Racism in American History X “Get the fuck out of my house! ” exclaims Derek as he pulls down his wife-beater to reveal a swastika tattoo, “See this? That means not welcome. ” American History X, directed by Tony Kaye, is a movie about the transformation of Derek Vinyard: a young neo-Nazi skinhead. Derek’s father, Dennis Vinyard, was a middle-class fireman who disagreed with many of the ideological changes–such as affirmative “black” action–happening in America at the time. His father died while trying to put out a fire in a minority community.
Derek essentially put the blame on the minorities for his father’s death as he says in the news interview: “Decent hard working Americans like my dad are getting rubbed out by these social parasites”. The death of a loved one is never an easy thing to go through. Derek felt that somebody else was responsible for the death other than his father. From then on this racist ideology stuck with Derek until his eventual murder of two black thugs, which got him sent to jail for three years.
During the second dinner scene before the murder, the family argues about the recent Rodney King incident. In the argument, Derek’s close-minded ideology and oversimplification of the issue leads him to commit several logical fallacies, such as double standard, false dilemma, and red herring. Derek uses the double standard fallacy extensively throughout this scene. His ideology plays a major role in his reasoning: “That’s crap.
I don’t buy that for a minute… the fact that these people ripped off the stores in their own communities–all that reflects is that these people absolutely have no respect for the law at all and certainly no concept of community or civic responsibility” Derek begins by poisoning the well. He exclaims that the previous point made by Murray was “crap”. Derek sees minorities as having no respect because they ripped off their own kind and seemingly explains that the reason these people commit these crimes is because they have no concept of community or responsibility.
Now wait a minute. Murray makes a good point that, “white people commit crimes against white people, too. ” And that is where the double standard comes in. Earlier in the movie Derek convinces his gang to loot the local grocery store in his community because “now some fucking Korean owns it”. Instead of just telling the gang to hate black, hispanic, asian people because they are of that race, he makes speeches, telling them charismatically and passionately how these people are stealing their jobs, causing Americans to suffer a poor standard of living.
Although his act wasn’t a crime between people of the same race, it was still obviously committed with no concept of community because it was fueled by racist ideology. Derek justifies this act of civil disobedience by blaming the government for allowing so many illegal immigrants across the border. In summary, Derek labels this same act of rioting differently depending on the race of people who commit the act. Subsequent to the previous fallacy, Derek presents the family with a false dilemma as to why black people tend to commit crime. “Look at the statistics for Christ’s sake.
One in every three black males is in some phase of the correctional system. Is that a coincidence, or do these people have like a racial commitment to crime? ” Derek’s first reason is that it may just be a coincidence, while his second reason is pretty much an accusation against the African American race. Derek proposes two and only two alternatives for consideration when many more underlying factors exist. For example Davina Vinyard makes a point that there could be social inequalities–like poverty or education level–that may differ between races.
And Murray also adds that the statistic could also be due to a large amount of prejudice in the justice system towards race. For instance Derek’s black friend in jail was accused of assault and sentenced to six years because he dropped a stolen TV on the policeman’s foot. Derek oversimplifies the issue by presenting two reasons and fails to acknowledge any of the underlying factors that may be in play to produce the statistic. Finally, near the end of the conversation Derek uses the red herring fallacy to further support his radical view. If Rodney King had been driving along, hopped up on Chivas Regal and PCP and had killed Danny, you’d be singing a very different tune about the force of those cops. ” In order to prove his point that King deserved the beating for what he had done, Derek presents the situation in a totally different light. Derek immediately shifts the discussion to something emotional (the death of his brother Danny) and the possibility of King hitting into someone during his high-speed chase is totally off topic because he didn’t in fact hit anybody.
In doing so he uses appeal to fear to commit the fallacy of red herring. Derek’s blatant racism against the “struggling black man” is shown throughout this scene. Derek refers to King as a “monkey” twice, which displays his obvious lack of respect towards other races. Derek’s strong racial prejudice is obvious towards the end when he screams anti-Semitic insults at Murray and tells him to get out of the house. But what we’re all wondering (including Davina), “What is your point, Derek? Derek struggles to make a point that the white cops in the incident were doing their job and being persecuted for it, while Rodney King was no longer the focus of the incident. However, Derek’s arguments contained double standard, false dilemma, and red herring fallacies, which discredit and oversimplify the issue at hand. After Derek returns from jail he realizes that the beliefs that were instilled in him were what caused him to think so irrationally and one-sided. The film makes excellent use of a cunning depiction of racists to convey how evil and destructive Derek’s attitude and ideas really were.
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