Race Memory (2006) – By Brian Morton

Having lived in Detroit my whole life, racism is just a fact of life. Whites against Blacks, Blacks against Whites, it’s all just plain stupid! So, that being just a fact of life here in the U.S., much less here in Detroit, Peter O’Keefe’s short, Race Memory struck a resonant chord with me.

Race Memory is basically the story of a man sitting in a bar recounting a story from his youth. The story is typical of Detroit (or any big city, really) in the 60s, the story of a young black child roughed up and humiliated at the hands of white cops. Now, this, now grown, black man is telling his story to an older white man at the bar. The story goes in turn from story to reminiscence to accusation and we, the viewers, aren’t really sure if this is the start of a fight or just a story…but never-the-less, the uncomfortable feeling moves from the screen to the viewer rather easily.

Race Memory is a great short, it makes you think about your stance and other peoples, while reminding us that, no matter what color our skin happens to be, we’ve all had bad experiences and should try to move past them as we get older. Peter O’Keefe has crafted, not just a short film, but a real thought provoking piece here. Race Memory isn’t just a movie, it’s a testimony to what racism can do to people, not just while it’s happening, but years later. I hate to say that any movie ‘made me think’ but Race Memory really did, and I didn’t mind it!

If you’re interested in seeing this provocative movie for yourself, you can see it in streaming video on http://www.undergroundfilm.org. And, until next time when we’ll look back in anger and then wonder why we’re angry about things we can’t change, remember that the best movies are bad movies.