American History X

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American History X

American History X (1998) illustrates how segregation is aggravated by missing father figures as well as the herd mentality of the characters in the film. German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of the herd mentality states that people need a concept or a worldview to adopt in order to give meaning to their lives. This herding of people who choose to adopt this certain ideal or ideals in effect causes the stifling of individual thoughts or creativity because everyone chooses to think a certain way (Floyd). This mindset that people are attracted to is not always chosen or forced but is rather seen as an obligation because of loyalties certain people have to others.

Derek Vinyard, played by Edward Norton, starts to adopt this racist mindset that all races other than white are the downfall of society in a flashback scene where he is speaking with his father about school and his father tells him not to listen to the “nigger bullshit” of his black Social Studies teacher, Dr. Bob Sweeney played by Avery Brooks. Derek’s obvious interest in Dr. Sweeney’s lessons fades almost immediately upon hearing these words from his father and Derek begins to agree with his father’s statements. Derek is not forced by his father to feel this way; however, he took it upon himself to feel this way because he looks up to his father. His individual thoughts are stifled because he wants to be more like his father. The racism instilled in Derek from his father is not enough to bring him to the violent lifestyle he starts on to lead, but it does teach him to stay away from black kids from an early age. This herd mentality to stay only with white people has been brought to another level when Derek Vinyard’s father dies. His father is shot and killed by blacks while fighting a fire in a black neighborhood. Derek immediately places the blame on black people, not just a single black person but all black people.

After his father’s death, Derek joins forces with Cameron Alexander, played by Stacy Keach. Cameron is an older man who is a Neo-Nazi and he uses Derek to recruit young adults into a new gang called the Disciples of Christ (D.O.C.). The creation of the D.O.C. provides all the white youth of Venice Beach, California to feel a sense of belonging. Just like the young black males were a part of, and protected by, the Crips, the young white ki...

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... is the brutality of hate and racism. The emotions running high in the movie makes it powerful and moving and the death of Derek’s younger brother Danny Vinyard is shocking enough to bring tears to many viewers’ eyes. The movie ends with Danny’s voice reading his paper out loud and he ends his paper with a very important quote by Abraham Lincoln. This quote shows how Danny’s, as well as Derek’s, mindset changed from the beginning of the movie to the end. When hearing this quote it leaves the viewers in awe that Danny finally started to look past his hateful ideologies but ends up dead because of the lifestyle him and his brother decided to lead. “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained we 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”.

Works Cited

American History X. Dir. Tony Kaye. Perf. Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Avery Brooks, and Beverly D’angelo. 1998. DVD. New Line Home Entertainment, 2004.

Floyd, Brandon. “American Nihilism Organization.” American Nihilism Organization. 24 Aug. 2004. 19 Oct. 2004 .

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