Review: 'Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America' an unflinching look in the mirror
In a perfect world, I would require all Americans to watch the provocative and profound documentary, "Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America." On the other hand, if the world was perfect, there would be no need to discuss or teach anything about racism because racism would not exist. Not now, not ever.
Sadly, this world - this country - is FAR from perfect, to state things mildly. But thank goodness there are men like Jeffery Robinson, a deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Harvard grad, who has dedicated his life to educating people on racial justice issues, and whose lectures provide the backbone of the new film, "Who We Are."
This film details precisely why we must fight back against those opposed to teaching Americans - old and young - about the real history of our country in relation to slavery, oppression and white supremacy, and it does so in a way that embraces - not ridicules - those uneducated, unaware or defiant in their beliefs to the contrary.
On the ACLU website regarding this film, it states: "It's time to rethink everything you think you know about American history." Robinson sets out in the film to make a case about how and why history has been presented to the masses in a certain way, and why common modern mindsets must be re-developed. His approach is not "anti-America" but in fact quite the opposite. To quote Superman, Robinson values the "truth" and "justice" just as much as that last part, "The American Way," which seems to be the misguided focus of many.
Much of the problem it seems comes for a lack of education...a willful ignorance of the facts. Robinson, in about as friendly and polite a manner as one can have, at one point in the film approaches and has a conversation with a clear MAGA hard-core Trump supporter who is protesting in front of a Civil War statue. The statue, the man says, is a part of American history. Robinson points out that unlike statues of our nation's founders like Washington, ALL Confederate monuments to their leaders were erected after the Civil War...not exactly created to celebrate America but rather to celebrate a version of America that never was, thankfully so.
Other tidbits that might be shocking based on your understanding of history: Did you know that there is a third "forgotten" verse of our National Anthem, one that directly mentions "hirelings and slaves"? In context, the author Francis Scott Key basically disparages slaves who fought for their freedom during the War of 1812...Key himself was a slave owner and was quoted as seeing blacks as an "inferior race." It makes you see men like Colin Kaepernick in a different light, when he decides to take a knee during the Anthem. America is hardly "the land of the free."
This is just one of many important "discoveries" and topics that Robinson discusses head-on. "Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America" is not politically-charged or motivated...it is however, an urgent beacon to our nation to push forward - defiantly but constructively, with force but with purpose. Civil Rights have been fought for, men have died for its causes and our country has come so close, so many times, to making real change. Robinson, if nothing else, is determined to do all he can to make us face an important truth: That "who we were" and "who we are" are closely-linked, but we have the ultimate say as to "who we become."
Run Time: 1 hour 57 minutes.
Featuring: Jeffery Robinson.
Directed by Emily and Sarah Kunstler ("William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe").
"Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America" is in theaters on Friday, February 4th, 2022.
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