Jan 25, 2018 in Narrative


Racism could be a person’s belief that one race is better than the rest. Racism comes from ancient times but today’s people aren’t as open about it. Some people are racist against the color of someone’s skin or even their religious beliefs.  ‘American History X’ is a movie that can make racist people take a look at themselves and how they view other people and other ethnic groups. The movie starts off with an apparent message that is racism against African American people. Derrik becomes a young so called Nazi skinhead when his father is killed by an African American drug dealer while putting out a fire. Derrik encourages his little brother to follow the same beliefs that he does. Thus, this essay seeks to explore racial identity threat and how it has affected integration in the American society from historic times to date.

In the film, American History X,Derrik gets arrested for killing two African American boys for trying to take his truck. While in prison Derrik joins the white crew for protection, he then sees that they still do business with other races so he gets offended. The main leader of the gang gets mad and decides to teach Derrik a lesson and orders the other white brothers to rape him in the shower. Derrik is then paired up to work detail with an African American guy who begins to let Derrik see another perspective on different races because Derrik is no longer protected from the white gang. He can only become a target for all other gangs in prison but his new found friend secretly protects him until he is released.  

The Neo Nazis in the movie represent a gang of white skin heads who scorn and hold rage against African Americans and other “minority groups”; something that has threatened harmonious co-existence of races in the American society for long. Derrik tells Danny what happened to him in prison and this seems to change the way Danny thinks and he agrees to change. Danny says, “I hate anyone that isn't white Protestant… They're a burden to the advancement of the white race. Some of them are all right, I guess...” Danny is very selective and has a very negative reaction towards the blacks as influenced by Derek. He thinks that the white race should be recognized as the race that matters. For Danny, racism and anger becomes poison to him. It eats him from the inside. He thinks that hating an individual is a weapon that harms the person who hinders their progress. However, hatred through racism is like a curved blade. The racial harm that they both do, takes a very huge turn on his life.

Racism has caused detrimental effects on characters like Danny when he goes to school on one occasion. This takes place after he visits the washroom where an African American student shoots him several times in the chest instantly killing him. This hate has reached great levels of murder. The African American kills Danny because of his race.  At some point, Bob Sweeney tells Derrik, “There was a moment, when I used to blame everything and everyone for all the pain and suffering and vile things that happened to me, that I saw happen to my people. Used to blame everybody. Blamed white people, blamed society, blamed God. I didn't get no answers 'cause I was asking the wrong questions. You have to ask the right questions.” This shows how people regard themselves better than others. They always think that their race is superior and that other races are merely a source of trouble.

Well, Amy Tan, on the other hand, describes what is seen as an American child staying with foreign parents which is highly comparable to an American child staying with English speaking parents. This is well described in “Mother Tongue”. Amy has all along lived the rest of her life with her mother who speaks English that is influenced by Chinese language. Racism still remains to be their challenge. People can easily look down upon them because they cannot speak good English.  She explores the neglect she faced from the English teachers, but finally succeeded and ended up being a writer. This is an indication of how racism has affected her because she cannot speak English well at first. Amy is not at ease with her mother speaking English in the public. Amy shows how people can be despised if they are found limited in speaking English. They feel that their race is inferior. She refers to her mother’s English as broken language.  Failure to understand English well within the American society for immigrants can lock many doors of success and deny them many things owing to their race.

The English speaking races are presented as superior than those struggling to make a sentence in English. Creating a good image is very important in getting what a person wants. Speaking good English was one of the ways for an immigrant to succeed in the American society (Mukherjee 126-129). Amy’s mother chose to let her speak over the phone on her behalf, especially when it involved serious matters. This is more in particular at a time when her mother wanted to speak to a stockbroker from the New York City. Amy says, “When I was fifteen, she used to have me call people on the phone to pretend I was she” (78).

Amy Tan is a daughter of one of the immigrants into California from China in the end of 1940s. Though she knew Chinese, it was not enough to propel her to success in the United States. She ponders on the subject of learning English, as it takes a center stage and connects well with her success. She uses her book, “Mother Tongue,” to explore on this issue that has troubled many immigrants in the United States. Many arrive without having a good mastery of the language, but it has proven to be difficult living in America with such a condition (Mukherjee 126-129). Amy did not only want her mother to be despised in the public, but she helped her a lot in getting what she wanted from people across the American society. Although Amy stresses on the language that a family speaks and how it relates to shaping the child’s language, the importance of speaking good English in the American society is very much evident. They are making every effort to move away from their race as it is hampering their endeavors in the American society.


American History X is a great example of a racist person seeing the different view of races after being turned away from his own kind. There is always going to be racism around the world. It would be nice if people could see the error of their ways just like Derrik. People are also racist because all nationalities are stereotyped an example is being Jewish people. Jewish people are believed to be cheap, African American and Hispanics are believed to be criminals and living off welfare whereas Italians are all believed to have mob connections, so if we can’t get people to stop stereotyping they won’t stop being racist. People have a formed opinion concerning a particular race and they treat people based on these stereotypes as seen in the American History X film.

Amy Tan shows the same characteristics. As implied in her book, “Mother Tongue,” the failure to learn English would amount to despise and limited opportunities for the immigrants. This is a subject that has been debated upon concerning American being a place where cultures melt away occasioned by the fear of racism and its ravages. Amy shies away from her Chinese origin and language so that she can comfortably live within the American society with her mother.  Apparently, it is true of America today. It appears as though it is a requirement for immigrants to learn English and somehow adopt American culture if they are to experience success in their new homeland, in the United States. Otherwise, the immigrants are bound to racism and will consequently hamper their efforts in the American society.


Related essays