Top-Rated Free Essay

A Review of the Subculture Group Known as the Skinheads

Powerful Essays
A Review of the American Subculture Group Known as the Skinheads
Vanessa R. Wood
Walden University
2/18/2011
In the world there are many different, interesting and complex cultural groups. One of these groups is known as Skinheads. Although they have been known to be very closed minded and negative, they are still an interesting cultural group that should be understood better to fully grasp the reasons behind their behaviors and actions. The moved that I reviewed was American History X, which is a movie about one family that is deeply affected by the cultural aspects of the fascist movement (Kaye, 1998).
Summary
The movie is about Derek and Danny Vineyard and their involvement with a Skinhead group in Venice Beach California. Derek was a leader in the Skinheads group in Venice Beach under a very influential fascist man who taught him everything he knew. Derek began running with the group because his father was killed by a black gang member while at work with the fire station and he was filled with hate and sadness because of his dad’s death. Derek recruited other scared and hurt youth and encouraged them to rise up against minorities because Derek claimed they were ruining the country. He eventually catches a few black gang members breaking into his car and kills several of them before brutally curb stomping one of them, all which is done in front of his little brother Danny (Kaye, 1998). After the murders, he is sent away to jail where he tries to use the protection of the Skinheads in prison but finds out that the leader of the Skinheads in prison deals directly with minorities to sell drugs. Derek begins to disassociate with the Skinhead group and plays basketball with other races and begins to get along with others. As revenge, the Skinhead group rapes Derek and leaves him unconscious in the showers. He speaks with Dr. Sweeney, a teacher and outreach worker who he asks for help from. He gives him literature and advice and Derek begins to change his outlook on life. Lamont, a black man that Derek becomes friends with advises him that he is going to be beaten by the other gangs. Derek waits for a fight, but nothing ever happens and he eventually gets paroled. When he gets out he finds that his little brother Danny is going down the same path he once was. Derek tells his little brother of his experience in jail and tells him that he was wrong and had everything wrong in his ways (Kaye, 1998). His little brother is touched by Derek’s story and begins taking down the fascist insignia all over his room and writes an essay about the experience his family went through and how perhaps Derek was right and that hate is wrong. As he is going to turn in his essay, his brother drops him off at school and Danny gets shot in the bathroom by a black boy that had earlier felt persecuted by Danny. In the end of the movie his essay flies through the air and it is finished with Danny saying a quote by Abraham Lincoln saying “we are not enemies, we are friends,” (Kaye, 1998). I think that what interests me about the Skinhead cultural group is that it really is a group powered by hate and anger, but it is so much more complex than it appears to an outside observer such as myself. I think that in order to really be able to help people become accepting of other cultures, we need to know why they act the way they do. I know that in many classes I’ve taken, I have been asked to define mental illness and define different diagnosis. I believe that a mental problem can be defined as a skewed version of reality or norms in a society which affects basic life. If that was the case, Skinheads could possibly be diagnosed with mental illnesses, but they are really just acting on the social and cultural group they were involved in.
Psychological Processes This culture bases much of its energy on aggression and the expression of aggression to those outside of their in-group culture. The group itself is very collectivist and put everything they have up to help the group reach the top and dominate over those individuals they hate. They are fueled by hate and anger, and therefore react that way even towards the people they love. The group feels they need to prove their identity, their power, their sexuality and ability to control a situation which can all be done by the expression of anger (Arena, & Arrigo, 2000). In other American cultural group people may not necessarily show the same reactions to situations even if they do want to prove themselves (Matsumoto, & Juang, 2008). I have learned in personal experiences, that education is the best way to get the point across and facts speak louder than a thundering tone of voice. From the Skinhead point of view, Derek yelled, scared and threatened his family into fear (Kaye, 1998). Personally, I may have discussed my opinion with my family and tried to point out evidence of my point. We try to teach children from an early age that all men and woman are created equal despite the color of their skin, their religion, their race or any differences they may have from the overall population. If that is instilled into the youth of America, there should be no need for hatred and aggression between races because one should have no reason to hate the other. If young children learn that we are simply all people despite our differences, there may be fewer opportunities to allow our differences to separate us. When we turn the lights off in a room full of people from a southern small town and fumble around in the dark, several people may have a southern accent, but you cannot tell the difference between a homosexual, a African American or a Asian individual, because without visual stigmas, people are just people. Through aggression Skinheads promote a sense of power over those not within their intergroup, they create a sense of fear. In other American culture, aggression may be a reaction to something or possibly a learned behavior to a situation, but in Skinhead culture it is a projection to cause a reaction (Baron, 1997). It has been said that many Skinhead members become involved in the group because of the known violence that they will become involved with. Youth from broken, violent homes, and kids from very aggressive households are often drawn to what they have learned throughout their lives. The general population of Skinheads is known to live off the streets and thrive off of crime to survive (Baron, 1997). One way that the Skinhead cultural group justifies their behaviors towards others is on the basis of morality. They feel they are only doing the things they are supposed to do because it is morally right. The idea of Skinheads committing harmful acts upon others or raising their intergroup to the top is because it is a means of self-preservation, an act of bettering the lives of their families and friends, their race (Arena, & Arrigo, 2000). Many feel that it is their own moral obligation to uphold society in the way the group projects is right. Their own cultural definition of morality might be something it is completely different from other individuals definitions of morality. In the movie American History X, Derek committed the crimes he did because he felt it was his job to protect his family from the evils of minorities and other groups that might come along and hurt his family. He was convinced that minorities were completely a deficit on society and that they were draining the country that hard working white Americans had built. Although there are some African American’s that are jobless, gang members, there are also plenty of jobless gang members who are white that would also come in and hurt his family. From the outside perspective looking in, much average American’s might view the whole perspective and see both sides of the situation, but Derek did not because he felt it was his moral duty. The definition of morality is also cultural; the Skinheads have their own definition just as other different cultural groups may have different definitions from my own. The Skinheads interpret many of their morals from sections of the Bible, although it may not be direct quotes, as other cultural and religious groups may do, they interpret their own meaning. America thrives off of opinion and freedom of speech, which is exactly what the Skinhead group has done. Although they have interpreted information to come up with morals outside of others way of thinking, they just believe what they are doing is right. Any average American would say they have their own morals and values they live by, the same statement may be said of a Skinhead. A third psychological process that may be present in an observation of the cultural aspects of the Skinhead group would be that of communication techniques. Skinhead communicate in similar ways to average Americans, they have body language styles and verbal terminologies just like all other cultures. They also have symbols and signs that have deep seeded abilities to communicate to others who they are that may also communicate danger to outside groups (Young, & Craig, 1997). When speaking about individuals they dislike or feel are living outside of their set of constraints, they refer to them in derogatory or belittling manner. They have different derogatory terms for every race that is outside their own, they also have belittling terms for those within their group who are friendly or accepting to other groups. They communicate with harsh and forceful terminology to create that sense of fear that is apparent in many of the psychological processes. The symbols and signs that are in their homes, on their bodies, painted on their houses, project the same sense of fear and aggression (Baron, 1997). The communication they give to those within their intergroup is always a sense of family and brotherly love, but still full of masculinity, aggression and dominance. To those who are outside the Skinhead group, the still produce a sense of masculinity, aggression and dominance, but they communicate a feeling of hatred and fear. In the suburban average American culture, there is more of a free flowing less aggressive sense of communication (Gardiner & Kosmitzki, 2011). Signs and symbols still have an effect as a communication technique in our cultural group, but there is not the sense of fear that a Skinhead sign or symbol may reveal (Young, & Craig, 1997). The average American isn’t overly hostile to individuals they come across on the street, and normally don’t try to put off aggressive body language, or any offensive posture of any kind, but the Skinhead culture makes it their goal to promote dominance and power (Baron, 1997). There is still civilized conversation between Skinhead members, and much of the time falsified or skewed information is given to younger members to encourage them to band together and become part of the group (Baron, 1997). Although many other American subcultures may falsify information or skew situation, there is an overall slander of most people who are not Skinhead intergroup member (Gardiner & Kosmitzki, 2011). Finally, one of the most evident psychological processes is that of emotion within the Skinhead culture. The Skinhead culture is very careful about whom they express emotion too, at least emotion that appears to give off weakness (Christensen, 1994). A Skinhead member may show joy, happiness, excitement and obviously anger, but when they show emotions like love, sadness and fear there is a possibility for them to be looked upon as vulnerable so they might try at all costs to keep those emotions at bay. The ideals behind hiding emotions of weakness revert back to dominance and power. Another reason for their lack of certain types of emotion stems from feelings of vulnerability at a young age (Blee, 1996). Many Skinheads start within the group at a young age, being taken advantage of, beaten, and emotionally abused and much more, which leaves them very susceptible to the world and weak (Christensen, 1994). From the initial feeling of weakness and hopelessness, they become guarded and focus on acceptable social norms of the Skinhead culture such as only showing certain types of emotion. Most American’s show whatever emotions they feel like, we are a loud boisterous culture, similar to the Skinhead culture (Matsumoto, & Juang. 2008). The difference between the two cultures, however, is that some American’s will sit and cry on the street, whereas a Skinhead would not. Culture influences the psychological processes of the Skinhead culture in a very large way. The observe communication techniques, aggressive behaviors and displays of emotion directly from other members of the group and because they are taught that their culture is dominant over all others, the act as other members act within their Skinhead intergroup. Just as American’s live by social norms, cultural norms and learned behaviors, so do the members of the Skinheads group.

