American History X Essay

            The word “wrong” indicates that something is out of place. This word is so simple but holds much power. When Ed Norton used the word “wrong” at the end of American History X it conveyed his disgust with racial battles as well as his disgust with his own racist behavior. After a period of time spent in jail, Ed Norton’s character, Derek, realizes that spending so much time hating African American people is a waste of time. Derek is saddened to see his brother beginning to follow the same path he took that landed him in prison. Ed Norton portrays an intelligent young man who knows his way around the racial challenges. However, he uses the word “wrong” when he could have used so many other more powerful words, such as atrocities, horrors or violence. His choice to use the word “wrong” summed up his frustration with the all encompassing battle between white people and African Americans.

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            “Terror in our Neighborhoods” by the Klanswatch Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center discusses the nature of black-white tensions that lead to so much violence and death (71). Hate crimes, gang violence and racial divisions are all terrors that so many young people like Derek and Danny grow up with (Klanswatch Project, 71). The word “wrong” was used to refer to these tragedies because it encompasses so many different attitudes that any other word could not do. Ed Norton acting as Danny got his point across very well by using the word “wrong.” The audience was able to see how tired he was of the racial violence and tensions in his neighborhood. There is no debate about the actions in this movie; no one would contest that they were wrong. However, using the word “wrong” shows just how encompassing racial tension really is.

“Look, it’s just wrong Danny,” (Kaye, 1998) could mean so many different things outside the context of the movie. However, this quote used at the end of the movie allows the audience to reflect back on the many graphic and violent scenes within the movie in order to captivate them into agreeing with such a simple statement. The culminating scene where Danny is shot and killed sums up Derek’s new attitude towards the racial divide better than any other quote could have.

Kaye, Tony. “American History X.” 1998.

Klanswatch Project. “Terror in our Neighborhoods.” In Experience Race, Class and Gender in

            the United States. Columbus, OH: McGraw-Hill, 2004.

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