American History X
- Length: 1593 words (4.6 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
In the opening scene, we see Danny Vinyard, a young white supremacist, sitting in the principal's office, waiting to be summoned. As we move into the office, we hear and see Danny's history teacher (Elliot Gould) explaining to the principal, Dr. Sweeney (Avery Brooks), that Danny wrote a book report on Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf. The teacher tells Dr. Sweeney that he is offended by Danny's gesture and he wants to see him punished, declaring that Danny was pressured into writing the paper by his older brother Derek, although Sweeney assures him that Derek was not involved. Instead, Sweeney asks the teacher to leave and asks Danny to step in.Danny then puts an American flag toothpick in mouth, Danny steps into the office and sits down. Dr. Sweeney begins yelling at Danny, telling him that writing what he did is offensive. Sweeney tells him that he is now his new history teacher. The class is called American History X and the next assignment is due tomorrow morning; a paper on his brother, Derek (Edward Norton), analyzing all the events leading up to Derek's incarceration and the subsequent impact on Danny's life. After this, Danny walks out. The next scene opens with three black boys beating up a white boy in the men's bathroom for telling the teacher that one of them cheated. Suddenly, Danny appears out of one of the stalls and blows the smoke from his cigarette into one of the boys' face. As the black boys leave angry, Danny helps the white kid from the ground and tells him that he needs to learn to stand up for himself. Soon we see Danny walking home from school through a park where some black boys are playing basketball. One of the players is the boy from earlier in the bathroom. Danny's voice begins to narrate the scene. Danny says, "Before Derek went to jail, the white kids didn't have to be afraid of the black kids. Derek made it safe." 
The next scenes are flashbacks explaining Derek's journey from a suburban white teenager to a vengeance-seeking white supremacist. Derek had already been influenced by his father's critical views on African American culture and affirmative action (which his father refers to it as "affirmative black-tion"), and also how he doesn't trust two African-Americans on his squad who scored lower on a hiring test than two whites. He believes they were hired as a result of affirmative action in order to meet racial quotas.
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It is revealed at the Venice Beach Police station through Dr. Sweeney and a video tape that his father is killed in drive by while fighting a fire in which Derek goes off on a racial tirade blaming blacks and Mexicans for what happened to his father.
Eventually, Derek becomes second-in-command of the Venice Beach Neo-Nazi gang, called "The Disciples of Christ", and entices young whites to join by promising protection from predominantly minority gangs who are prominent in the area. The gang is masterminded by an aging, manipulative neo-Nazi leader named Cameron Alexander (Stacy Keach). Together, the gang commits acts of intimidation, such as damaging a store owned by a Korean-American for hiring illegal Mexican workers, or challenging basketball games against groups of black players in order to win the court, thereby preventing blacks from gaining foot and territory on the courts.
His Mother while having a dinner party invites Danny's history teacher to their house for dinner where Derek, his girlfriend, Danny, and his sister Davina are having dinner. Murray(the history teacher) begins a conversation re:racial relations which eventually leads to a heated discussion between Derek, Murray and his sister. His sister Davina attempts to walk away however is assaulted by Derek. Derek eventually orders Murray to leave and as a result Derek's mother tells him to get out of her house.
That night, three of the black men drive up to the Vinyard house and start breaking into Derek's truck. Danny notices it and interrupts the passionate sex Derek is having with his neo-Nazi girlfriend Stacy (Fairuza Balk). Derek takes out a handgun, goes downstairs and begins firing, killing one man and wounding another. He then fires at their car as the third man drives away. After recognizing the wounded man as a player from the basketball game, Derek kills him by ordering him to place his mouth on the curb and then stomping on the back of his head (known as a "curb stomping"), effectively breaking his jaw and neck in revenge for the attempted car burglary. The car was a gift from his father, and therefore very valuable to Derek. Danny watches the killing in horror, then witnesses his brother submitting to the police officers and smiling triumphantly, thinking he has done no wrong. Derek is then led away by the police.
Derek is sentenced to prison after being charged with voluntary manslaughter. Danny states that if he had testified, Derek would have gotten life imprisonment because of the murder he had committed. In prison, Derek joins the Aryan Brotherhood for protection. During this time, this white supremacist gang, angry at many of Derek's actions (ironically, mostly due to his anger over the group's dealings with a Mexican gang), gang rape him during a group shower while the guard on duty turns a blind eye.
