Chris battles dominant ideology to obtain his goal
“Would you move my car? It would really help me out.”
“I’m pretty sure I can do it.”
“No you can’t.”
These three quotes from the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness reinforce the hegemonic practices of racism and prejudice. By racism I mean the way in which one group suppresses another group through daily action, or inaction in some cases, as a means of maintaining the system of hegemony. In this sense, racism focuses on the micro scale of individual’s and group’s actions. On a macro scale, prejudice is a group’s historical beliefs toward another group that makes them inferior based on bias and stereotyping. You may be wondering how The Pursuit of Happyness relates to these practices. Let’s revisit the quotes from above. In the first quote, Mr. Frakesh asks Chris to park his car on the other side of the street due to street sweepers. Despite Chris informing Mr. Frakesh he has “a green light from Walter Ribbon,” regarding Chris’ internship work, Mr. Frakesh cuts him off saying how he is late for a presentation. This relates to racism since Chris is singled out from all the other interns, probably because he is African American and everyone else appears to be a member of the dominant society, to get Mr. Frakesh whatever he wants. For instance, he has to move Mr. Frakesh’s car and get him coffee daily so that the amount of time Chris has to complete his work is diminished. The context of the second and third quote involves a taxi ride between Chris and Jay Twistle, his employer, where Chris says he thinks he can solve the rubik’s cube. Jay repeatedly tells Chris that he can’t. Jay’s comments highlight the dominant culture’s ideologies that African Americans are not intellectual. In a NPR broadcast titled Are Positive Stereotypes Racist Too, Professor Lewis, who teaches Sociology and Black Studies at City College of New York, says, “We get the notion that African-Americans show really great proclivity towards sports, which is symptoms that we don’t have proclivity towards academics or other types of things that go beyond physical labor. This stereotype comes out of slavery and things that even Jimmy The Greek said in the 1980s. So we actually limit what African-American men are able to do,” (NPR 2007). Thus, the original context is key to understanding who created these prejudice beliefs in order to understand how they affected that group then and how these beliefs still negatively affect the group today. Through the knowledge of uncovering the source of a stereotype, society has the power to either reinforce or reduce those beliefs. It is evident from the movie that this stereotype about African Americans tendency toward sports and not academics is a single faceted view of this group since, to the amazement of Jay, Chris is able to solve the puzzle within a few minutes. Therefore, in this one scene there are elements which emphasize the dominant ideology about African Americans being less intellectual than White, dominant culture while simultaneously debunking this idea. Still, the struggle African Americans face, as well as other minority groups, in today’s society is proof of what Edward Said, a professor and researcher of post-colonial theory, is trying to discredit. “To produce knowledge you have to have the power to be there and to see in expert ways things that the natives themselves cannot see,” said Said, (Edward Said on Orientalism 2012). Said believes it is this idea that causes people to see knowledge as objective and written by experts, chosen by members of society, who are restating the values and beliefs of the white, heterosexual dominant class. The constant restating of dominant ideologies begs the question how can society foster happiness for everyone when it is more interested in one type of happiness?