Sociological Analysis of Racism American History X
A Breakdown of the Stages of Racism Racism being a common concern for most sociologists is somewhat inevitable and a cause for a large proportion of the problems that occur in the society. American History X (1998) is a film that tells a rather heartrending tale of two brothers that got caught in a ghastly web of bitterness and hatred. Although racism is openly practiced, it isn’t entirely irreversible. The process of escaping from it, however, can be gradual and excruciating. In order to understand how to avoid racism, one needs to understand its foundation.
American History X enables us to see all the factors that play into the protagonists’ (Derek and Danny Vineyard’s) lives. The movie outlines the various ideologies that give birth to racism, resulting in some immoral actions, which are explored by the film writer who reveals their actual “origin”; subsequently leading to the alienation of the characters. The first part of the film depicts the racist ideologies that are used as an excuse to commit internal colonialism. It also denotes Antonio Grammar’s concept – hegemony, which refers to the ignorant ways and domination of the more powerful class over he other.
It makes you question the grounds of these social construct and wonder why there is so much hate. Just when you start to think you understand the justifications for their behavior, there is a scene in the second part of the film, with a flashback from Trek’s life. This is when of the movie delves deeper into the original source of Trek’s beliefs – the persistent; in simpler words, the actual meaning behind Derek actions. This will be talked about in more detail later in the essay. In the final part of the film, the main characters are alienated.
Their actions and beliefs lead them to their own demise. This is when they finally have an epiphany. Derek, for the first time, sees the unjust racist world around him. His new black friend from prison helps him see the legitimate reasons behind what had been going on around him. But is it too late by then? Danny Vineyard is shown as an opinionated child who voices himself in his school essay and gets into trouble for it. When his friend Seth asks him what he has learnt, he starts off saying that he hates anyone who isn’t a white protestant because they seem to be threatening the white race.
The idea of the non-protestants being a burden to the society is an ideology. The Thomas Nelson Canadian dictionary of Social Sciences describes an ideology as any belief formed by a group of people. A racist ideology is defined as “claiming that people can be classified into distinct races and that some races are inferior to others. Racist ideologies are used as justification for systems of slavery or colonial exploitation (Parkinson, 72). ” The white supremacists from the film have formed strong and vicious ideologies about the minorities.
Derek refers to the immigrants as “parasites” ND says that they are crossing the border only to exploit their country. He claims in an interview with a reporter that welfare, AIDS and immigration are not white people problems. Hence, the white people should not be concerned about them. He compares the parasites to the hardworking Americans like his father who was shot by a black man while putting out a fire in a black community, which he should not have even cared about in the first place. According to Derek, the minorities do not deserve the benefits the whites deserve.
All these beliefs are used as a legitimate excuse for throwing on a ask and trashing an innocent immigrant’s grocery store. An Italian Marxist Antonio Grammas came up with a term called hegemony. This term helps us understand the insidious way of social domination of various classes takes place. ‘While arising in the analysis of a class-divided society, the term is also used in discussion of a patriarchal society or a colonial society (Parkinson, 68). ” Such is the case with American History’ X. The movie shows clear evidence Of internal colonialism.
The minorities are secluded and not welcomed by the Americans. Moreover, the minorities do not realize that they re being dominated, until they come face to face with their loss. For example, the Asian immigrant who owned the retail store or the black men that got killed by Derek. The question is: are these social strait the only fuel enraging these white Protestants, or are there deeper roots to them? Most killers tend to have scars from the past. Not necessarily physical scars but emotional. One of the reasons Derek felt so much hate toward the black was because one of them had actually killed his father.
Hearing this we tend to sympathies with the man. But later on, the movie reveals the atrocious ideologies that the father actually fed to his children by badmouthing black people in front of his family at the dinner table. In a flashback scene, Derek is praising one of his teachers at school who happens to be black and has achieved 2 Pad’s. The father tells Derek not to believe any of the “bullwhip” his teacher teaches him and mentions the “affirmative ablation” that was executed at his workplace. Two black men that got hired over white men actually scored worse on the test than they did.
The black had the advantage of being a minority and the government policy required to overcome ethnic inequality by hiring them in the labor force. The father finds the affirmative action to be unjust to the hardworking white men, although his opinion could be argued as biased. He feels threatened and perhaps fears that one of them will replace him at work someday. He argued that Trek’s teacher should not be teaching black literature. And this is when Derek actually develops an understanding of the vertical mosaic. A concept introduced by John Porter (1921-1979) to describe Canada. Mosaic’ highlights distinct ethnic identities, but Porter saw little mixing or blending. He argued that Canada’s ethnic ropes were vertically arranged. Canada was composed of distinct social groups defined principally by social class and ethnicity (Guppy, Volvo 17). ” So despite the government policies, the Employment Equity Act and the charter, inequalities existed. Till this day, immigrants with even better qualifications than the Canadian born do not have their credentials recognized in Canada. The minorities are forced to adapt to the culture of the majority.
