Film Review: "A Conversation About Race"

It’s not often that you see a documentary about your own society that makes you squirm a little bit…without any sex or violence. And that’s especially true when you agree with the filmmaker’s viewpoint. But the subject of racism in America has become so taboo, so powerfully charged, that any discussion of it in an open, honest, way is both refreshing and disturbing. And so it is with Craig Bodeker’s new hour-long documentary, “A Conversation About Race”, in which Mr. Bodeker discusses issues of race with Americans (Denverites, to be specific) who believe they see or face racism in their everyday lives. Mr. Bodeker’s views on the issue are clear, just from his having the courage to take up the issue and ask the questions he asks. And it’s about time that someone with these views makes a public statement, such as with this film, that “racism” in today’s America, to the extent that it still exists at all in a nation which just elected Barack Obama, is not even a shadow of the true racism of former generations. Bodeker interviews “some of racisms believers, (to) look for inconsistencies” whom he found either by posting a CraigsList ad to “stop racism now” or by interviewing random people on the streets of Denver. He didn't have to go far to find either the volunteers or the gaping logical and experiential holes in their beliefs. Bodeker’s premise, which is clearly borne out by the answers his interviewees give, is that “Racism is used as a tool of intimidation, like a hammer, against Caucasian whites.” He shows how so many people who say they believe racism is around them all the time actually can’t come up with any examples of it, or even with a good definition. Bodeker says he isn’t aware of “another issue that is more artificial, manufactured, or manipulated than this whole construct called ‘racism.’” He makes the point that not only is there a massive disconnect between true racism and the so-called racism that so many people claim to see in their daily lives. He also makes the point that in our society, it’s apparently only white people who are capable of being racist. Bodeker says his goal isn’t to make these believers in rampant racism look silly. Instead, they make themselves look silly. The obviously muddle-headed liberal white people simply look stupid. The blacks look brainwashed and unwilling to conceive of the idea that society isn’t biased against them. And then there’s the remarkable line of questioning (particularly of the black interviewees) about Mexicans…but I’ll leave you to watch that for yourself. Overall, the video is a great use of an hour. It’s thought-provoking, bringing to the forefront an issue which is uncomfortable, especially for whites, to discuss…but which shouldn’t be since the vast majority of us aren’t racist and since many, or maybe most, white Americans are descended from people who came to the US after the civil war and had nothing to do with any “historical injustice” against blacks or anyone else. A trailer for the film really doesn’t do it justice, but you can at least get a sense of the movie’s style.
  “A Conversation About Race” is an intense, even gripping hour of film. It is available on DVD from the web site of the same name, and I encourage you to get a copy and watch it. As a white guy, the discussion is at first uncomfortable, but only until Bodeker's fundamental point - that the vast majority of us have nothing to be uncomfortable about and that the real problem is with the people who claim society is racist - sinks in. The film raises questions about an issue which, with the election of Barack Obama (and the Jeremiah Wright controversy during the campaign) should be the subject of a "national conversation…a conversation both Craig Bodeker and Barack Obama seem interested in having, though I wonder if Obama would show Bodeker’s honesty and courage in showing that the emperor has no clothes.
  • Mike Gray
    Comment from: Mike Gray
    11/24/08 @ 12:49:46 pm

    It's a pretty compelling topic and the YouTube trailer certainly adds to that. I sometimes find myself considering this very topic, in fact the same angle that the film maker appears to be approaching. Then I feel like I better keep my mouth shut, lest I be branded a racist. That's what's happened in this country. We've been made to feel like if we're not on board, then we must be the enemy.

  • Joshua Finkelstien
    Comment from: Joshua Finkelstien
    01/15/09 @ 05:10:10 pm

    This movie has perfectly articulated what most white people have wanted to say for a long time but can't because of the illogical fear of being branded a 'racist'. This movie should be mandatory for all liberals to watch because it clearly shows the many double standards and the unfair treatment that white people have endured the past 20 years. I can't imagine anyone accusing the filmmaker of racism but liberals are insane and they don't use reason or logic especially when it comes to race.

  • Craig Stern
    Comment from: Craig Stern
    03/16/09 @ 11:17:05 am

    An excellent film that I found few faults with. It will definitely make you think and realize how the term racism has been abused in our society. I would have liked to have seen more reactions and a little more follow-up to some good counter- arguments. This would make the filmmakers argument more solid, although, it's pretty solid already and he more than makes his point. I suppose I could be called a Liberal but, despite Joshua Finkelstein's (I suppose he misspelled his name) divisive political ranting, this film (and issue) has nothing to do with politics.