————————————————- American History X I. A study of the root of racism 1) The movie: quick summary The film tells the story of two brothers, Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) and Daniel « Danny » Vinyard (Edward Furlong) of Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California. Both are intelligent and charismatic students. Their father, a firefighter, is murdered by black drug dealers while trying to extinguish a fire in South Central neighborhood of Los Angeles, and Derek is drawn into the neo-Nazi movement.
Derek brutally kills two black gang members whom he catches in the act of breaking into the truck left to him by his father, and is sentenced to three years in prison. The story shows how Danny is influenced by his older brother’s actions and ideology and how Derek, now radically changed by his experience in incarceration, tries to prevent his brother from going down the same path as he did. 2) The breakfast scene Derek is a straight student and seems to be quite open-minded. He admires one of his teachers who got a double PhD.
Derek’s father starts questioning the teacher’s competence saying he must be biased because he is black. Derek’s father is not very learned, down-to-earth and preoccupied with everyday
This conversation you have just seen displays the root of Derek’s racism. This scene is a flashback showing how a bright and open-minded student turned into a white supremacist. It is clear that it did not occur on the day of his father’s murder, the idea was already present in his everyday environment. Derek’s father disapproves of affirmative action because he thinks that it’s an unfair practice. He sounds frustrated because white people are not allowed to get what they deserve and this frustration leads to hatred. Derek is touched by what his father says and sympathizes with him.
Hatred was instilled in Derek’s mind and remained at the back of his mind until the murder, the murder of his father only triggered off a reaction. Thanks to this scene we understand that racism is not an instant phenomenon, it explains its mechanism. It truly shows how an ordinary person can turn into a racist. II. The principle of affirmative action 1) The concept of affirmative action in the United States Affirmative action was first established in Executive Order 10925, which was signed by President John F. Kennedy on March 6, 1961 and required government contractors to « not iscriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, creed, color, or national origin » as well as to « take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin ». This executive order was superseded by Executive Order 11246, which was signed by President Johnson on September 24, 1965 and affirmed the Federal Government’s commitment « to promote the full realization of equal employment opportunity through a positive, continuing program in each executive department and agency ».
It is notable that affirmative action was not extended to women until Executive Order 11375 amended Executive Order 11246 on October 13, 1967, expanding the definition to include « sex. » As it currently stands, affirmative action through Executive Order 11246 applies to « race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. » In the U. S. , affirmative action’s original purpose was to pressure institutions into compliance with the nondiscrimination mandate of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Civil Rights Acts do not cover veterans, people with disabilities, or people over 40. These groups are protected from discrimination under different laws. Affirmative action has been the subject of numerous court cases, and has been contested on constitutional grounds. In 2003, a Supreme Court decision concerning affirmative action in universities allowed educational institutions to consider race as a factor in admitting students, but ruled that strict point systems are unconstitutional. Conservatives say that state officials have widely disobeyed it.
Alternatively, some colleges use financial criteria to attract racial groups that have typically been under represented and typically have lower living conditions. Some states such as California (California Civil Rights Initiative) and Michigan have passed constitutional amendments banning affirmative action within their respective states. A study conducted at the University of Chicago in 2003 found that people with « black-sounding » names such as Lakisha and Jamal are 50 percent less likely to be interviewed for a job compared to people with « white-sounding » names such as Emily or Greg. ) The Pros and Cons of affirmative action As you must have understood, affirmative action generally means giving preferential treatment to minorities in admission to universities or employment in government ; businesses. The policies were originally developed to correct decades of discrimination and to give disadvantaged minorities a boost. However many think the policies lead to more problems than they solve. Let’s see what are the pros and cons of affirmative actions. Pros: * Diversity is desirable and won’t always occur if left to chance. Affirmative action draws people to areas of study and work they may never consider otherwise. * Some stereotypes may never be broken without affirmative action. * Affirmative action is needed to compensate minorities for centuries of slavery or oppression. * Student starting at a disadvantage need a boost. Cons: * Affirmative action leads to reverse discrimination. * Students admitted on this basis are often ill equipped to handle the schools to which they’ve been admitted. * It would help lead a truly color-blind society. It is condescending to minorities to say they need affirmative action to succeed. * It demeans true minority achievement; that is to say success is labeled as result of affirmative action rather than hard work and ability. * Once enacted, affirmative actions are tough to remove, even after the underlying discrimination has been eliminated. * Affirmative action lowers standards of accountability needed to push students or employees to perform better. III. The neo-Nazi groups in the United States 1) Who are the neo-Nazis?
