American history X: film analysis


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American History X, a film whose historical setting revolves around racial gang affiliations and a vicious cycle of neo-Nazi and rival gang altercations, captures the turbulent atrocities that white skinhead members inflicted on other races within the city of Los Angeles, believing that they had no right to work in the city. Derek Vineyard is an ex-con who emerges as a genuine product of his environment and subtle upbringing. He gets paroled pursuant to serving a three-year prison sentence for the brutal murder of two black men on a mission to steal/break into his truck. Growing up, Derek’s father, a firefighter, got killed in a drive-by, exposing Derek’s teen life to the influences and vulnerabilities ascribed to the activities of race-oriented gang memberships, a factor that contributed to the actions that caused his incarceration. Through the narration of his brother, Danny Vineyard, it is revealed that prior to his imprisonment, Derek was a renowned skinhead and a brutal white supremacist gang’s leader-a gang that perpetrated acts of racial crime, and his actions had a great influence on his brother’s development.

After getting out of jail, he attempts to convince his small brother who he had introduced to the violent, hateful life, that he ought to make better choices. Fresh out of prison and reformed, Derek cuts contacts with his gang affiliations and is determined to ensure that Danny does not go down the violent path that he treaded. However, the film’s plot has no happy ending in celebration of this realization. Danny ends up being fatally shot in the boys’ room in his high school as a result of an altercation with fellow juniors that is motivated by race. Cradling Danny’s dead bloody body, Derek comprehends his pivotal role in his brother’s senseless death.


The overarching conflict in the film emerges in a formidable exhibition of social dominance as young white supremacists exhibit their obligation to categorically subvert other social entities that they deem inferior as well as perilous to the white race’s survival. They refer to the white race as the dominant benefactors of the American dream’s fruits. The reasons for the emergent conflict is that the majority of the neo-Nazis are blind in the expression of their rage. These individuals do not see how black people can be good.  They only relate with the criminal and dirty side of them. Derek never had a problem with black people before his father made some comments about them that inspired aggressive thoughts about them. When the blacks contributed to his father’s death, his rage began to emerge. It is emergent that Derek felt both sad and furious to the point that he took it upon himself to take revenge. This overarching conflict stems from the white folks’ confidence that white protestant upbringing forms the cornerstone of the nation’s morale and supersedes that of the so-called parasites that stream in through the border or the African Americans that are ‘racially committed to crime’. This exemplification of social dominance highlights at its very essence the extreme ideals ascribed to ethnocentricity (Coconi, 2012).

The film illustrates the conflict between power and oppression in the sense that it highlights that the oppressive nature that power dawns does not necessarily result in absolute advantage to the individuals who dawn this power. It also highlights the gullibility that people in power impose on their associates. Cameron, the skinhead gang’s head is seen to push people like Derek. He used Derek along with other ids who did not know what to do, inspiring them to fight the African Americans and kill them. Derek was concerned about Dann so he forbade him to attend a skinhead party that Dann looked forward to attending. Of course, being a teenager Danny attended the party and an altercation ensued between Derek and Cameron, prompting a narration of what transpired in prison. The conflict of power and oppression is seen even the criminal justice system where dominant gangs take it upon themselves to hurt each other. In light of the development of such a human hate machine, it is questionable how such a manner of thinking that is obviously disordered in nature, could be held plausible by many.

Prejudice towards colored people stems from black men killing Derek’s father. Both Derek and Danny Vineyard exhibit intelligence, charisma, and strength throughout their youth. However, their adamant beliefs, ideologies, and fanaticism betray them (Coconi, 2012). After Derek joins the neo-Nazi movement of Venice Beach in Los Angeles and rises to leadership. He sits in a car with an adult neo Nazi leader named Cameron Alexander who appoints him to lead frustrated kids. The kids, according to him underwent ill treatment by the Black and Hispanic youths. Being their leader, he gives a firebrand speech ranting about how decent Americans lose their freedom and destinies to foreigners exploiting their country. He brutally murdered two black men who attempt to steal his car. He received a three-year imprisonment. While in jail, cruel treatment from fellow white inmates causes gradual change in his beliefs and ideologies. After serving his sentence, he leaves prison and finds Danny an avid supporter of the former cause. Derek’s actions prior to imprisonment influenced his younger brother into interracial hatred.

Derek mentions a Korean-owned store that earlier was owned by Archie Bunker. The Korean sacked former white employees and hired foreigners. He laments about how open borders rendered white people jobless as a result of illegals who both replace workers and undercut wages. The skinheads put on masks and proceed to terrorize the Hispanic employees in the store. In addition, After Derek’s release from prison, Principal Sweeney expresses concerns about Danny’s Hitler essay. However, over dinner, Danny’s teacher, Murray, a Jew, expresses sympathy towards minorities, resulting in Derek’s loss of composure. He angrily removes his shirt and insults Murray.

The movie depicts cultural competency through scenes such as principal Sweeney, an African American showing optimism regarding Danny’s controversial essay, however, Murray felt pessimistic. The principal demands Danny writes an essay reflecting circumstances leading to his brother’s arrest (Jiminez, 2014). He felt Lamont’s six-year sentence as unfathomable. The jail term resulted from robbery of a television. However, the charges included assaulting a police officer due to Lamont dropping the television on the police officer. Comparing the crime to the murder of two people, he felt Derek found the American justice system corrupt. However, irony exists with regard to a black man saving Derek, a murderer. Later, Derek reveals to Danny his regrets and displeasure for having prejudice and racist views. He proceeded to ask his brother to evaluate his footsteps and actions. The discontent portrays Derek as a sorry rehabilitated person who views cultural influences and beliefs as influences to racism and prejudice. However, some aspects portrayed express extreme violence. Majority of Americans co-exist peacefully amongst different diverse races.

In conclusion, Danny believes racism a lie and realizes prejudicial beliefs a corrupting force in society and personality. Reinforcing children’s beliefs through teaching them values that teach them acceptance and love for each other eradicates the racism cancer. Guardians, societies, and Government efforts against supremacists secure children’s future and overall peace. The film, American History x, portrays an example of how misconceptions affect young people in society and serves as a guide to avoiding such motives and motivations.

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  1. Coconi, A. (2012). American History X: A Racist Film About Racism. Accessed on 28th November 2017:
  2. Jimenez, E (2014). Racism and Popular Culture: American History X. accessed on 28th November 2017:
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