Sociological Perspective on American History X
Intro to Sociology
Rahnna Sullivan B00251290
Barstow Community College
Racism is a huge part of day to day life where I live. I have a bi-racial son, who sees both sides of the racism spectrum. I do my best to raise him and see we all bleed red, but only he can make the choice and not give in to the numerous opportunities presented for deviance regarding social norms. Deviance or violations of social norms has many forms of revealing itself. Daily, members of society are presented with numerous opportunities to act upon deviant behaviors, very few choose to do so. It is assumed, that many individuals within society have a strong urge to learn and abide by social norms, culture and expectations. The process of learning is dependent upon the norms as decided by our cultural surroundings and society that each of us belongs to. This is known as cultural relativity or cultural relativism, a concept that cultural norms and values derive their meaning within a specific social context. It is believed that this contributes too many conflicts and disputes. Within our society, there are many subcultures or small worlds within one large world – one of which is racism. This paper is my attempt to analyze the movie American History X and determine the source of the deviant behavior exhibited by Derek and Danny Vinyard. American History X is a movie about two brothers who grow up in a society of racism and prejudice. Their lives led by white supremacy beliefs and fueled by the untimely death of their racist father, shows the influence society has on its members and their behaviors. Sociologists use the term deviance to define any trait or behavior that violates expected rules or social norms. Deviance can be a trait, a belief, or a behavior. Deviance is universal because it exists in every society. Sociologist’s stress that deviant behavior cannot be measured based upon what is right or wrong, instead it must be measured by society’s responses to negative behavior. This is important because acts that are acceptable in one’s culture may not be acceptable in another. This applies to prejudice and racism as well. Both of which are displayed as deviant behaviors by Derek and Danny in American History X. Derek and Danny’s deviant behavior is a combination of their interpretation of society and of course their family and friends in which they associate. Being raised in a middle class family that includes two sisters, a caring mother and their proud firefighting father, Dennis, Derek is the older of the children, while Danny is the youngest of them. Dennis is vocal in sharing his concerns with the current state of society, specifically as it pertains to race relations and affirmative action. Of course, in a world where society plays a huge role in shaping its members, Derek and Danny couldn’t help but adopt their father’s views and beliefs of prejudice and racism. (American Historoy X) A specific scene in the movie helps paint a picture of Dennis’ (father) influence. The scene shows the family having breakfast at the dining room table. Derek intrigued by a new assignment at school, begins to elaborate. His African American English Teacher, Bob Sweeny, instructed the class to read a book written by an African American author. Dennis is upset by this. Dennis lashes out, saying that “affirmative blaction” is causing the schools to get rid of “great books” in exchange for “black books.” (American History X) Up until this point in the movie, it appears that Derek holds equal opinions of whites and blacks; however, as his father spills words of hatred towards blacks and minorities implying their taking over, and that affirmative action is violating their rights, Derek begins to see the world through his father’s eyes and agrees with him. Shortly after this scene, Dennis is killed by an African American gunman. This incident only further enhances Derek’s hatred of...
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