Skin Deep

The idea for SKIN DEEP came about in the late 1980′s when Frances Reid, the producer / director, noticed a dramatic increase in the number of racial incidents at colleges and universities across the country. Twenty-five years after the Civil Rights Movement racism and racial tension seemed to be very much alive in this country. Maybe less overt, but very much alive.

After gathering newspaper clippings documenting the increase in racial violence and tension, we decided to do some interviews. It immediately became clear that a scratch beneath the skin of supposedly successful “multicultural” and “diversity” programs revealed some very painful experiences and deep wounds. If racism was a thing of the past, then how come so many individuals were being scarred by its nasty presence everyday? And this was especially disheartening on college campuses, our institutions of higher education where learning and open-mindedness were theoretically encouraged. As we interviewed students we were told over and over again that they felt unable to speak out. Their tongues were tied because there was no where to discuss problems and no one wanted to acknowledge the ugly reality of racism on campuses. Many students, both white and students of color, told us they were afraid to speak up because if they did they might be misinterpreted or seen as complainers. There was no place safe or constructive for dialogue.


SKIN DEEP, a 53 minute documentary film by Academy Award® nominated filmmaker, Frances Reid, tells the story of college students nationwide confronting the reality of race relations in America today.

The film explores what happens when culturally diverse students from colleges across the United States start talking candidly with each other about the impact of race on their experience and outlook. Brought together for a weekend retreat the students examine their deeply held attitudes and feelings about race and ethnicity while exploring the barriers to building a society that truly respects diversity and pluralism. Scenes of their participation in group discussions, as well as personal portraits and views of their lives at home and at college, reveal why racial tension persists and suggest ways of overcoming our country’s complex legacy of racial injustice, apathy, and alienation.

A response to the reappearance of overt racist activity in the United States, especially on college and high school campuses, SKIN DEEP challenges student and community audiences of all kinds to examine their own race-related beliefs and practices. As a catalyst for much needed interracial dialogue, it will also provide viewers with insights into possibilities for change.  Preview footage from the film below (as excerpted in the TALKING ABOUT RACE set) and browse the SKIN DEEP study guide here.




“Frances Reid’s film captures both the subtle nuances and the visceral raw simplicities of today’s students struggling to deal with racial, ethnic and cultural differences. There is much ill-informed hand-wringing about race relations on college campuses across the nation–but here is one of the few successful recordings to throw light on the actual experiences. This is an important work.”
–Troy Duster
Director, Institute for the Study of Social Change

“The presentation, through film, of a group of students examining their attitudes about race and being willing to talk about it provides a dynamic model for the American public, young and old alike, who often find the issue of race one of the most awkward to discuss openly.”
–Henry Der
Executive Director, Chinese for Affirmative Action, San Francisco

“An exemplary film which will enrich and deepen discussions by college students, faculty and community groups addressing the complex aspects of race and racism.”
–Reginald Wilson
Senior Scholar, American Council On Education

“TALKING ABOUT RACE is extremely well conceived and gutsy. The package will be invaluable to any educator who is prepared to tackle issues surrounding race openly and honestly.”
–Mark Gorney
Program Coordinator, University of Wisconsin, Green Bay

Film as Catalyst

Films have the power to move people to new levels of social critique and self-examination. They also get people talking. SKIN DEEP was conceived as a tool for sparking discussion about race and racism. The film, along with the facilitation guide, allows teachers or group leaders of any kind create an ideal environment for genuine exchange. Honest dialogue is the first step to addressing racism and coming together to work against it.  SKIN DEEP and the collection of excerpts included in TALKING ABOUT RACE, along with their study guides, help make that kind of dialogue possible.

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