Unremarkable violence and the politics of relation : education and the whiteness of institutional response discourse




Cook, Courtney Brooke

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



As an inquiry into the way institutional responses to racist violence shape collective understandings of violation and sustain precarious conditions that disproportionately impact people of color in schools, this project interrogates how white supremacist violence is discursively reproduced as an ordinary component of American schools and society. I develop the concept of unremarkable violence to discuss how response discourses fail to address the structural, historical, and ideological foundations of white supremacist logic, and thus render the ongoing reproduction of institutional violence and subjectification unremarkable. I further argue that the unremarkable violence of whiteness works to explain, sustain, and deny the realities of politically-induced vulnerability in the present. Grounding my theory in Black Feminist Thought, postmodern feminism, and intersubjective dialogue, I exercise Critical Discourse Analysis to examine primary sources released by political and educational leaders in response to two events of racist violence that impacted public schools: the May 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and the May 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. Examinations of the structural and political nature of response discourses revealed that while these events were rendered “remarkable” to the extent they conjured recognition, the process and nature of institutional response discourse reified whiteness as an unremarkable, yet powerful, mode of governing subjects and relationships in schools. I argue that whiteness and its essential violences are structurally remade and relegated into unremarkable, everyday conditions that fortify precarious conditions for people of color in schools. Finally, I consider dialogical possibilities in pursuit of more ethical relations, relations that require intrasubjective scrutiny by white teachers who choose to confront complicity within educational institutions. I theorize this ethical orientation towards radically undoing our intimate relationships with the violence of whiteness as a precursor to intersubjective solidarity in ongoing struggles for racial justice.


LCSH Subject Headings