Systemic violence is the harm caused against individuals or groups of people through social structures. Systemic violence and behavioral violence aren’t juxtaposed, the latter is dependent on the former; we can’t properly conceive of behavioral violence without understanding its systemic causes. We may think of the US Army in the Iraq War for an example. It’s obvious who’s pulling the trigger against the Iraqi population are American soldiers, but we don’t blame just the individual soldier, we also blame the structure of the military itself, a product of the need for repressive organs in class society.
Systemic violence puts individuals through social arrangements in positions of discomfort. They cause injury and hence are are violent; they are embedded in the structure of society and a product of its normal functioning and hence systemic. Racial segregation, only in part caused by behavioral constraints and mostly a product of systemic causes accumulated throughout the settler-colonial history of the United States, claims 176,000 lives a year, tens of times more than the deaths caused by firearm-related homicide.
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