In his film Race 2012, a Conversation About Race and Politics in America, Phillip Rodriguez uses the current presidential election as a lens through which to explore America’s rapidly changing racial landscape. Race 2012, a PBS Election 2012 special, is a provocative conversation about race and politics that documents the changing face of America, and how that change may affect the country’s political future. In an interview with Phillip Rodriguez, the filmmaker shares his inspiration behind the film and thoughts on this year’s election and the role race will play. Be sure to watch Race 2012 online at PBS.org. For more information on the film, follow Race 2012 on Facebook and Twitter.
Race 2012 is a non-partisan provocative conversation about race and politics. What inspired you to produce this film?
In the aftermath of the election of Barak Obama in 2008, a great deal of discussion took place about America entering a “post-racial era.” I wanted to assess the truth of that claim four years later.
How does Race 2012 differ from other public affairs programs on PBS?
“Race 2012” is driven by ideas and voices that emerge from a wide variety of racial, political and economic perspectives. The film might even be accused of privileging American perspectives not commonly heard in primetime PBS programming.
With a biracial President in the White House, do you believe the discussion on race has become easier or more difficult to have?
Is Obama biracial? I thought he was black. There remains some dispute about how to racially categorize the President. And this dispute is particularly resonant at this time, when we are moving decidedly out of the black/white racial order into one that will be written by Latinos, Asians and other new immigrant groups.
Four years ago, PBS aired your documentary Latinos ’08 which examined how the presidential candidates and advocacy groups were trying to mobilize and attract Latino voters. Why did you choose to document other racial groups for the 2012 election?
I’ve done a lot of work as a filmmaker on the Latino experience. It’s a really important, interesting and fertile ground to work in. But it isn’t the only thing I’m interested in. This film takes on the changing nature of American racial identity and political behavior of whites, blacks and other major food groups.
How is it that some groups have successfully claimed the right to tell general interest and universal stories and other groups have been relegated to telling ethnically specific stories? It’s time we trample these partitions, these peripheral enclaves allotted us.
The Latino vote played a significant role in the 2008; do you believe it is still highly sought out by the candidates and continues to play a significant role?
The Latino vote will continue to grow in significance as their numbers increase and as they incorporate themselves into the political process. But in the 2012 presidential election cycle, Latinos are less in play than they were in 2008. For a variety of reasons which “Race 2012” investigates, the GOP decided to abdicate the Latino vote to the Democrats.
You begin the film with the election of Barack Obama and the faces of hopeful Americans. Later in the film, staggering numbers illustrate the increase in poverty amongst African-Americans and Latinos. Do you feel the hope in Americans has shifted?
Hope in general is in shorter supply than it was in 2008 for the many Americans, but particularly for whites. Despite the fact that Latinos and blacks have been hit a great deal harder by this recession than whites have, Latinos and blacks are more optimistic about the future than are whites. Something is stirring.
In the film, you also address the economic divide amongst Americans of all racial backgrounds. How important do you feel is the discussion on class and politics? Why do you think it is not often addressed?
There are many who argue that Americans have indulged in race analysis at the expense of much more urgent class analysis. It is an important subject of the film and will likely be an important question in the coming decades.
The 2010 census is identified in the film as a “post-card from the future”, where the numbers illustrate a decline in the White-American population. How do you think this will affect America’s political future?
It’s an open question to what degree will these demographic changes will alter our political institutions, party affiliations, political attitudes and policy priorities. “Race 2012” wrangles with some of these.
Can you tell us about other projects you are currently working on?
We are doing a film about a mid-twentieth century journalist who died at the hands of Los Angeles police under mysterious circumstances. It is a story about journalism, state surveillance, identity formation and a who-done-it. And yes, it’s a Latino story.1303 Views