Youth Violence and Racism

About this essay

This paper deals with the issue of violence, particularly in relations to youth, today. Violence is all prevalent today, and although violence can be politicized or carried out with subtlety, one must recognize the fact that violence has become a part and parcel of all our lives today, and unless one takes notice of the fact and decides upon a strategic course of action to combat this alarming phenomenon, violence may well take over the world.

Everyday, everywhere, there is violence being perpetrated against a lesser member of the society, and although it is true that violence may be predominantly physical, that is, in the act of physical violence of one human being against another, violence can also be a part of society in various other ways, like for example, it can be psychological, it can be structural, or it can be symbolic.

Structural violence refers to the violence meted out against the vulnerable within a society, like for example, against street children, while symbolic violence refers to the acts of violence perpetrated against basic human dignity, self worth and other such, in which the assaulted are made to become complicit in their own destruction.

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Examples of this type of violence are common on the streets of Brazil and in the squatter camps of South Africa.

Violence in these cases becomes a sort of ‘continuum’ made up of a number of small wars and genocides played out on the streets and in the ghettoes and shanties where the poor and the downtrodden are forced to live out their lives.

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At times, the phenomenon of considering the socially vulnerable classes to be completely expendable, almost akin to garbage and rubbish is all prevalent, and acts of violence against the poor are carried out by the rich, who prefer to hole themselves up in fortresses that cannot be violated by the socially deprived classes of human beings.

The author of the article, Nancy Scheper-Hughes has conducted extensive field studies in Brazil and in South Africa, and in her opinion; it was during periods of intense political change and transformation that violence seemed to escalate among the youth of the countries. In brazil, for example, violence was carried out against street children during the process of democratization, and more than thousands of street children in the age group of 15 to 19 were put to death by the so called ‘death squads’ in what was known as a ‘cleansing operation’ to get rid of the ‘vermin’ of the streets.

680,000 children and adolescents were confined to correctional centers, while the rest had to languish unclaimed and unloved in prisons across the country. It is obvious that these exterminations, and also those that were carried out in South Africa by the death squads in that area were all a part of the social structure of a place determining and leading to violence.

In the famous Amy Biehl case, where a young woman was stoned to death by the South African youth, who perhaps did not like her ‘white face’, the lawyer for the defense had this to say about the violent and aggressive youth who could pick up stones and kill another human being: they are children of Apartheid. Is this a case of violence begetting violence, then?

Was the society responsible, or were the parents of the children responsible? Or are we all responsible? (Scheper-Hughes, 2004) In today’s world, with the increasing awareness of the Internet and related technologies, it seems that the World Wide Web is being used for purposes other than it was originally meant for: the Internet has today become a medium that can be used for the perpetration of hate and violence.

Experts state that racism is being given much importance today, and the Internet is being used by agencies such as the Ku Klux Klan to bring to the influential and susceptible youth of today messages of hate and violence , against the minorities of the world, like for example, Jews. Since it is a fact that many people suffer from a sense of ‘not belonging’, the World Wide Web offers them a sense of belonging and empathy with others like them, and apparently, messages of hate serve as a link for them.

It is possible today for hate messages to reach a much wider audience than ever before, and at a very low cost too, and this means that hate messages would reach a much wider audience, at considerably lower costs than ever before. The Internet also allows users to bond the innumerable users of hate sites to other similar sites, like for example; users of the KKK site could bond with the ‘American Nazi Party’ and other such sites on the World Wide Web.

Sites like the KKK seem to promote easier and interactive learning, even if they are racist messages, and because of the credibility accorded to the World Wide Web, users certainly tend to believe in these messages, especially if the users are children and adolescents. The author of the article, Denise M Bostdorff, examined 23 KKK websites over a period of time, and she found that these sites were being used to justify real and actual violence against minorities and others, on the basis of the racist messages being broadcast to users.

If these messages were to fall into the hands of susceptible youth, then one can imagine the resulting situation of violence and mayhem. This is a case of modern technology being utilized for purposes other than it was meant for, and in this case, like the first one, it is the young of the world who are targeted for carrying out acts of violence, and also against whom acts of violence are carried out. (Bostdorff, M Denise 2000)

In conclusion, one can say that it is obvious that violence is at times politicized, and at other times, romanticized, but no matter how one views it, violence and acts of aggression and violence seem to be on the rise, and unless one stands up and takes notice, it may be much too difficult to put an end to the phenomenon.


1. Bostdorff, M Denise (2000) Communication Studies The Internet Rhetoric of the Ku Klux Klan in website community building run amok 340-361 2. Scheper-Hughes, Nancy (2004) Dangerous and Endangered Youth Social Structures and Determinants of Violence 1-34

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Youth Violence and Racism. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

Youth Violence and Racism
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