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The main conflict in Remember the Titans is racial, and is centred around the recently integrated high school, T.C. Williams, in Alexandria, Virginia.
High schools in Virginia, and other states in the United States, had successfully segregated the education system under the so-called "Jim Crow Laws", which made it legal to segregate services to white and black Americans. The "white" high schools were provided with extensive funding and experienced teachers, while the African American schools received much less attention. The "Jim Crow Laws" for state-funded schooling were overturned in the case "Brown vs Board of Education" in 1954. This ruling began the de-segregation of high schools across America.
Although enacted according to Federal and State laws, de-segregation of schools caused high levels of conflict between different groups, within groups and between individuals, as characterised in Remember the Titans.
Intergroup animosity between white students and teachers and the newly arrived African American students and teachers. This can be seen in the anti-bussing protests by white residents as African-American students arrive for the new school year, in the (unofficial) segregation of spectators at football games and in the school halls, and in the general community atmosphere.
The relationship between former Head Coach, Bill Yoast, and the newly appointed (African American Head Coach) Herman Boone is the audience's first glimpse into the way that racial conflict can be affected at an interpersonal level. The choices made by the two coaches in the interest of "winning football games", sees the creation of a new team spirit. This spirit is based not on race or past conflicts, but on furthering the skills and community of the football team. As Yoast and Boone learn to work with each other in a respectful way, they teach their players that skin colour should never be the deciding factor in a judgement of character or skill.
Other examples of interpersonaland intra-group (within a group) conflict can be linked to racial, socio-cultural and gender stereoypes. The relationship between the two coaches' daughters shows conflict around traditional girls' games and interests (Yoast's daughter is an avid football fan and is not interested in dolls, dresses or tea parties. Boone's daughter, on the other hand, symbolises the stereotypical girl, and cannot relate to the other as a girl.) Within the football team, issues of social class and traditional gender stereotypes lead to conflict between individuals and subgroups within the team. The white players find it difficult to relate to a young (white) man who acts "black" and finds it easier to relate to the African American players, and the arrival of a long-haired, expressive young man leads the players to show their homophobic sides.
This film has been shown many times to illustrate the power of relationshipas a tool to break down inter-group stereotypes and conflicts, which are almost always epitomised by the words "they", "them" in opposition to "we" and "us". Through an examination of the ways that conflicts between groups, within groups and amongst individuals are based on (often incorrect) assumptions, the film encourages its audience to engage with others as humans of equal value.
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