American History X Review



12/02/03


FYI: American Civil Rights Movement

Movie Review



American History X is a movie designed for a better understanding of racism in our current time. The graphic and somewhat disturbing film depicted anger and resentment between a “ghetto” black community and a white neo-nazi gang. One of the main ideas in this movie is to show that a person, who can see both sides of an issue, can make better decisions based on that knowledge.
The movie begins with graphic scenes of the neo-nazi leader Derek Vineyard.


The leading cause for Derek becoming a white supremacist was the fact that he was raised that way. His father was racist, and he instilled his beliefs in Derek and the rest of his family. Derek learned to be a white supremacist from his father.
With the loss of his father, Danny turned to Derek as the father figure. Danny thought his brother was a hero. As the story goes he followed in Derek’s footsteps; the only difference was that Danny was still thinking. This is evident in the fact that he questioned the white supremacy cause. Danny wasn’t blinded by anger and this proves that racism can be unlearned.
After killing two black men, Derek is sentenced to three years in prison. In jail Derek learns a lot about his life and the world around him. While he joins with people of the same beliefs, he finds that they aren’t that different. When he saw a member of the gang buy drugs from a Hispanic man and sell it to white guy, it goes against his beliefs. The other thing that happens he made a new acquaintance, a black man, he learned that people are just people no matter the color. This is reinforced when his gang attacked him and the blacks left him alone.


The major change in Derek came when Sweeney (Derek and Danny’s black teacher) visited him in jail, after the rape. Derek had hit rock bottom, and realized everything that he stood for was wrong. He realized that his behavior, ideas, and “friends” destroyed his real family. He became more supportive of his sisters school, wanted to get his mother back into a real home, and wanted to change his brother’s way of thinking. Sadly, the movie ends with Danny being killed by a young black man at his school.


The just of the film is to show racism in the twentieth-first century. Many associate racial discrimination problems with the Civil Rights Movement in the sixties, but in fact, racism is still alive in America today. Many believe that America has grown out of their harsh and corrupt ways of racism, which in fact, America has come a long way. However, Americans in man areas continue to struggle with American’s diversity. This struggle is interpreted in hate crimes and hates groups being formed, such as the one seen in American History X.
I appreciate the film for it’s efforts to show the change of mind of Derek after being released from prison. Throughout the first part of the movie, I was thoroughly disturbed with the neo-nazi-skin head gatherings, and simply the hate that was portrayed in the film. However, I believe that by depicting this hate group’s extreme anger, the conversion of Derek to a racial tolerant was more effective and sincere.


Americans can learn to appreciate racial tolerance through this film. It is difficult to watch American History X without sensing fear or uneasiness about the subject of hate and racism. However, many times Americans shelter themselves by believing that racism was an issue of the sixties and all white supremacy groups are dead; this is not the case, as seen in the film.