PHOTO: Windy City Times
Political activist, scholar, and author Angela Y. Davis made history when she "became the third woman to be place on the F.B.I.'s list of the 10 most- wanted fugitives," the New York Times reported in 1970.
Last week's addition of former Black Panther Assata Shakur to that same "Most Wanted Terrorist List" exemplifies the "longstanding 'racialization' of terrorism" in the United States and an attempt to discourage young Black and Latino activists, Davis told Democracy Now!
Watch the interview AFTER THE JUMP ...
"The FBI has decided to focus particularly on Black women. They fear that the movement will continue to grow particularly with the leadership and involvement of Black women. I was rendered an ideological target in the same vein that Assata Shakur was called 'The Mother Hen' of the Black Liberation Army."
"Before the Tsarnev brothers were discovered to be the alleged perpetrators [of the Boston Marathon bombings], there was an attempt to present the person who planted the bomb as either a black man or a dark skinned man with a hoodie. This racialization of what is represented as terrorism is an attempt to bring the old-style racism into the conversation with modes of repression in the 21st century."
Davis was accused of murder after allegedly purchasing the firearms used in the infamous August 1970 hostage abduction attempt by the "Soledad Brothers" in northern California. The judge, one of the jurors, the prosecutor and the three Black men were killed in the shootout. Davis was later exonerated by an all-white jury.
The global campaign to free Davis during her imprisonment from 1970 to 1972 is the subject of the recent critically-acclaimed documentary Free Angela and All Political Prisoners. Watch the interview and clips from the film AFTER THE JUMP ...
Much of the lecture focused on what she and many activists refer to as the prison industrial complex (PIC), and its relationship to gender. Historically contextualizing the category of "woman," Davis pointed out that it has always been a contested one, especially in relation to race and class. Black and working-class women have been shut of the category, in favor of a racialized and bourgeois version of the ideal woman, she added.
Davis then focused on transgender women, particularly those in prison. She called on feminists and feminists to understand and acknowledge the ways in which the presence and conditions of trans women in prison contest and expand the category of woman while also exploding binary ideas of gender.
Referencing recent activist work and work on trans prison issues, Davis said that trans women are "at the intersection of race, class, sexuality, and gender." She pointed out that trans women are often singled out by law enforcement and, once in prison, denied access to hormones and medical treatment and usually placed in men's prisons, where they suffer additional sexual and gendered violence. David said that that understanding and questioning these conditions allows us to "learn a great deal about the reach of the PIC" and about what is "ideologically constituted as normal."
Davis was introduced by University of Chicago Prof. Cathy J, Cohen, who is the author of Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics. Read my June 2011 interview with Cohen at the Windy City Times.