Thursday, March 3, 2011

Racial Violence

Violence has been used as a method of control and domination amongst those who are inferior all over the world. This is not only true for racism, but anything that can be labeled as an "ism." The concept of superior groups using violence against a group of people that are deemed as powerless can be applied to the abusing of women, children, and racial groups. The question was asked on Tuesday if there was a direct relationship between racism and violence and my answer would be YES. I think history has proved that violence has been used in direct relation with racism. In slavery, violence was used, in most cases, not as a punishment for something that was done wrong, but used more for the recognition of power and because it could be done. Even after slavery, the lynchings and police brutality for example were because of racism.
We started talking about whether or not violence was just physical or could it include other forms of violence, such as psychological and verbal. I think that physical violence is the one form that is most recognized, but I do think that psychological and verbal violence has a major effect on those who have experienced racial violence. I think these two are more detrimental than physical violence. Psychological scars are passed down from generation to generation and the negative images and words that were spoken are forever embedded in that person's life.
While looking at the different definitions of violence, I found that physical and psychological acts of violence could be defined from "abusive or unjust exercise of power.

vi·o·lence (v-lns)
1. Physical force exerted for the purpose of violating, damaging, or abusing: crimes of violence.
2. The act or an instance of violent action or behavior.
3. Intensity or severity, as in natural phenomena; untamed force: the violence of a tornado.
4. Abusive or unjust exercise of power.
5. Abuse or injury to meaning, content, or intent: do violence to a text.
6. Vehemence of feeling or expression; fervor

Now that we have came to the conclusion in class that all of us are racist in some form, how do you think that violence and racism plays out in today's society?


  1. Great post. You're reference to the psychological/mental violence wrought by racism is so important; if we agree that racism has become more subtle -- thus many of the most flagrant acts of physical violence perpetuated against racial groups are are no longer seen as acceptable -- than it is exactly these non-physical manifestations of racial violence that remain un-treated.

  2. I agree! I also don't think it is the case that ONLY those who have experienced racial violence have an increased sensitivity to psychological/mental violence. I think that, as you said, any unjust use of power can be defined as violence toward any group of inferior people in society. You hit the nail on the head by pointing out the objectification of all groups that end in "ism." I think that we could only say that violence can only be physical and not mental if we could prove that those who DO hold positions of power can also be mentally affected by those who DO NOT hold positions of power.

  3. Yea, I definitely think there's a relation between the two. Racism is all about dehumanization. Someone in class mentioned that the majority of humanity think it is wrong to physically and emotionally harm another human being. Therefore, violence could be considered unnatural. Racism is wrong, and enslaving and degrading an individual solely based on their race is also wrong. In order to justify racism, you have to forget that those individuals are people. Once you believe that your victim is not human, you are "free" to treat them....almost in an animalistic nature. Violence is necessary to keep people in line, and since these individuals have been dehumanized, violence is perfectly acceptable.

    I don't know if that made any sense...but I liked your post!

  4. Yes violence can definitely be both physical and psychological. And I agree that psychological scars outlast physical ones because though pain experienced by your body can be forgotten…the theft of your “freedom”, as mentioned by Fanon, is not as easily forgotten. Once someone has caused you to think of yourself as an object and thus caused you to begin the process of dehumanizing yourself, it is incredibly difficult for you to bounce back. Psychological warfare seems to be the most damaging aspect of racism.

  5. I agree that mental torture is more effective than physical; however, I also think that actual beatings carry a heavy psychological toll. The combination of these aspects can be devastating when passed down through generations. A group may begin to feel resigned to a life of oppression and see no escape after being told they don't matter for long enough.

  6. Going a step further, I think the mere threat of violence can be totally incapacitating. Just look at the voter intimidation that has occurred throughout U.S. history, most notably in the 1960s, leading up to the enforcement of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965. In almost every national election since Reconstruction, and even after the passage of the 1965 act, African American voters and other minorities have faced calculated and determined efforts at intimidation and suppression. By being able to effect the outcome of the electoral process, I think that this form of racial violence is a grave danger to freedom and democracy.

  7. It is also interesting to think about racist hate crimes. I wonder when I see racist graffiti or read about random acts of racist violence, whether or not any specific person incited the act or if it was induced out of pure racial spite. Would something like a racist slur graffiti be more offensive or less if it were grounded in a specific event. This may be a silly question, but is it worse to be racist abstractly or based on personal experience?


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