American history x, analyse
American History X
I. A study of the root of racism
1) The movie: quick summary
The film tells the story of two brothers, Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) and Daniel "Danny" Vinyard (Edward Furlong) of Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California. Both are intelligent and charismatic students. Their father, a firefighter, is murdered by black drug dealers while trying to extinguish a fire in South Central neighborhood of Los Angeles, and Derek is drawn into the neo-Nazi movement. Derek brutally kills two black gang members whom he catches in the act of breaking into the truck left to him by his father, and is sentenced to three years in prison. The story shows how Danny is influenced by his older brother's actions and ideology and how Derek, now radically changed by his experience in incarceration, tries to prevent his brother from going down the same path as he did.
2) The breakfast scene
Derek is a straight student and seems to be quite open-minded. He admires one of his teachers who got a double PhD. Derek's father starts questioning the teacher's competence saying he must be biased because he is black. Derek's father is not very learned, down-to-earth and preoccupied with everyday problems.
People would tend to think that Derek became racist when his father died, killed by two black men while trying to rescue people. Derek would have let himself fall into hatred because his father died while doing a respectable job. He actually became racist way earlier because his father encouraged him to dislike black people.
This conversation you have just seen displays the root of Derek's racism.
This scene is a flashback showing how a bright and open-minded student turned into a white supremacist. It is clear that it did not occur on the day of his father's murder, the idea was already present in his everyday environment.
Derek's father disapproves of affirmative action because he thinks that it's an unfair