The belief that because of a person’s race, they are inferior sub-human citizens is a form of structural violence often times practiced in world history. From the mass genocide of Jews during WWII to the lynching of blacks by the KKK, discrimination is no stranger to history’s past. Though time has passed since the most egregious and obvious forms of direct violence have been practiced in America violence and discrimination are far from obsolete. Few people realize the underlying forms of violence that perpetuate and allow direct forms of racial violence in our society
Often, people excuse micro aggressions as ignorance but fail to see the real forms of structural, cultural and direct violence that micro aggressions perpetuate. According to Galtung, structural violence ” refers to systematic ways in which social structures harm or otherwise disadvantage individuals.” When discussing race and racism in America, people almost always look first to the discrimination against minorities. Thus, structural violence, in the violence triangle is a legitimizer for both cultural and direct forms of violence.
Cultural violence makes direct and structural forms of violence “look and even feel right” Micro-aggressions have become so firmly engrained in American culture, and more specifically related to this blog, the Andover culture. Students teachers and faculty do not realize that their words and actions may be harmful to other students simply because past American cultural practices have allowed people of all races to believe their covert derogatory comments pose no harm or offense to the recipient. Cultural violence in this case is most evident in the language people use when addressing, talking to or about minority students.
When people think of black residents in Manhattan’s poorest neighborhoods, they do not refer to the location of the residents from “x” neighbor hood, rather they are “from the ghetto or from the hood.” By reducing their community from a proper noun to a derogatory phrase, Americans thus diminish the culture and identity of the communities residences.
When people see an African American student upset about something and talking in a loud voice, she is “an angry black woman”
When students hear that a minority student got into a college that they did not, the minority student “did not deserve to get in”
Comments like these have become the norm rather than the exception. They are the accepted language in American jargon. They are a problem that further perpetuates racial divisions, racism and micro aggression.
Last year, a 17 year old African-Amerian boy, Trayvon Martinwas shot and killed in Florida for looking “like he was up to trouble.” The story caught on to the media and Americans were outraged. They blamed the man for being racist and simply killing the boy because “he was black.” The stereotype that blacks in sweatpants and hoods are in gangs looking for violence lost an innocent boy his life. No one however address the fact that in the common place language of Americans, we are constantly discriminating against the black race through our language and actions. We call people from poor neighborhoods derogatory names, we see black characters on TV selling drugs and shooting people. However when someone kills a young black boy the media is outraged but no one questions how the American culture and the media itself help ensure that the death of Trayvon Martin is not an isolated incident.
People react to direct violence as if it is the only form of violence that matters. As students, we must look at our community and evaluate what role we play in perpetuating different, less obvious forms of violence.
Furthermore, micro aggressions are small, often times unnoticed or invisible forms of racism. Continued, without notice, they ensure that Americans can never live in a racism free environment.
Source: Galtung, Johan Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 27, No. 3 (Aug., 1990), pp. 291-305