Racism and xenophobia have existed throughout the world for centuries, and have been the underlying cause of many conflicts, wars, murders and other human tragedies worldwide. During slavery in America, black and white separated, when they thought the blacks were less worthy and feared the strangers.
Although slavery ended long ago, racism and xenophobia are still a problem today. Some people continue to believe that some people are less worthy of another because of the skin colour, although studies show that there is no difference. Many problems arise today, due to cultural differences and xenophobia, because they do not understand each other.
What happens when we meet another culture and skin colour? Why do conflicts and misunderstandings lead to violent behaviour? These are some of the primary focus areas we see in the film Gran Torino, produced by Clint Eastwood, who is also playing the lead role as the wrecked war veteran and widower, named Walt Kowalski.
Walt's attitude towards strangers is very racist and we see it for the first time in the scene where he has guests in connection with his wife's funeral. He stands in the front yard with his beloved dog and looks over at his Asian neighbours and says to himself, "How many swamp rats can you stumble into a room?" In this scene, we are in no doubt that he hates his Asian neighbors and we understand it will play an important role in the film.
The neighbour’s son, Thao, calls on Walt's door and asks if he can borrow some boot cables. Walt has no trouble expressing his racist attitude and calls Thao a nickname about his skin tone and slammed the door. We can now see clearly that Walt absolutely is not interested in any kind of contact with his neighbours, and especially because they are Asians.
The neighbourhood where Walt lives, there are not many Americans left, very typical in the United States where immigrants have ghetto-like areas, but Walt will not move, and he does not understand why the strangers live in his neighbourhood.
We see a scene in the movie where the older Asian woman sits on the porch and talks to Walt in her own language, as Walt does not understand. She doesn’t understand why the old white grumbler has not moved yet like all the other Americans, and Walt does not understand why the yellow strangers are going to invade his neighbourhood.
They both end up spitting on the ground and it is a clear cultural congestion. Racism is a huge problem in in America because of prejudice, and lack of communication and understanding of other cultures.