Alice Walker's story "The Flowers" is similar to Paul Haggis' Crash in the sense that both works explore the theme of racism and its effects on society.
In "The Flowers," a little girl's innocence is shattered when she encounters the body of a man who has been lynched. After discovering the almost rotted remains of the noose, Myop lays down her flowers: to take the flowers home would be to ignore the import of what she has just seen. Thus, a joyously carefree afternoon becomes marred when the reality of Jim Crow America stares into the face of an innocent girl.
In Crash, an African-American power couple (television director Cameron Thayer, and his wife, Christine) are harassed by racist LAPD officer, John Ryan. Meanwhile, Farhad (a Middle Eastern shop owner) and his daughter, Dorri, have to endure racially-tinged insults when they try to purchase a weapon at a gun store. The store owner is persuaded that Farhad has evil intentions, and he does not hesitate to let Farhad know what he thinks of him.
In yet another incident of racial animus, Daniel Ruiz (an Hispanic locksmith) finds himself facing distrust from Jean Cabot (the wife of the district attorney, Rick Cabot). Jean is visibly uncomfortable when she sees Daniel's tattoos; she thinks that he belongs to a gang and that he will lead his gang-banger friends to their home (to rob them).
So, both works explore the theme of racism and how it affects those who are exposed to it. In laying down her flowers, Myop lays down her innocence as well as her trust that she can lead a safe life. Similarly, minority characters in Crash have to navigate a treacherous social landscape due to recent events that have ignited the fears of mainstream American society.
Unlike "The Flowers," however, Crash also illustrates that racism is not exclusive to any particular segment of society: in the movie, various characters demonstrate instances of racial intolerance that mirror the challenges of race relations in America. For instance, after two black carjackers, Anthony and Peter, hit a Korean man, Peter immediately labels the man a "Chinaman." The two carjackers then unceremoniously dump the injured Korean man in front of an emergency room entrance before making their getaway.
In another incident, Farhad angrily harasses Daniel (the Hispanic locksmith), because he thinks that Daniel is trying to cheat him. Farhad accuses Daniel of not wanting to fix the lock on his shop door, while Daniel tries to tell him that a new door would be a better investment. Because his English skills are limited, Farhad has a difficult time understanding Daniel. Later, Farhad's store is robbed, and he discovers that his insurance company will not cover the damages. Farhad bitterly blames Daniel for his predicament and lies in wait to shoot the Hispanic locksmith.
In many ways, Crash demonstrates the intricacy of race relations in America, a topic which is not addressed in "The Flowers." When Cameron and Anthony are surrounded by white police officers, Officer Hanson tries to defuse the tense situation by vouching for Cameron. For his part, Cameron basically tells Anthony that he is embarrassed to be associated with black men like him (who commit crimes and lead dangerous lives). The delicate issue of race relations is further highlighted when Rick (the district attorney) laments that the two carjackers are black; he's afraid that if he prosecutes them, he will lose the black vote. Conversely, if he doesn't, he will lose the "law and order" vote.