Freedom Is A Constant Struggle
Angela Davis describes activism from a feminist and communist lense. While these are seemingly separate issues, Davis does a fantastic job joining the two together for an ideal revolution for all working class people. Key discussion points in the book include: Individuals vs. Systems, Armed Struggle vs. Peaceful Protest, and Intersectionality as a Struggle.
Individuals vs. Systems
The idea that individuals are the cause of issues in our society rather than systems is a tool of the bourgeoisie. We often place an individual at the head of an ideology and personify issues through them. However, it is not the actions or ideas of one person that oppresses or liberates people. Davis uses Barack Obama as an example. Electing a Black president did not end racism. Punishing George Zimmerman would not put an end to senseless killing and injustice targeting Black individuals. To solve these issues, we must look at the systems. Davis argues that in most cases, these systems cannot be “fixed” because they were designed for the sole purpose of oppressing. The prison-industrial complex cannot be improved to acceptable conditions, it must be abolished.
Armed Struggle vs. Peaceful Protest
Angela Davis was a former member of the Black Panther Party which was known for its violence against violent police and community members. In her book, she claims the question of the validity of violence should be directed at those who hold a monopoly on violence. Here she is referring to the police and the justice system.
It is important to note that she grew up in Birmingham, Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement when Black people were hosed down, hung, and Black neighborhoods were bombed. This was done by police, and other perpetrators were protected by police and the justice system. Her viewpoint now leans towards disarming everyone beginning with the police, though many other members of Communist parties disagree with this idea.
Intersectionality as a Struggle
The typical way people refer to intersectionality is based off of identity which often relates to demographics or characteristics. This perpetuates the idea of individuality. Davis argues that intersectionality means the connectedness of struggles. For the majority of her book, she discusses the similarities between the Black Lives Matter movement and the struggle to end apartheid in Palestine.
Individuality threatens liberation movements because it threatens to simply diversify the oppressors. For example, Barack Obama deported more immigrants than any president before him. He killed thousands of innocent civilians in many countries in the Middle East. Putting a woman, Gina Haspel, at the head of the CIA who held secret torture camps is not helping any liberation movement.
I reflected most deeply on the idea of intersectionality defined as the connectedness of struggles. People may not identify the same as you (gay, nonbinary, POC, etc.), but we are all oppressed in similar ways. The ways Israel oppresses Palestinians is highlighted in the book.
Davis includes the Twitter phenomenon where Palestinians recognized the gas weapons used against protestors and gave them tips on how to treat and avoid them. The United States is militarizing its police, and Israel polices Palestine with its military. Both phenomena are racially charged and constantly pushed to violence and human rights violations.
The idea that intersectionality is more than your identity allows all oppressed people to fight together which strengthens our movement. While some may argue not all struggles are exactly the same, it is important to remember that we are stronger together and fighting alone gets us nowhere.
The people Davis speaks about are primarily people of color in the United States and Palestinians. When discussing the Israel and Palestine conflict, many people mention anti-Semitism. While the issue of anti-Semitism is important, it does not play a part in the issue of Israel. Israel is a Jewish state, but Davis and others’ issues with it lie in the fact that it is a militaristic state.
Israelis are oppressing and torturing Palestinians on land that they stole from them. Davis does not mention Judaism or Jewish people once in her book. What many people fail to understand is that you can speak about Israel without speaking about Jewish people.
Bite Size Gem
We are all connected in this fight to end oppression. Let us not forget about our siblings across the world who fight with and next to us.