American History X - Paper 2

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Brittany Camacho
Cultural Anthropology
American History X
“I hate anyone that is not white Protestant,” begins Danny Vinyard, the brother of a former neo Nazi skinhead. American History X offers opinions from two sides through one character, the ex-neo Nazi Derek, and the post-prison-reformed Derek. The post-prison-formed Derek serves as a vision of hope for present time. This powerful movie not only depicts the most disturbing aspects of racism, but also shows how close racism is to the middle-class, white Americans. American History X is a fictional story that is told through the eyes of Derek’s brother Daniel, who is being recruited in the white power movement. This white power movement, also called skinheads, demonstrates how racial hatred is still part of American culture. It also shows the means of which white people will go to maintain their privilege, particularly when they feel their institutional and cultural dominance being encroached upon. This culture that allows for racial hatred also requires violence to enforce all aspects of its hierarchy. This is the same world-view that allows for the devaluation based on skin color and requires a culture of dominance that permeates all aspects of life. The opening scene of the movie shows three African American teenagers breaking the windows of a car. Derek, runs out of his house and shoots two out of the three males without an ounce of guilt. Derek’s younger brother Daniel is a witness to both the murders. Three years have passed and Daniel is now a seventeen-year old student at Venice Beach high. His brother is now being released after three years in prison, and Daniel has seemed to follow in his Derek’s racist ways. After writing a book report on a Hitler inspired novel, his principal demands Daniel takes a course along his side, a course titled American History X. Before Derek was arrested and sent to prison, he helped a man named Cameron initiate a Venice Beach gang known as the skinheads. The gang first emerged when Derek and Daniel’s firefighter father was killed. Derek expressed his hatred toward other races when blamed blacks, Mexicans, and Asians for his father’s death in a firefighter accident. He stated that they are the cause of poverty and immigration trouble, his reasoning was that white Europeans moved to America and flourished, while these races cause problems. Cameron took advantage of Derek’s state and made Derek his soldier. The gang attracted kids who got beat up by the Mexicans and blacks. Since most of the members were high school students, they could relate to Derek, they saw him as a leader and listened to everything he said. Derek helped Cameron transform them from an undisciplined, rag-tag gang into an organized force of evil, angry, frustrated, insecure, ethnocentric white males.

“Venice Beach used to be all white,” Daniel, claims, “gangs from Inglewood and South Central started moving west to Venice. White kids shouldn’t be scared walking around in their own neighborhood,” and this is when the problems between the races hit its peak. Going to the neighborhood basketball courts evokes another memory for Daniel. One day the whites challenged the blacks to a game of basketball, the loser lost rights to play on the court in the future. Before prison and the loss of their lucrative father, the Vinyard family lived in an affluent area of Venice Beach. Currently, the boy’s mother, two sisters, and themselves all occupy a very cramped apartment in the area. Derek’s room is full of white supremacy flags and Hitler posters. In a video filmed by one of Derek’s old friends Seth, Daniel declares he “hates anyone that is not white protestant because they are a burden to the advancement of the white race.” Daniel is now immersed in the skinheads gang, a gang his brother helped start that attracted kids who got beat up by the Mexicans and blacks. Since most of the members were high school students, they could relate to Derek, they saw him as a...
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