Violence has undergirded American society since the birth of the Republic. Much of it has targeted minorities, often endorsed or passively accepted by the state. For decades, scholars have explored the reasons for its pervasive persistence, focusing heavily on immigrants and minorities as its victims. Collectively, this research has ignored the role of immigrants and minorities as perpetrators as well as victims of violence. Those few studies that acknowledge the use of violence by minorities often dismiss it as a reactive response to resilient racial prejudice. As a result, they do not explain strange anomalies, like why minority groups react differently to violence in comparable situations. These studies also tend to ignore the purpose and capacity of ethno-racial groups to initiate conflict.
In Violent America, Ariane Chebel d’Appollonia counterintuitively analyzes why and how various ethno-racial groups proactively use different forms of violence to achieve instrumental goals. She explores the effect of physical and discursive violence on ethno-racial identification. Specifically, she argues that the instrumental use of ethno-racial violence has been and today remains an effective identity strategy by which all ethno-racial groups gain status – and thus acceptance into the mainstream of American civil, political and social life. Examining a vast array of historical and contemporary evidence, Chebel d’Appollonia thus provide an alternative way of understanding the complex relationship between migrant phobia, multiethnic grievances, and ethno-racial conflicts in America. Yet while such identity strategies have proven effective in the past, today, they fuel an increasing fragmentation of American society which is detrimental to the fight for racial justice, social equity, and an inclusive politics of difference.