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‘Crash’ forces viewers to examine stereotypes

Sunday night at the Oscars, everyone was surprised that the movie "Crash" won for Best Picture. What does that say about the racial divide in America? NBC's George Lewis reports.

It was an upset win that shocked even the people who made the movie.

One producer of the movie “Crash,” which won best picture honors at Sunday's Academy Awards, was caught on camera mouthing the words, “Oh my God!” when actor Jack Nicholson announced the winner.

“Crash,” an offbeat story about the racial and ethnic fault lines that divide Los Angeles, not only won best picture, but director and co-writer Paul Haggis also shared the Oscar for best original screenplay. Accepting the award, Haggis quoted fa amous German author, Bertolt Brecht, who said, “Art is not a mirror to hold up to society, but rather a hammer with which to shape it.”

Sometimes it's art that hammers society.

Author and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson says he was notsurprised that “Crash” got the Oscar. 

“It really, really challenged all ethnic groups,” he says, “about stereotypes, about biases, about their prejudices.”

Harsh reality can do that too, Hutchinson says. The suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina, for example.

“I think it has an effect on people,” he says. “It makes them wake up.”

Fourteen years after the Los Angeles riots, 14 years after Rodney King posed that question, “Can we all get along?” — investigators are examining a videotape in which a black sheriff's deputy, perhaps sensing a threat, shoots an unarmed Latino serviceman just back from Iraq.

And at the movies, an Oscar-winning film forces us to look at stereotypes most of us want to pretend aren't there.