Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Institutionalized Racism and Identity

"What does it take for someone to move from a position of hate and racism to a position of tolerance and respect like the transformation that occurred in Derek?" 

From Jesus to the Justice Maker

    Every action leads to a reaction. Every step will take you to a certain path, and every choice you make, rewards you in a way. The whole concept of "what goes around comes back around" is not that much of a cliché in certain situations, but rather life's response to the wrong, or right questions we make, generally without thinking on the consequences of it. On "American History X", Derek suffers drastic consequences to the wrong choices he made on the past, and he indeed receives tough answers to the wrong questions asked. By facing the consequences and accepting the answers, Derek not only becomes a different, and perhaps better person, but also learns that his concept of perfection was not only unreachable, but unreal. Derek's racism was hugely fed throughout his life, and it all started at home, which made it even more intense. During the 1960's, some facts happened that influenced  Derek's racism to be built up from his father, such as the fact that he mentions how pissed off he is about the fact that Latin Americans and negroes are "stealing" the jobs that were supposed to be reserved for white Americans only, and how the whole "No Racism" campaign is everywhere he looked.  It is important to keep in mind that whether or not Derek was influenced by his father, his school, religion, or Cameron, he did have an enormous sense of hate and racism inside him, which is defined as a racial prejudice or discrimination. 

   By the beginning of the movie, Derek was a Neo-Nazi Skinhead, member of a "White Power" skinhead community from Los Angeles, California, who at several times committed extremely violent acts towards minorities of the U.S, such as Latin American peoples, Asians, and negroes. Derek was highly influenced by Cameron, who was the head of the Neo-Nazi Skinhead group, and had a shameful past. As mentioned several times in the movie, especially by the school's principal, Derek had a huge intelligence and an extremely great potential, which were externalized in the wrong way after his father was killed by a couple of black men, and Cameron saw in Derek a great influenceable figure, who would project Cameron's desires of a "pure race" to the group. As it is a major characteristic of most people who seek for perfection, Derek was very intense in everything he did, and want it big. So much anger, sadness and reprehension over Cameron's pressure added up with the results of his father's death upon his life and his family would eventually had to be externalized, which happened in a sad and drastic way. Towards the middle of the movie, Derek commits the repulsive act of violently killing two negroes who try to steal his car as a way of getting revenge, since Derek's crew won the basketball court. After that, Derek's life changes drastically, and he eventually realizes that "anything he has done, never made his life any better", and that maybe, he waited a little too long to make a move. 
    After Derek goes to trial and receive his sentence, being condemned to go to jail, he starts to see that the world "outside", or in other words, the world inside prison, was not the fair division he expected. Once Derek is in prison, he starts to believe that he will not survive, and having a Nazi symbol tattooed on his left chest does not help. He tries as much as he can to fit in and gather together with the ones who share similar beliefs and ideals as he does, other Neo-Nazis Skinheads, per say. With time, however, Derek starts to see certain things that he considers highly hypocritical. The "boss" of the Skinhead crew in prison starts buying drugs from a Latin American, which goes against all the morals and principles of the Skinheads. When the whole crew realizes that Derek is seeing patterns that were supposed to be kept hidden, they eventually treat Derek in a different way than they treat the other Neo Nazi members of the group. In addition to that, Derek is assigned to work with a negro, who shows him how life really is, and makes Derek realize that madness will not take him any far. Derek eventually finds out they have a lot of things in common despite of their "exorbitant" difference, and starts to gather together with his group of friends to play basketball, which makes the Neo Nazis feel betrayed, leading them to gang rape Derek in order to "teach him a lesson". 

   Sometimes, lessons are better learned through pain. After Derek goes through a kind of suffering and pain equal to the one he had caused to the families of his victims, and the victims themselves, he learns that there is no such a thing as hate. After seeing how hypocritical and biased people are, to the point of betraying their own morals for money and popularity, Derek realizes that life is too short to waste time being mad. He finally understands that hate, unlike comprehension, works like an arrow, which pushes people away from happiness. Like Martin Luther King Jr. once said, "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great of a burden to bear." 

   Lastly, but definitely not least, instead of an obscure imagine, everyone should learn to be absolutely clear like Derek learned. The world as a whole should support the complete and total adoption of equality for everyone without exception, because that is what is right, and it is about time we do the right thing. 

Twitter: @anadamha
aboutme: @anadamha

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