“In 2011 my wife and I became the parents of our nephew, who was living in Queens, New York,” explains Jeff Robinson, the writer and subject of the documentary, “Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America.” “His mother died… so our nephew Matthew moved from Queens, New York to Seattle, Washington and my wife and I did not have children. I was a criminal defense lawyer coming out of law school, so I had been working on racial justice issues for most of my career. Having a young, Black man in my home who was 13 years old and walking out into the world terrified me.” Watch the full video chat with Jeff and the film’s co-directors, Emily and Sarah Kunstler, above.
Interweaving lecture, personal anecdotes, interviews, and shocking revelations, Robinson draws a stark timeline of anti-Black racism in the United States, from slavery to the modern myth of a post-racial America. “As I started reading, I started finding things about our history that I had never been taught,” he admits. The graduate of Marquette University and Harvard Law School found the experience “extremely humiliating” and then began to wonder, “How many other people don’t know this?”
“I had the good fortune of hearing Jeff speak at a ‘Continuing of Legal Education’ presentation,” Sarah describes as her introduction to Robinson. “Jeff shook me to my core. I immediately wanted to share what I had learned with everyone I knew. I walked out of the conference room and called Emily and said, ‘You’re busy. I’m booking you because you have to help me figure out how to help Jeffery Robinson take this to the world.”
The Kunstler sisters are the daughters of the late defense attorney William Kunstler who rose to prominence as one of the lawyers for the Chicago Seven and was portrayed in the film, “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” by Oscar winner Mark Rylance. “Both of our parents taught us that it was our responsibility to stand up for what was right and to make change in the world,” Sarah says while discussing her famous dad. “They were both committed anti-racists. I’m a lawyer and that’s part of the path I took as a person committed to making change. Emily and I have also been filmmakers for the past 20 years, or maybe longer, together. For us it has been our primary way of engaging with politics, activism and trying to put media out in the world that inspires people to look at things differently.”
“Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America” was produced by Off Center Media and will be distributed nation-wide by Sony Pictures Classics on January 14, 2022.
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