culture is dominated by a narrow white Westside elite whose most recent follies include the scandals at the multi-billion-dollar Getty Museum. They are tragically clueless about solutions to the crises of school dropouts and inner city investment. They are more concerned about downtown investment, modeled after Rome or Paris, with no evidence that private opulence will reduce public squalor.
Los Angeles is an at-risk city. The film Crash cuts through its veneer of stable modernity.
Mayor Villaraigosa now needs to convene a broad community discussion of the realities that Crash dramatizes, and the ways others see us.
It is a volatile tragedy that Hollywood has captured our reality more accurately than our political and economic elites.