Meanwhile, Derek makes the acquaintance of a black inmate named Lamont with whom he works in the prison laundry room. Although Derek initially scorns Lamont, he gradually warms up to him. Following the rape, he encounters his former teacher, the black Dr. Sweeney, and asks him for help after all the atrocities he has caused by his own hand. Sweeney, currently the school principal, also tells him of his younger brother Danny's aspirations of becoming a neo-Nazi just like Derek. Derek distances himself from the Aryan Brotherhood, and Lamont emerges as his only true friend. Just before Derek is released on parole, he realizes that only through Lamont's intervention did the black prison gangs leave him unharmed after the Brotherhood withdrew their protection.
Derek returns home to find that Danny has modeled his own life like Derek's pre-incarceration beliefs. After failing to convince Danny to leave the gang, Derek visits his old neo-Nazi mentor, Cameron Alexander, and informs him that he'll no longer associate with him. He also tells him to stay away from Danny. When Cameron says that Danny needs him more than he needs Derek, Derek ferociously beats Cameron. He starts a confrontation when his friend Seth (Ethan Suplee), points a gun at him, feeling disgusted that Derek has betrayed the group. Derek wrestles the gun from Seth's hand and points it at the angry crowd before running away from the party. Danny angrily confronts Derek, who tells him about his experiences in prison. The confession seems to prompt a change in Danny. They walk home and begin to change their ways, ripping down all their neo-Nazi posters and regalia on the bedroom wall. After showering, Derek looks at the swastika tattoo on his chest in shame and regret, and puts a hand over it.
The following morning at sunrise, Danny tells the end to his story. He says that he's never watched the sunrise before and he hopes that this paper is what Dr. Sweeney is looking for. Derek gets ready for his meeting with the probation officer and soon they leave together. Derek walks Danny to school before his meeting, and on their way they stop at a café. There, they meet up with Dr. Sweeney and a police officer. They tell Derek that Cameron and Seth Ryan were found last night after being jumped and they are now in the hospital. Dr. Sweeney and the cop both ask Derek if he knows anything about it and he swears he doesn't. Derek tells them that he has somewhere to go and that he's going to walk Danny to school before he goes. They set off on their way. As Derek is dropping him off, he staggers over words and finally says, "I'll see you at home." Danny starts for the front doors of the school and Derek heads down the street. As he walks, there is a visible feeling of apprehension in Derek. At the same time, Danny enters the bathroom just before class starts. What Danny doesn't know is that the black boy from the day before is in the bathroom as well. When Danny finishes and turns around, he meets face to face with the kid, who raises a gun and shoots Danny several times in the chest.
Next we see Derek racing to the school. His worst fear is realized as he lays in the bathroom floor holding his dead brother, Danny. He sits with him and holds his body close to his. The only words that can be heard between sobs are the remarks Derek is making to himself about what he's done.
The film ends with Danny narrating the conclusion of a paper about his brother he was assigned to write by Dr. Sweeney, in which he quotes the conclusion of Abraham Lincoln's first inaugural address:
“ We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory... ...will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
American History X. Dir. Tony Kaye. Perf. Edward Norton, Edward Furlong, Beverly D'Angelo, and Avery Brooks. New Line Cinema, 1998.
American History X Essay
1126 Words5 Pages
American History X
Will racism ever come to an end or will its path go on infinitely? For the most part, the majority of people respect those who are different either in color, race, and/or heritage; however, there are those few that hold bigoted views towards people who are different than they are. The movie American History X by Tony Kaye displays an example of people who hold bigoted views. Derek, a Neo-Nazi leader, must contend with his actions relating to his past racist views and actions. This powerful movie explores its characters thoroughly and gives reasons why people become so callous and turn towards a racist group. It also exposes insight to problems that plague America when it comes to racism in…show more content…
Derek realized that hatred towards people did not help him, his family, or the situation at hand. Instead of being negative and destructive, why not be positive. Hurting people and destroying property does not solve problems, but only makes them worse by causing more resentment and tension between people (Theriou). Nothing good has ever come out of a situation where one person has been the victim of a crime or abuse. Good things come out of situations where people show hospitality, good will, and compassion; not hatred.
It is made very clear that Derek and Danny have no affiliations with the Ku Klux Klan. Derek calls the KKK a bunch of disorganized rednecks that very inanely run around with sheets on their heads. Instead they are part of a Neo-Nazi group in Southern California. In America today there are “estimated to be about 200,000 members
602 3 associated with white power groups (included in these estimates are supporters and hard core members plus their families)” (Suall). That is a lot of people who are affiliated with known racist groups. When looking on the Internet a person can realize how much hate is present in our world. John Hron website has estimates of Neo-Nazis in countries and a little bit about how that country views Nazism. America has about 85,000 Neo-Nazi members compared with 47,000 German Neo-Nazis. Germany though has a lot