References
Arena, M. P., & Arrigo, B. A. (2000). White supremacist behavior: Toward an integrated social psychological model. Deviant Behavior, 21(3), 213-244.

Baron, S. W. (1997). Canadian male street skinheads: street gang or street terrorists? Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 34(2), 125-154.

Blee, K. M. ( 1996). Becoming a racist : Women in contemporary Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazi groups. Gender & Society, 10(6), 680-702.

Christensen, L. (1994). Skinhead Street Gangs. Boulder, CO : Paladin Press.

Garniner, H.W., & Kosmitzki, C. (2011). Lives across cultures: cross-cultural human development (5th ed.). Boston, Ma: Pearson Education.

Kaye, T. (Director). (1998). American History X [Theater].

Matsumoto, D., & Juang, L. (2008). Culture and Psychology (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Higher Education.

Young, K. and Craig, L. (1997). Beyond white pride: Identity, meaning and contradiction in the Canadian Skinhead subculture. The Canadian Review, 34(2), 175–206.

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • Good Essays

    Subculture Skinhead

    • 588 Words
    • 3 Pages

    Skinhead Subculture A subculture is a group of people with a culture which differentiates them from the larger culture to which they belong. Many youths tend to join certain subcultures and are identified by which group they are from with distinct styles, behaviours, and interests. Subcultures offer participants an identity outside of that ascribed by social institutions such as family, work, home and school. Many youths join subcultures in order to be accepted by people who share the same interests…

    • 588 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Skinhead Subculture

    • 967 Words
    • 4 Pages

    The Skinhead culture has a variety of subcultures within the culture itself due to the evolution and separation of different groups of skinheads. The Skinhead subculture originated in the mid to late sixties and was created by the working class community that had a strong fondness for fashion and music. The original Skinheads enjoyed listening to soul, ska, bluebeat, and rocksteady music. They were also highly influenced by the Jamaican Rude Boy subculture, Reggae, and Rastafarianism. From this…

    • 967 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Subculture Groups

    • 483 Words
    • 2 Pages

    It’s hard to choose just one subculture that I belong to. I am a working mother, student and a wife. But if I had to classify just one, I would put myself into the mother category. Being a mother is a hard job, and can’t be taken lightly. It’s a twenty four hour, seven day a week job and is something I would not change for the world. We are commonly called the heroes for being there to take care of the sick, sad or angry child. The taxi driver, because as everyone knows, we are always there…

    • 483 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    skinheads

    • 941 Words
    • 4 Pages

    White Power and Neo-Nazi Skinheads Have you or your family ever been hunting? What would you think if I told you that there are people who hunt immigrants? There are four main types of Skinheads; Trojan Skinheads, RASH Red or Anarchist Skinheads, Neo-Nazis, and White power Skinheads. Today I am going to focus on Neo-Nazi and White power Skinheads. Skinhead boy, Skinheads man, one day you will save our land and stop immigration. How many of you were not born in Canada? Moat of you were not because…

    • 941 Words
    • 4 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Skinhead Violence

    • 727 Words
    • 3 Pages

    Skinhead Violence When you here the term Skinhead you probably think about young rebels wearing big black boots and Nazi symbols. These happen to be a few trademarks but across the world "Skinhead" refers to a diverse cult of young people. The origin of this cult goes back to the 60's in England, where menacing-looking, shaven-headed and tattooed youths in combat boots began to be seen in the streets. This cult has matured into a large collection of smaller gangs across 33 countries. The…

    • 727 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    subcultures

    • 645 Words
    • 2 Pages

    Subcultures Culture plays a very important role in continuing values and norms of society. We know that people are different each other and our society also offers lots of opportunities for people to be creative. These creative people become a cultural subgroup outside the core of the dominant culture and they are called a subculture. A subculture is a group of people within a culture that differentiates themselves from the larger culture to which they belong. According to the Oxford English Dictionary…

    • 645 Words
    • 2 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Good Essays

    Skinheads Research Paper

    • 568 Words
    • 3 Pages

    that started out in London, England in the late 1960’s among young multi-racial youth of the working class was the Skinheads. “It all started as a reaction against the hippie movement, the British class society and the lack of job and social opportunities” (questia, 2016). The name skinhead came from the closely shaved or chopped off hair the members have. When starting out Skinheads where all about pop culture, music, and fashion. “The first representatives of the movement were greatly influenced…

    • 568 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Good Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Subculture

    • 526 Words
    • 3 Pages

    Essay#1 Being a mother is the most important subculture that I am a part of. It is what I spend most of my time doing. It is a twenty-four hours a day seven days a week job, but it is something I would not change for the world. Regardless of your background, all mothers would agree that the perception of being a mother thrives on being the best mother you can be to the best of your ability. Most people who are mothers have the same values, and that is to raise happy, healthy and successful children…

    • 526 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Satisfactory Essays

    Subcultures

    • 570 Words
    • 3 Pages

    English 121 Paper #2: Subcultures There are many kinds of subcultures in the world today. Be it a high school classroom, or an alley behind a bar, or even a neighborhood swimming pool, different people from different backgrounds with completely different interests, can claim or be claimed as part of a subculture. But what is subculture? How do they affect our lives, and day to day activities? The answer lies buried within the question. We are all part of subcultures, which are subdivisions…

    • 570 Words
    • 3 Pages
    Satisfactory Essays
  • Better Essays

    cliché that gay men make for good dressers, so too was the case with this early group of mods. A large percentage of these young men were finding out that they were homosexuals and were likewise frequenting gay haunts around town. Carnaby Street in London was a small avenue where odd clothing shops existed to cater to the needs of those who worked in theatre, and for the flamboyantly gay dresser. However, this group was not flamboyant, and, probably, due to the nature of British society at the…

    • 5695 Words
    • 23 Pages
    Better Essays