restricted access Chapter 5. Fire: The Maturation of Ethnic Violence
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

106 Ethnic violence in schools involves a process, a series of actions and reactions between individuals that evolve over time. The last chapter showed that stages within the first and second phases of violence constituted an evolving sequence. In the second phase (figure 4.1, P2, S1 and S2), various groups acted as teams for retaliatory purposes, eventually creating a form of “deterrence” between the ethnic factions and a quasilull in the violence.1 In cases involving countries, violence often stops at this stage because the combatants feel that more violence is counterproductive to each of their respective interests. However, when it came to ethnic violence in the schools of this study, this “deterrence-producing lull” was temporary.2 The earlier lull in violence at the end of phase 1, associated with the deterrent conditions produced from phase 1’s roving groups of individuals engaged in vigilante-type behavior, lasted no longer than a month in each of the schools of this study, with the exception of the middle-class schools, where no interethnic violence was reported and where I independently observed none while I was present for the entire research period. When this phase in the ethnic violence ended, phase 2 emerged, having two stages. In the first stage individuals aggressed because of personal reasons. Yet students, family, and residents of the neighborhood interpreted those incidents as episodes of ethnic violence. In the second stage significant numbers of students reacted to such individual confrontations in very intense “team-type” interactions. This chapter chapter 5 Fire The Maturation of Ethnic Violence The phases of fire are craving and satiety. —Heraclitus, Fragments, 500 CE Fire | 107 looks at the factors that influenced violence to go beyond the team-type interactions that dominated phase 2 (i.e., armed skirmishes and engagements , to use a geopolitical metaphor) and to become more destructive by involving even larger numbers of people (i.e., to go from “battles” to “war”). individual violence and group understandings As has been previously mentioned, after the second phase of ethnic violence in the schools, when parties arrived at a limited “standoff,” there was a lull in violent incidents. During this lull, students went about their normal routines, and most appeared to behave as though the time of violence had never happened. Some students from the two ethnic groups had friendly conversations with each other and even socialized during lunch or on the way to and from home. However, this period of apparent “normalcy” would break down within a five-week interval when individuals from different ethnic groups became involved in an incident related to one of three actions: a dispute, an insult, or an outright act of aggression resulting from certain individuals’ internal psychological disturbance , manifested as one or more abnormal behavioral responses to various physical and social stimuli. Disputes Disputes (i.e., disagreements or arguments over an issue) are a normal occurrence in life. The most common at each of the schools arose when individual students violated social etiquette generally accepted by the other students: for example, talking in a language other than English (e.g., Spanish) when all members of the group did not understand it, or making fun of members of another person’s family and in the process insulting the honor of that family. When an etiquette violation occurred among members of the same ethnic group, little if anything happened, but when the situation involved members of the rival ethnic group it produced two general responses: emotional arousal and a public verbal declaration that an action or statement was unfair. (See the Introduction and Methodological Appendix for method used in identifying emotions .) When the objection to a rival’s behavior was expressed loudly, it alerted everyone, including the perceive violator(s), that a formal social dispute was being initiated. In these cases the dispute became public and the accuser and accused would confront each other. This confrontation 108 | Flames involved accusations and counteraccusations, which in no more than three minutes created a situation that challenged the identities of the participants—that is to say, their sense of integrity as “men or women,” members of their ethnic group, or both. There were occasions when women engaging in these confrontations with other women did physically fight with each other, but most often they would stand up for the rights of their ethnic group and perform the feminine role of emotionally supporting their male coethnics when they were in a physical fight. The comments of Tara, Wilma...


Subject Headings

  • School violence -- United States.
  • Ethnic conflict -- United States.
  • High schools -- Social aspects -- United States.
  • You have access to this content
  • Free sample
  • Open Access
  • Restricted Access