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By Elvira Lopez

The movie tells a story of a young man's struggle to save his younger brother from his previous beliefs of racism and white superiority. As the story develops, we can see how his father's influence and ultimately his death, send him down a path of hatred. It is his involvement in the skin head's ideology that gets him incarcerated for the murder of two Black men that are trying to steal his truck. Ironically, the movie shows us how it is this event of incarceration, and being raped by his own white group of skinheads that leads him to seek clearer understanding of what has happened in his life. With the help of a Black professor, and a fellow Black inmate, he begins his process of change in his understanding of the relationships between people. Through this process, he realizes that he as lead his younger brother astray, and it's at this point that he sets out to save his brother from the same situation he found himself in.

Avery Brooks and Edward Norton
Avery Brooks and Edward Norton
Photo: Peter Sore

This movie spoke to me from the moment it started playing. To begin with, the movie touched many themes that explore the complex psychological and social dynamics that are involved in cross cultural interaction, and its effects on people of colour. The movie was intended to show its viewers that racism affects everyone, whether you are black or white, but the most important message that isconveyed through this script, was that people of colour continue to be oppressed by the power dynamics within mainstream society. American History X brings to the screen a form of radicalism in the way that Hollywood sees the violence that exists, and maintains an ideology of white supremacy. I think that this movie is a good first step to begin looking at how hate groups operate and recruit young people. The movie, like many Hollywood productions, is not without weaknesses, and seems to focus on the individual's stories. It does not really touch on the structures that perpetuate the racism and inequality experienced by the people in the movie. This movie can be a good tool for people wanting to learn more about issues of racism and hate groups; unfortunately, depending on one's focus, this movie could also convey a form of sensationalism that may give certain people the wrong message. Also, I have wondered if movies like this one must necessarily be made with such visual violence, and whether the showing of such violence would work against what it's trying to portray. I think however, that this movie's greatest success is its ability to create an awareness of issues of racism. At the same time, the movie will raise many questions from its viewers, no doubt stimulating a commitment to learning, and doing more to combat racism.

Elvira Lopez is a Mexican born woman, who is currently a practicum social work student at the Capital Region Race Relations office.

American History X
Edward Furlong
Edward Norton
Directed by
Tony Kaye

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