Too often, consciousness-raising efforts in the area of racism (particularly when carried out by well-meaning white progressives) have some degree of self-righteousness, and appear to be tackling social change through breast-beating or blame.
Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity
Produced and directed by Shakti Butler and distributed by World Trust Education Services, 75 minutes, 2012.
Purchase includes a conversation guide and subscription to learning modules for a deeper understanding of systemic inequity, developing skills in communication and healing, and teaching the fundamentals of democratic movement building.
So it’s an unexpected delight when the educational film, Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity, reveals itself to be deeply thoughtful and affecting. It develops into a powerful account of how the signifiers of racism continue to operate in our society, and how the fear and stereotypes behind these “codes” harm Americans of all races.
Talking directly to camera, and thus to the viewer, interviewees across the skin-color spectrum open up to recount outrageous yet ordinary encounters with institutionalized and personal racism. They specifically explain how interactions reveal assumptions, ignorance, and privilege. Best of all, the interviewees include activists and educators like Joy DeGruy and Peggy McIntosh who explain how, in specific instances, they have challenged racism in a way that facilitates direct but respectful communication—and change.
The insightful interviews are edited into short sections that allow time to pause for reflection and discussion, making Cracking the Codes an excellent resource for education, training, and facilitating dialogue. It’s the most dignified and evidenced response possible to the blithe assertion that we now live in a “post-racial” America.
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Valerie Schloredt is the books editor at YES!, where she leads print and online coverage of literature, media, and film, with a focus on social change movements. Valerie worked for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies in London for seven years, has followed the police reform process in Seattle as a citizen activist since 2010, and continues to monitor developments in both London and Seattle. She lives in Seattle, and speaks English.