Systemic Justification of Violence

From the moment of birth, people are bombarded with images and instructions on how they should grow up to be. Adults, mainly parents and teachers, as well as the media, discipline young children on how to behave to comply with the social norms. Whatever fits the social norms is considered to be natural and should be treated as being “human”. However, once an individual’s presupposition of what it means to be human is challenged, the individual’s sense of justice is skewed. This distorted perspective often leads to dehumanization of marginalized people and, ultimately, violence against them.

One of the many emerging problems of today’s society includes violence against transgender women, especially against trans women of colour. In western society, the binary gender system, which views gender with two rigid options of male and female, both of which are grounded in a person’s physical anatomy, has deeply rooted into its culture (Gender Spectrum). When such preconceived notion is questioned, for example by transgenders, individuals do not consider transgenders to be fit for society, justifying their violence against them.

Laverne Cox, who is best known for her role in the Netflix television series Orange is the New Black, shares her unjust experiences as being a Black trans woman in the United States.

“… these found me attractive, because I’m a woman. Then they realized that I was trans and it became something else.” (Cox)

The black and the Latin men expected to see a woman, but when they realized that Laverne was trans, their reaction immediately changed. It is not to say that catcalling is appropriate even if Laverne were not a transgender. However, when their expectation is overthrown by the fact that Laverne is transgender, they have dehumanized her into either the “b word” or the “n word”. Laverne is no longer considered a respectable human being, but rather a target for sexual harassment, which could have easily turned into physical violence.

It is also important to be aware that dehumanization occurs not only to transgenders, but also to all minorities, such as women, people of colour, including indigenous peoples, and disabled people.

Objectification of women is widely found in mass media and is deeply embedded in men’s socialization to value women less than men. Women are treated as properties, thus dehumanizing them, which creates an environment prone to violence, such as domestic violence (Porter).

Similarly, the European settlers’ definition of being human is being white and Christian. By using the term ‘savages’ to categorize First Nations, they dehumanize the indigenous people and attempt to justify treating them as less than human (Newcomb). Residential schools and mass murder of indigenous women are the results of such legitimization of violence.

Furthermore, social construction that privileges able bodies creates a contrast with the disabled people and illustrates them to be inferior. The disabled bodies or minds are depicted as being flawed and in need of repair. Such perspective further dehumanizes them and normalizes unjust treatments against them, which can at times be in forms of violence.

Unfortunately, none of the violence mentioned above stand alone in reality. Focusing on Laverne Cox’s speech again, this is what she describes her street harassment as:

“That moment when I was called the b or the n word, it was a moment where misogyny was intersecting with trans-phobia, was intersecting with some racist stuff.” (Cox)

Even though it is violence against one person, the underlying motive for such animosity targets Laverne’s various labels she carries as a black trans woman. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the intersecting nature and the overlapping root cause of violence against marginalized people.

It is easy to dismiss violence and oppression as few extreme cases. However, those positioned higher in the social hierarchy are systemically made unaware of their privileges (McIntosh). By disregarding these brutalities can contribute to the social norms that further condone such dehumanizing outlook on marginalized people.

For those reasons, acknowledgement and action from the privileged are crucial in preventing violence against marginalized people. However, this proposal is far from suggesting that the marginalized have no accountability. There are far more people who do not fall under the “perfect model” that society creates. If they can relate their experience as a marginalized person to certain privileges they may also possess, they can better understand the process of how their distorted perspective on marginalized people affects their behaviour towards them.

As Dr. Cornel West once said,

“…justice is what love looks like in public.” (West)

In order to bring justice, every person needs to deconstruct and reformulate the social norms, in a loving manner, so that they encompass and embody marginalized characteristics as simply being human.

Word count: 778

References

Cox, Laverne. “Laverne Cox Explains the Intersection of Transphobia, Racism, and Misogyny (And What to Do About It).” 7 December 2014. Everyday Feminism. 8th March 2015. <http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/12/laverne-cox-intersection-what-to-do/&gt;.

Gender Spectrum. “Understanding Gender.” n.d. Gender Spectrum. 8 March 2015. <https://www.genderspectrum.org/quick-links/understanding-gender/&gt;.

McIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack.” 1989. PDF. 11 March 2015. <https://www.isr.umich.edu/home/diversity/resources/white-privilege.pdf&gt;.

Newcomb, Steven. On Historical Narratives and Dehumanization. 20 6 2012. 10 March 2015. <http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2012/06/20/historical-narratives-and-dehumanization&gt;.

Porter, Anthony. National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence (NCDSV). 11 8 2014. PDF. 9th March 2015. <http://www.ncdsv.org/images/EndingDV–ACalltoMen.pdf&gt;.

West, Cornel. “PRESIDENT’S FORUM Dr. Cornel West.” September 2009. Hobart and William Smith College. Webpage. 11 March 2015. <http://www.hws.edu/about/presidentsforum/west_speech.aspx&gt;.

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5 thoughts on “Systemic Justification of Violence

  1. Great paper! What I enjoyed most was how you explained how our colonial history has created these systems of oppression that still effect marginalized groups today. You pressed upon the important topic social constructs, which also have strong influence on what society deems acceptable and unacceptable. These social norms often allow us to ignore discrimination against certain group, and you are completely right when you say that we need to deconstruct and reformulate social norms. Just a few grammatical errors throughout the paper but beside that it was great.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed your take on Laverne Cox’s speech. It was interesting to see how you expanded the intersect of black and trans oppression by recognizing other minorities that are dehumanized. This alludes to new intersects such as indigenous and trans oppression, or other racialized groups and trans oppression. At the end of your blog post you said “ every person needs to deconstruct and reformulate the social norms”. How would you propose going about this? Do you think this change can social constructs can be relearned once taught or if change must start with a new generation?
    -srhs

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really appreciated your emphasis on social norms at the beginning of the article i feel that social norms are something we need to tackle and tell the masses that there truly is no normal when it comes to being a human being. I also appreciate the quote that you brought in to the article it really strengthened your argument, and you definitely had a lot of information to tackle. (I’ve probably asked the same question on the other articles but) Do you believe that this needs to be discussed is schools perhaps as a part of the school curriculum? If so at what level? Elementary? Middle school? High school? University? or all of the above? I’m real fan on education and I personally feel this is the way to stop or take a hand in stopping the oppressive thinking and getting people to think about their actions much earlier. Just like the bullying and cyber bullying campaign I don’t expect it to stop all form of prejudice… but I’m really curious and would love to hear your thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Really good paper, I really liked your take on Laverne Cox and how she is dehumanized as a trans women. I liked how you opened up your analysis by talking about social norms and how people tend to not second guess the social norms in their society as it is something that is embedded deeply in our minds through childhood. This is one thing we have to change in society as there should not be a social norm on how a person should identify themselves, as everyone should be treated as equals and as human.“… these found me attractive, because I’m a woman. Then they realized that I was trans and it became something else.” (Cox) I thought this quote was very important as it shows how once a difference can be seen in society, people begin to treat as an unequal. Do you think this is something we can change in our society, by reconstructing this idea of social norms? do you think this should start in the education system? or perhaps in the way parents are raising their children, by opening their eyes to accepting all humans no matter what their identity is?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you everyone for your kind comments! I’m glad you guys enjoyed the post and are asking questions :)I think everyone asked about how to deconstruct social norms and education. I definitely agree that education is the most important aspect and the most effective means to bring change into our society. I would like to mention that education doesn’t necessarily only happen in a school building or an institution but rather (even dare say more so) in everyday life, especially in families and peer/social groups. So it is crucial to get everyone to participate in talking about these issues and make an effort to raise awareness. However, proper curriculum in a school setting is still necessary to be educated with the right and unbiased information, as it is very easy for people to make their own assumptions and opinions. Regarding the age, I would say that the younger the better! Personally, I think kids know and understand more than adults think they do, and that is when they start to establish their identities and values. However, it is not impossible to change a person’s thoughts, as you guys can see through MotherWillow’s personal story in the post title “TRANSMISOGNY AND TRANSPHOBIA WITHIN THE BLACK COMMUNITY”. People do change! But only with an open mind, they will recognize the opportunity. I want to end by saying that we should all try to spread the word about the things we learned and the unjust oppression we might have felt, but still keep our hearts, eyes, and ears open to be aware of our privileges and listen to other minorities. Thanks again!

    Like

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