American History X: A Study in Racial Confrontation
American History X depicts the several transformations of Derek Vinyard, a Neo-Nazi ôskinheadö whose life is depicted in a series of flashbacks (Shreve, 103). Vinyard is a young man who is introduced as a serious student with no racial prejudices, and who becomes a radical ôskinheadö after the murder of his fireman father by African-Americans during a fire in a crack house. In prison, Vinyard is befriended by a Black inmate, abjures the ôskinheadö gang, is gang-raped by his former friends, and returns to the outside world determined to save his younger brother from involvement in the gang. VinyardÆs transformations are, as this report will argue, evidence of his vulnerability to external influences and his eventual rejection of racism and violence; he is an exemplar of those disaffected young Americans who perceive themselves under attack by the forces of social change that have not as yet created a truly ôlevel playing fieldö for all Americans, regardless of race, ethnicity, color or socioeconomic status.
Critic John Simon (50) reviewed the film and stated that the prison experience forever changed Derek, who comes to the realization that violence simply begets more violence. Derek rejects the ôskinheadsö in prison because of their drug trafficking activities, which involve a rival Mexican gang; befriended by Lamont, an African-American who teachers him how to relax and to reconsider his stereotypical views of racial minorities, DerekÆs moment of final transformation occurs when he is gang-raped by his former friends.
Returning home, Derek realizes this his younger brother, Danny, has become involve din his old gang and is likely to run afoul of the law. As critic Daryle Jenkins (6463) put it, this film is not so much an indictment of ôskinheadö gangs (though it is that) as it is of American society as a whole. Derek is first introduced to racist...