Hence, Trek’s teacher teaching black literature was being frowned upon. The point is, Trek’s sentiments originated from a simple idea that was seeded into his rain through his father. And it is usually the parents who have the power to influence these thoughts of which they could make poor use. Stepping into Trek’s shoes, we can see what triggers and instigates his actions. The process of finding out and “understanding the meaning of an action from the actor’s point of view (Parkinson, 165)” is known as persistent -? an idea introduced by one of my personal favorite sociologists, Max Weber.
We see parents being the persistent at another stage in the movie when Professor Sweeney, the teacher with the two Pad’s, is conversing with Derek on his visit o the prison. He tells him: There was a moment when used to blame everything and everyone for all the pain and suffering and vile things that happened to me. That saw happen to my family and to my people. Used to blame everybody! Blamed white people, blamed society, blamed God! I didn’t get no answers ’cause was asking the wrong questions. You have to ask the right questions. Bob Sweeney seemed to have had similar emotional scars in his past too that were the origin of his bad actions.
But pretty soon he realized that none of that ever made him happy. And that soon became the resister behind why he became a better person, and the reason why Derek was going to choose the right path. Derek has too much hate in him which he cannot contain. When Danny tells him about the black guys that broke into his car he kills them and is sent to jail, away from his people, alienated. “Alienation describes a separation Of individuals from the control and direction of their social life. (Parkinson, 3). ” Inside prison he gets gang-raped by a group of European Americans, which were once his social life from the past.
This leaves Derek devastated and we twice a steadily growing positive attitude that he develops towards his new black friend Lament, from the laundry room. Lament soon becomes Dress source of comic relief and the main reason he made it in one piece. We see evident signs of racism when we find that Derek was released from prison in 3 years despite the fact that he killed two men, whereas Lament who only stole a TV and supposedly assaulted an officer by dropping the TV on the officer’s feet was imprisoned for 6 years. This is a common form of racism that was witnessed back in the day. Racism is a form of discrimination based n race, especially the belief that one race is superior to another (Parkinson, 131 Earlier in the movie Derek questions, “One in every black male is in some phase of the correctional system. Is that a coincidence or do these people have some kind of, you know, racial commitment to crime? ” When Lament tells his story about how he was charged for assaulting the officer even though the officer was the one who attempted at arresting Lament which caused him to lose grip of the television that subsequently fell on his feet, Derek realizes that there are two sides to every story.
In a recent analysis by the star it was discovered that black people are highly overrepresented in certain offence categories because they are stopped more often than the white. This is known as racial profiling. “In criminological literature, racial profiling is said to exist when the members of a certain racial or ethnic groups become subject to greater levels of criminal justice surveillance than others. (Worthy & Tanner, Vow 2, 46). ” When Derek was involved in his own actions he was too blind to see this reality.
But as soon as he is separated and alienated room his people, he can see much clearer though Lampoon’s and every other black man’ lens. He sees that racism exists and it is disgusting. Trek’s experience in prison was not so pleasant but this alienation was beneficial to him in some way. Although Karl Marx would argue that alienation is a negative thing and it separates the individuals working together; that might not always be the case. We do know that it worked in favor Of Derek. As Derek tells his brother, Danny, about his experiences, both of them have an epiphany together and decide to make things right.
But the very next day, Danny is killed by a black kid at school who might have felt threatened by the Danny he used to be prior to his conversion. Derek is left alienated once again and he cries with his dead brother in his arms screaming, ‘M/hat have I done? ” To sum it up, American History X ended catastrophically. This ending was unavoidable from the very start. Derek did his job by taking care of Cameron, the leader of the white supremacists. But some of the damage caused by racism cannot be taken back.
Trek’s father caused that damage hand passed it on to his son, who later caused further damage and passed it on to Danny. It only worsened each time. Dandy’s life cannot be brought back and neither can the other people that got killed during the entire process. The feelings hurt can’t be mended. The ties destroyed can’t be fixed. Hegemony and the ideologies created by people initiate these behaviors but the main persistent could be much more explicit than that. Everything we say in front of our youth is engraved into their minds and could result in harm in the future.
The vertical mosaic does not have to exist. Multicultural societies today are a step towards eroding the vertical mosaic, if only the society would allow it. How much worse do the matters have to get before we can have our moment of realization and see the racism around us? How alienated does every individual have to feel before he can have his epiphany? In conclusion, would like to apply one last concept to the movie which is the concept Of false consciousness. This is when the members Of a certain group are unaware of the fact that they are working for the interests of not themselves but the bourgeoisie.
This theory has the members falsely believe that they are working for an objective class interest, the same way Cameraman’s white power activist mob is working for him believing in him and his racist propaganda. Marx believes that this process also causes demutualization and the minute the workers become aware of the bourgeoisie’s motives, they will become successful. Even though Derek lost his brother, he will hopefully become more successful in the latter part of his life.