The movie American History X is a proclamation of the insecurity that is faced by the white community in America. The movie is an attempt to chronicle the response of the white majority to the incidence of overwhelming illegal immigration which they see as a threat. The rage and ethnocentrism of the white youth population is a mere reflection of insecurity and resistance to the policies of the government. The coming together of the white youth in ethnocentrism gives them a new sense of identity and security as they become a single unit in confronting violence and harassing illegal immigrants. The newfound social domination through rage and ethnocentrism makes the youth acquire ethnocentric ideas. They come to believe that all minority groups in the United States should not enjoy the fruits of the American Dream. They come to believe that only white people deserve the right to enjoy the American Dream since it is their belief that it is the protestant values mostly ascribed to the white population as opposed to the African American and immigrants (Bobo, 2002).
Group dynamics play a significant role in exposing and developing the main themes of the movie. The instance of Derrick Vineyard going to prison is an important part in the development of the theme of the movie. The thrusting of Derrick into an atmosphere in which he is a minority in prison presents an opportunity for Derrick to reexamine his opinions on white supremacy and ethnocentrism (Carter, 2000). While he is a minority in prison, he finds protection from the white inmates. Ironically, group dynamics also play a role in changing his attitude towards the antagonist. Derrick is torn between the loyalty shown by his African American partner and the protection he receives from his racist white prison friends. The theme of group dynamics is used to push the theme that people act differently as individuals and in groups. It is hard to reconcile the treatment that Derrick receives from the black population and the relationship he has with his friend. One of the major points to note is the hypocrisy shown by Derrick’s white friends who ferociously rape him for his association with the African Americans. This event is what finally makes Derrick turn and get rid of the ideals he had held prior to the incident.
Derrick’s prison experience is a good lesson on how certain sociological experiences may be useful in the shaping of attitudes and lifestyles. The instance of the profound honesty when Derrick explains his prison experiences, which have led to his change of attitude, makes a major impact on his younger brother. Through this vulnerable honesty, Danny is able to understand how his brother had come to abandon the ethnocentric values that they had all held before he went into prison. The prison experience is a profound explanation of how group dynamics can serve to change racist attitudes (Bobo, 2002). After an encounter with a side of the African American population that they had been blind to see, brothers come to perceive their Nazi racist regalia as a burden, whereas before they had displayed them honorably. The movie is a perfect illustration of how racism and ethnocentrism can lay society, groups, families and individuals prisoner. The film proves that while racism is an issue which cannot be wished away, it is possible for people with ethnocentric tendencies to change their attitudes through social experiences. People do not have to be reactive in responding to sociological insecurities but rather the yoke of racism may be defeated by a proactive approach to these insecurities (Das, 2007).