American History X: Racism
American History X is arguably the best film addressing the existence of racism in the most straight forward manner. The interesting thing about this film is the way in which the subject is treated. First of all, it is obvious that, though racism is always a difficult subject to deal with, American History X presents it without any reservations. White privilege is the basis of the movie and it also, Secures its dominance by seeming not to be anything in particular.
As the unmarked category against which difference is constructed, whiteness never has to speak its name, never had to acknowledge its role as an organizing principle in society and cultural relations (Lipsitz 201). What makes Derek such a powerful and frightening character is not the fact that he is racist, but that he is a well-spoken and bright individual. Many would say that the personalityof his character shows that he is dealing with his own white privilege.
The movie takes a turn when Derek ends up in jail and is raped for his actions in jail by fellow white inmates. However, particular qualities allow him to recruit the youths of Venice Beach and form, with the help of his mentor Cameron Alexander, the entire white supremacist culture permeating the area. Instead of just telling them to hate African Americans, Hispanic and Asian people because they are of that race, he makes speeches, telling them persuasively and passionately how these people are stealing their jobs.
By stealing their employment, white Americans suffer a poor standard of living, They say, if [you] can’t earn enough money to get by …go back to school and get [your] GEDs so [you] can get higher-paying jobs. But let’s be realistic, we’re talking about survival here. When your kids are hungry and your family is homeless, getting a degree is pretty low on the hierarchy of meeting your family’s immediate and urgent needs (Schwartz-Nobel 125). Derek is severely dangerous because of the powerful qualities he possesses, and the film makes that clear.
This also shows that racism is not just people hating each other for no reason, or misunderstanding. It shows that it is deep-rooted and all-consuming. When Derek expands upon all his theories and delivers his sermons, you can see how evil this view really is. The movie depicts white characters taking their race for granted until Derek goes to jail and meets Lamont, an African American man who worked in the laundry room with him, who at first, Derek takes very little interest in talking to and befriending.
However, after warming up to him, he realizes that in prison, Lamont is his only true friend and eventually protects him from the black gangs in jail. Mr. Sweeney, the African American principle also plays a role of eventually helping Derek indirectly by getting through to his brother Danny, and telling him that he once was a troubled child like himself, but later came to the realization that race is just a skin tone and racism is pointless. People seeking solutions to America’s massive racial problems must resolutely eschew the temptation to prettify ugly realities.
Crime and its racial demographics are part of those realities. It does no good to pretend that blacks and whites are similarly situated with respect to either rates of perpetration or rates of victimization. They are not. A dramatic crime gap separates them. In relation to their percentage in population, blacks on average both commit more crimes and are more often victimized by criminality (Kennedy 145). This goes to show, that race is an issuethat will always have to be faced, and there are no ways to beautify it.
Race is straight to the point and there are no ways to hide discrimination. The crime gap that separates blacks and whites is important and helps to label minorities of the movie and glorify Derek’s actions to himself and others wholook up to and follow him and his actions. All the other minorities such as Hispanics, throughout the movie are portrayed as terrible people who have committed a crime, in jail, involved in hate crime, etc. leading to the depiction and stereotype that minorities are troublesome to our society.
Another interesting thing about the way this film portrays racism is that it shows it as a problems of two sides, no simply one group hating another. In American History X, the people Derek and his crew commit hate-crimes against and oppress are also clearly shown to play a part in this as well, and have their flaws and faults. For example, a group of black students, including the one who later shoots Danny, beat up a white student in the bathroom for telling the teacher one of them was cheating. Also, as mentioned before a group of black guys try to break into Derek’s truck at his house.
White neo-Nazis also rape Derek in prison, and a black man saves Derek in prison, so clearly this film shows that racism is not a simple one way street, it involves two parties and has many facets. Works Cited Kennedy, Randall. 1997. “Race, Law and Suspicion: Using Color as a Proxy for Dangerousness. ” Pg. 145 in Race, Crime and the Law. New York: Vintage. Lipsitz, George. “The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: Racialized Social Democracy. ” By Charles A. Gallagher. 3rd Ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 2007. 201. Massey, Douglas A. “Residential Segregation and Neighborhood Conditions in U. S.
Metropolitan Areas. ” Rethinking the Color Line. By Charles A. Gallagher. 3rd Ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill, 2007. 236. McIntosh, Peggy. 1997 “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences through Work in Women’s Studies. ” Pg. 296 in Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror, Richard Delgado ; Jean Stefancic, Eds. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Schwartz-Nobel, Loretta. 2002. “Hunger and the Working Poor: Long Hours, Starvation Wages. ” Pg. 125 in Growing Up Empty: How Federal Policies Are Starving America’s Children. New York: Perennial.