Last updated on 17.05.2020
JoAnn L. Skidmore
26 February 2019
Black and White Flashbacks: Looking Our Racist in the Eye
In the film, American History X, he portrays the profound message of how prejudice and hatred can change people and bring them closer together. Shows how “hate is baggage and life’s too short to be pissed off all the time.” Although hard to watch the film American History X, the realism of the movie sends a powerful message of hatred and violence.
Derek who had joined the neo-Nazi movement soon after the death of his father became imprisoned for killing two black men trying to steal his truck. Derek felt betrayed by his fellow white inmates while in prison and reluctantly befriends an African-American named Lamont. During his time in prison, Derek realizes that all the anger and hatred has gotten him, nowhere in life. Not all, white people have the same beliefs of hatred towards the black, brown, or yellow race.
Although Derek’s beliefs by his father and the neo-Nazi make him think it’s ok to murder the two black men he soon discovers in prison that it wasn’t. Derek tries to fit in with the white gang and sees that their beliefs are not quite what he believes and ventures out on his own. His fellow white inmates soon turn on him, and he realizes then that it’s not just black, brown, or yellow skinned people that are bad, and that’s when it hits him, and his eyes opened to a whole new world. He receives a visit from his high school teacher who makes him question his beliefs and shows him the teacher wasn’t the person his dad made him out to be. While working in the laundry room during his prison sentence, he becomes friends with a black male named Lamont who he soon discovers is the one person who turned out to be his friend and had been the one who protected him until his release.
His attempts to honor his father and the neo-Nazi with their beliefs ultimately lead to his brother’s death, which reveals that hatred, prejudice, and violence is a waste of time and gets you nowhere.
The realism of, American History X touches on real-life events and issues that we, as a society address constantly. It demonstrates how hatred and prejudice affect so many lives, not only the people it’s geared toward but their own lives as well. The writer of American History X uses black-and-white flashbacks to tell the story through Danny’s eyes.
The startling black-and-white kickoff scene shows Derek without hesitation brutally murdering two black men with such hatred, one of them by curb-stomping his head, briefly showing it but letting us hear the act. American History X probes into the sensitive side of racism, sexism, and violence but its messages are those of change and the redemptive power of personal integrity. An intense prison scene which shows a graphic rap scene complete with blood and full-frontal male nudity and violence.
Though most films steer clear of difficult subjects and unhappy endings, American History X jumps right into the deep end. Shows Derek curb-stomp a black male at the beginning of the film to set the stage for the reality of hatred and prejudice. The violent scenes that bring you to the edge of your seat to make you feel anger, sadness, and asking ourselves why? Showing us that hatred and prejudice ultimately will have a price to pay in the end. Touches on the prison scene to show the reality of prison life, and that even the same race doesn’t always think alike. Shows that people do what they need to do to survive and when you don’t agree with their ways that sometimes it comes with consequences, which leads to the scene where Derek suffers a brutal rape at the hands of his former neo-Nazi.
Today the realism of gang violence and hate crimes still exist, sadly American History X shows what life was like back then and what it still is somewhat like today. Although the neo-Nazi and white supremacist $1 don’t exist anymore the hatred, prejudice and gang crimes still do. The reality is, prejudice and violence touch us all in many ways, and the film American History X shows that racism leads to nothing but hatred and violence.
The story-telling is violent and quite disturbing at times, but it is also powerful and moving, an important part of the film because it shows how racism can be overcome through education and sometimes severe consequences.
The story makes you feel so many different emotions, it’s a story that has a good ending, not making you feel like something was left unsaid. It tells the story of how different races are and shows their true colors without attacking or bashing the races. The writer of American history x set out to show the audience that hatred and prejudice itself is wrong and how it caused Derek to become not only distant with his family but with himself as well
The film does not offer much in terms of developed black characters and, as such, has received tons of criticism, most of the black characters, except for a couple, are represented as mindless thugs and antagonize Derek and his family. However, the film does not set out to present white people as being just as victimized as black people but instead presents how racism and hatred in all its forms are destructive and leads to no resolution. Derek’s mother Doris invites Murray, whom she is dating, home for dinner, which turns into a full-blown argument between Derek and Murray, with Derek assaulting their sister Davina, Murray leaving, and Doris kicking Derek out. Derek knows the breakdown of his family is his fault and the only way to fix it is to become a better person.
With the fight for equal civil rights still an ongoing struggle in modern society, American History X still serves as an important film. American History X shows that the transition from bad to good is a lengthy process and that it isn’t always pretty and sometimes sacrifices must be made, but ultimately hate does not solve problems and it does not fix anything. Instead, it only adds further pain and suffering.
The two characters that stand out the most are Derek and Danny. The characters tell the story of not only the consequences of racism but also its beginnings.
Derek was good at basketball and school. He starts out as a normal teenager with a loving family. He is a violent racist but an intelligent one. Justifies murdering two men as revenge for the murder of his father. In the end, Derek realizes the error of his ways and is reformed. Danny is represented as the innocent, frustrated, and confused kid. Danny has a great love for his family, especially his younger sister. Looks up to his brother Derek as his role model. Danny was shot and killed by a black student in the end.
The two brothers were orphaned when their father was murdered while fighting a fire at a drug den, and Danny grew up with a racist brother, whose neo-Nazi views influenced him. Derek starts out acting like your normal teenager coming from a good home. Danny starts out your normal teenager but with a smug side to him who blows smoke in someone’s face. Being raised in a prejudiced home eventually causes Derek to take his anger out on black people after the murder of his father. When Derek was sent to prison Danny, despite his strong love for his family and the fact that he’s not really prejudiced follows in his brother’s footsteps and joins the Disciples of Christ gang while his brother was in prison. Derek even though very intelligent shows no remorse for and justifies murdering two men as the revenge of his father’s death. While serving his prison sentence Derek realizes the wrong he was doing and, in the end, is reformed. Towards the end, Derek realizes the effects he had on his younger brother and sets out to save him from the path he went down. Danny was convinced by his brother to leave the gang after hearing the tragic story about his prison time. Danny would later write a paper about his brother as a special assignment for principal Bob Sweeney, who had received a complaint from the history teacher. Tragically despite Derek’s current efforts, sometimes what people set in motion cannot be stopped and Danny who was shot by a black student and died in the end.
Setting out to send a powerful message of the consequence of hatred and prejudice, Derek and Danny delivered what the audience would expect.