Campus Violence is Institutionalized

Folks talk about campus violence like it’s perpetuated by a few bad apples, tgise disenfranchised men and boys who play too many violent video games. What the mainstream doesn’t talk about is campus violence like violence against women or police brutality by campus police. Why? Because these forms of violence are institutionalized, and unfairly biased against people because they are women and people of color.

Professor Angela Davis spoke on my campus yesterday about the Prison Industrial Complex and prison abolition, and at a question and answer with students she talked about yesterday’s shooting. I’ll share a bit here, typed from what I took on my digital recorder.

I’ve always been interested in what I call circuits of violence, the ways in which certain modes of violence feed into and reproduce other modes of violence. We like to think of domestic violence and intimate violence separately from military violence, or separately from state violence. I think it’s really important to think of these forms of violence together and ask how they mutually reinforce each other and how the individual agent of violence, situated in a larger context where violence is so easily used by the state, has a certain level of comfort, a certain level of feeling that this is the way things are supposed to be done.

It is a tragedy anytime anyone is murdered. I don’t know what experiences fueled Cho Seung-Hui yesterday at Virgina Tech, but he was an immigrant and a person of color living in a country where those communities are routinely victims of institutionalized violence. That doesn’t justify killing, but I don’t think we can understand one form of violence without looking at the greater culture and institutions that normalize and perpetuate it.

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4 Responses to Campus Violence is Institutionalized

  1. Ooh, you got to see Angela Davis speak? Lucky you! She spoke at my campus tonight, but I didn’t hear about it until all the tickets were gone. D:

    She makes a great point about the normalization of institutional violence.

  2. Fire Fly says:

    I think the Virginia Tech shooting means that boundaries between “domestic violence” and other kinds of violence need to be interrogated. Given that the majority of victims of domestic violence are women, the minimisation of domestic violence (in this case and in wider society) really serves to minimise violence in general, to dehumanise victims and thwart justice. While it sucks that the deaths of men at the hands of men are needed to bring this to attention (as if women’s deaths didn’t matter as much), the point stnds: interpersonal violence is political

  3. Roy says:

    I totally agree, Fire Fly. One aspect of the ways that we normalize violence that I think really needs to get attention is how institutions help perpetuate or normalize violence by hiding it. At Eastern Michigan, the administration was usually very quick to warn students if there were dorm break-ins happening, or if there was a mugging. And yet, when a student was found dead in her dorm-apartment over break, the first thing the admin did was say “Oh, there’s no reason to suspect foul play.” This, despite the fact that the police suspected from the very start (rightly) that they were dealing with a rape-murder. I’ve heard from people at other campuses that rapes are similarly covered up, and swept under the rug.

  4. B says:

    Without (hopefully) sounding like an extremist, how can schools not have better alert systems in place right now? What kind of bizarre cop-out is that?

    And yet, then what’s the potential for misuse/abuse?

    When I was in undergrad, as I may have stated here before, they not only kept a suspected rapist on campus because he was a star basketball player (he was later convicted after he offended a second time); he kept his f*ing scholarship too. He was a man of color, which complicated things to no end (but should it have?! he’s a sex offender!).

    I’m going to think more today about how we normalize public cases of domestic violence and immediately jump to completely wack assumptions in these cases of violence within institutions. If I hear one more person talk about Seung-Hui’s “dark” writings, I’m going to explode.

    This isn’t a blaming statement but a general question: anyone know where his parents are?

    Great post. I should come back here more often again :)

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