Political Science 02
Due April 3, 2013
American History X was written by David McKenna and directed by Tony Kaye. Starring Edward Norton as Derek Vinyard, the film was released in 1998. The main idea of the film is the social and political issues of racism. It is a story of how a family is affected by one son’s view of the history of race roles in America, his life within the neo Nazi culture, and finally, after resigning himself to such a lifestyle due to prison reformation, his attempt to pull his younger brother from the same way of violent life. Ultimately, it is a story of the cycles of hate surrounding racism. The film is shown in non-linear narrative where events are given out of chronological order. When going back in time, the audience is given black and white film whereas the present is portrayed in color. Danny Vinyard, is given an assignment to write an essay on the incarceration of the main character, his older brother, Derek. The essay was to entail what led up to the incarceration and how his family was affected. The verbal reflection of his essay is when the audience is shown the film presented in black and white. Also during the verbal reflection, we find out that Derek was incarcerated for the murder of 2 Black thieves who were trying to steal the truck left to him by his late father who was killed by, not without intent of the writer, a Black man a few years prior. With that, the storyline is set up so that we know why Derek and Danny have turned to a life of neo Nazism and why Derek was given a 3 year sentence for going overboard in killing the thieves: the brothers have been affected by the criminality of the Black culture. The essay assigned to Danny, which was due the following day, was an assignment given by Danny’s Black principal after his Jewish teacher reported a questionable essay to him entitled My Mein Kampft. In the 24 hours in which the essay is being written, and narrated to the viewers, we learn the entire story of the brothers’ journeys from average kids, through neo Nazism and back, only to learn their lesson too late when Danny is fatally struck down by a former Black recipient of his race hatred, essay still in hand.
American History X correlates to the discussions of the class as well as various points of the class textbook, Think American Government. The film backs up two class discussions thus far in the semester: Khalil Muhammad’s theory on Black criminality in America in addition to Bryan Stevenson’s ideas on the stigma of mass incarceration attached to the Black culture in America. The film also touches on political issues from the text, such as: immigration, the first amendment to The United States Constitution, and Hate-Crimes Legislation. Khalil Muhammad:
The timeline of the film literally goes back 24 hours; flashes back 3 years; and historically traces back to both 1863 and 1865 when, respectively, the Emancipation Proclamation was signed (proclaiming slaves in Confederate territory to be free forever) and when the first Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was organized. Some may even argue that the story goes back to the beginning of slavery in the United States colonies because those were the first racist acts of early America and upon which America was formed. Khalil Muhammad, a current day Black historian, might argue that the plot of this film traces back to the moment when, in 1865, following the Civil War, European immigrants were given opportunities by the government to stray from their acts of criminality but recently freed Black people were not. Instead, as Muhammad asserts in a Bill Moyers interview, as well as his book, Condemnation of Blackness, Black people were sent to ghetto housing to sort their criminality out on their own, whereas White European immigrants were given social welfare and job opportunities because they were, as Muhammad states, thought of as “children of Americans who need our help”, but...
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