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 blackdrug 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 howDerek, 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 isnot 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 blackpeople.
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 unfairpractice. He sounds frustrated because white people are not allowed to get what they deserve and this frustration leads to hatred. Derek is touched by what his father says and sympathizes with him.
Hatred was instilled in Derek's mind and remained at the back of his mind until the murder, the murder of his father only triggered off a reaction. Thanks to this scene we understand that racism isnot an instant phenomenon, it explains its mechanism. It truly shows how an ordinary person can turn into a racist.
II. The principle of affirmative action
1) The concept of affirmative action in the United States
Affirmative action was first established in Executive Order 10925, which was signed by President John F. Kennedy on March 6, 1961 and required government contractors to "notdiscriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, creed, color, or national origin" as well as to "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin". This executive order was superseded by Executive Order 11246, which was signed by PresidentJohnson on September 24, 1965 and affirmed the Federal Government's commitment "to promote the full realization of equal employment opportunity through a positive, continuing program in each executive department and agency".
It is notable that affirmative action was not extended to women until Executive Order 11375 amended Executive Order 11246 on October 13, 1967, expanding the definition to include"sex." As it currently stands, affirmative action through Executive Order 11246 applies to "race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." In the U.S., affirmative action's original purpose was to pressure institutions into compliance with the nondiscrimination mandate of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Civil Rights Acts do not cover veterans, people with disabilities, or people over 40....
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