Neo-Nazi skinheads, who idolize Hitler’s ideas on racial purity, first appeared on America’s streets in the mid-eighties and have since shown substantial growth. An extraordinary record of violence has paralleled the growth in membership; they went from using boots, bats and knives to using firearms. Indeed, the relative availability of guns in the United States has made American Skins among the most dangerous and violent in the world as we can see it in the movie. The Skinhead Nazi ideology offers self-esteem to young people through the degradation of others.
American Skinheads pattern their dress on the original British model; Doc Martins, thin suspenders and bomber jackets. Many are heavily tattooed with emblems of white supremacy and Nazism. Contrary to their claim to represent working-class youth, American Skinheads come from widely varying economic backgrounds, a high proportion of American Skinheads come from broken homes or single-parent families. Their gangs – like other American youth gangs – often serve as surrogate families for their members. Those who live with their families often deal with parents who rarely approve the Skinhead children’s views or way of life.
This kind of domestic discord was tragically illustrated with The Allentown Massacres in February of 1995, when two Skinhead brothers were accused of beating and stabbing to death their mother, father and younger brother in their home, near Allentown, Pennsylvania. It reminds us of the movie because Bryan the older brother got David involved in the skinheads’ activities. It is not an isolated crime, it happened a lot in the United States. In August 1990, in Houston, two 18-year-old Skinheads stomped a 15-year-old Vietnamese boy to death.
One of the killers testified at his trial that the victim’s last words were: « God forgive me for coming to this country. I’m so sorry. » 2) The neo-Nazis: a “legal” deviant group The existence of such groups is made possible thanks to the first amendment of the constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech. It allows individuals, political organizations and any kind of groups to express their views even if these are “thoughts that we hate” as Justice Holmes said. Canada, Britain, France, Germany, South Africa, Australia and India all have laws or have signed international conventions banning hate speech.
Israel and France forbid the sale of Nazi items like flags. It is a crime to deny the Holocaust in Canada, Germany and France. By contrast, U. S. courts didn’t stop the American Nazi Party from marching in Skokie in the Illinois, in 1977, which is a city where many holocaust survivors live in, a Jewish suburb of Chicago. The court ruling allowed the neo-Nazis to stage a series of demonstrations in the Chicago area. The American Nazi party is one of the most famous Neo-Nazi group, as the White Aryan Resistance, which was founded and led by former Ku Klux Klan leader Tom Metzger.
This group is mostly known for beating to death a young Ethiopian. Indeed, on November 13, 1988 three white supremacists beat to death Mulugeta Seraw, an Ethiopian man who came to the United States to attend college. Even if the first amendment protects the freedom of speech, the Skinheads were convicted of the killing and are currently serving long sentences. Today, neo-Nazi skinheads are still active even if we don’t really hear about them. In France in June 2010, a Neo-Nazi concert happened in Lille. Here is an example of lyrics of one of the skinhead song’s: “ I know the truth and I know what is right,
To destroy the Zionist way and keep my land White … I’ve sworn to protect my people, For that I’m crucified, I live for my Race and for my Race I will die … “ In a nutshell: the Rodney King case At some point in the movie, a dispute between several characters refers to a very important and famous case: the Rodney King Case concerning police violence in the United States. On March 3, 1991, officers from the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) stopped motorist Rodney King for a traffic violation. During the arrest proceedings, King was struck over fifty times with nightsticks after initially resisting police orders.
A witness to the event, George Holliday, videotaped the arrest, which was later broadcast on local station KTLA and commercial news networks nation wide. Within a week following the incident, a Grand Jury returned indictments against the officers involved in the arrest, charging Sergeant Stacey Koon, Officers Laurence Powell, Theodore Briseno and Timothy Wind for the use of excessive force and assault with a deadly weapon. Over a year after the night of the beating, the LAPD officers indicted in the trial were acquitted of the charges brought against them.
As a result of the verdict, many residents of Los Angeles reacted with shock and anger. Some residents took to the streets to protest; others turned to their televisions to watch events unfold. From April 29 through May 15, 1992, television networks devoted extensive resources and airtime to the uprising. Conclusion American History X is a movie full of references that deal with serious American controversies such as the principle of affirmative action, the existence of neo-Nazi groups and the Rodney King case.
This movie is also very interesting since it tries to give an insight into the true nature of human behaviors. The film ends with Danny narrating part of his paper, in which he quotes the conclusion of Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address: « We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature. «