I want to make you aware of a project that some of my friends are involved with. Rather than go on and on about it myself, I will post the information from their “kickstarter” page:
AN “OPEN-SOURCE” DOCUMENTARY
Profiling America is an “open-source” documentary. That means that every aspect of the project from fundraising, to pre-production, to production, to post-production, is a nationwide collaborative effort. Anyone can raise funds. Anyone can earn an Associate Producer credit by raising a minimum of one thousand dollars toward the $100,000 goal. Anyone and everyone can go to www.profilingamericamovie.com and contribute their own ideas about the film, from the content, the stories the film will tell, the experts to be interviewed, the subjects to be investigated, even the overall aesthetics of the film. Anyone can volunteer to help out during production. In post-production, however, there are limits to the collaboration. In order to have access to the footage and take part in post-production discussions, you have to have contributed at least $5 to the fundraiser. Profiling America is not “a film by Thom Stark.” It’s an open-source film by America, initiated by Thom Stark. Of course, the open-source metaphor can only extend so far. Thom will ultimately have the final say on what ideas can reasonably be incorporated if the film is going to be coherent, but all ideas are welcome and will be given full consideration. Anyone can contribute to the process.
Why an “open-source” film? The answer is simple. It’s a film that deals with deep-seated problems in our society, and ours is, or rather, has to be an open-source society if it’s going to be a society worth sustaining. So the nature of the film reflects the nature of the world we have to create.
The death of Trayvon Martin in Florida has reignited a conversation about race, religion and violence in America. We live within the most diverse culture the world has ever known but also in a culture which—after 250 years of struggle for justice and equality—is still plagued by fear and charged with racially and religiously motivated violence. Profiling America is a documentary film project that will explore the experience of racial and religious minorities and pursue tough questions about how discriminatory attitudes are produced, work themselves out, and can be overcome in America today.
You don’t have to rely on recent headlines to know that there’s still pervasive inequality and xenophobia in America. Shockingly, the average white household is twenty times richer than the average Hispanic or African American household. Unemployment rates for black and hispanic Americans are at depression levels (at times, double that of whites). In black America the statistics are staggering: one of every two black teenagers will drop out of high school, and almost one in three will spend time in prison during their life.
After 9/11, well-funded Islamophobic foundations have ratcheted up misinformation campaigns against the religion of Islam and have worked to portray Muslim Americans as a threat to the American way of life. Nearly fifty percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Islam (compared to 39% just 8 years ago). A Time magazine poll reported in 2010 that one third of Americans think Muslims should be ineligible to run for President of the United States. Meanwhile, the most recent report from the FBI states that hate crimes (including vandalism against mosques and violent personal attacks) against Muslim Americans have surged fifty percent in the last year.
Profiling America is a documentary film that will follow the lives of three different Americans, each a victim of a significant incident of racial profiling—one an African American, another a Hispanic American, and the third a Muslim American. Our hope also is to recruit three well-known personalities each representing one of the three minority groups featured in the film, who will narrate the stories over footage that my team will shoot.
Racial and religious discrimination are complex phenomena and we are going to try to look at the issues from all different angles. We’ll talk to historians and sociologists and purveyors of pop culture to try to get a sense of the bigger context for religion and race relations in our society, both through our history and today in popular media and politics. We’ll look at the dynamic between individual and institutional expressions of race-based and religion-based discrimination. We’ll interview scientists about the biological roots of these powerful emotions of fear and aversion to ‘the Other’ and why these emotions are so hard to overcome and codify into law and social norms.
We also feel it’s important to identify the people and institutions that exploit these emotions for political or commercial gain, and call them out. It’s hard to believe, but there are people who literally make their living spreading misinformation and stoking misunderstanding between different communities. We’ll even flip the coin over and ask questions from the other side, like “isn’t reverse racism just as bad and as prevalent as racism?” and “isn’t refraining from criticizing Islam’s violent side just capitulating to political correctness?” These kinds of statements are common among those who have been influenced by certain media outlets, but we’ll give them a fair hearing and call on experts to examine them closely.
How do we build a culture of understanding and trust? How can we include everybody in our society without lashing out at each other over our differences? If we are going to take the next step in America, if we are going to, one day, truly become a nation of equality and justice for all, we have to keep working. We have to educate ourselves and argue with one another. We have to donate our time and our money to worthy projects. We have to take that risky step across that line into that unfamiliar community where we are the strangers … and begin to make friends. In this film we want to shine a light on people who are doing exactly these things. We will profile some of the exemplary individuals and groups who show us how to build community across racial and religious boundaries.
Wearing a hijab or a hoody is no reason to fear for your life. In the memory of Trayvon Martin we are dedicating this film to improving America’s conversation about race, religion, and violence. We hope you’ll join us.
We know that movies like this won’t solve any problems. But they can be used as tools as we do the work necessary to build a culture of trust and cooperation. We’re confident that we can come together, not just to fund this film, but to build a better national community for our children and theirs. We know that people are exhausted by the polarizing politics that consume our lives. We know that people are more than ready to cast out all fear, and learn once more to trust our neighbors. So we thank you for your support.