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A Black College Student Presents a Theory of Power: Higher Learning

by Curtis Marez

Influenced by the 1992 Rodney King uprisings in his native South Central, but based on his experiences as a USC undergraduate in the late 1980s, John Singleton’s Higher Learning was actually filmed at UCLA (according to the director, his alma mater refused to allow him to make the film at USC). Set at the fictional Columbus University (with a statue of Columbus the explorer replacing the famous statue of Tommy Trojan), HL is  sort a of campus problem film that represents conflicts over race, gender, sexuality, and class. It suggests what activists and scholars call an “intersectional” analysis of power (while nonetheless falling short of such an analysis in many ways). Its intersecting narratives include: a racist, date-raping white fraternity brother; black students at odds with a group of white skinheads; a tough love black political science professor; a white woman who questions her heterosexuality and becomes a feminist, anti-racist activist; and finally, a black student from South Central, Malik Williams, partly based on Singleton’s own experiences. This clip introduces a character called Fudge (Ice Cube), who explains the power of global financial institutions such as the World Bank and IMF. How does this scene compare with other films about public education that focus on the problems with state power rather than financial institutions (see clips and commentaries tagged “privatization” and “dystopian science fiction”)?

by Larry Fitzgerald

A College Student Presents a Theory of Power: Higher Learning

A student presents a theory of power at a dorm party.

from Higher Learning (1995)
Creator: John Singleton
Distributor: Columbia
Posted by Curtis Marez