Angela Davis – Freedom is a Constant Struggle

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Angela Davis, an African American activist and educator who devoted her life to bring about social change, throughout the years of her work, did not perceive system of laws or proclamations as what simply define freedom and condemned the notion that civil rights equates to freedom and freedom equates to civil rights. Rather, she perceives freedom as something that is constantly being fought for and must be fought for together as a whole and not individually.

Davis has this notion on collective freedom that encompasses many aspects of various issues faced globally. She stresses the importance of intersectionality and interrelatedness of global movements to create a larger scale mass movement to fight towards freedom, the power of well-organized movements over individualism, the role of radical women of color, and the awareness of the government’s political agenda.

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In Davis’s book, Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, And the Foundations of a Movement, she correlates Ferguson and Palestine and critically discuss their parallel struggles and the significance of global context. The extent of militarization of the police in the U.S is brought into light and is correlated with the militarization of Israeli police when Michael Brown was shot and killed by the police in response to resistance. The U.S police is trained by the Israeli military and knowing this and seeing how the police in Ferguson, whose job is to protect and serve, responded with violence to resistance, the interrelated struggles between U.S communities and Palestine is apparent. Reverend Graylan Scott Hagler spoke at the University of Maryland’s McKeldin Library in College Park to address the topic of Ferguson and Palestine and argues, “It’s not the same thing when we talk about what goes on in Palestine and what happens in the black community… but one thing that I’ve learned… in my 61 years of life is: The systems of oppression, they’re always very similar to each other. They may be tweaked, they may be changed just a little bit, but we find out that the paradigm is the same, it looks the same, it feels the same, it is the same” (How the Black Lives Matter). This demonstrates how necessary it is to come together and organize movements in transnational solidarity.

Davis emphasizes the power of well-organized movements over individualism. She stresses the importance of collective movement and when states that “progressive struggles… are doomed to fail if they do not also attempt to develop consciousness of the insidious promotion of capitalist individualism” (Davis) she reveals that change cannot and will not happen if we privilege heroic individualism and fail to reject the notion of ideologies associated with neoliberalism. In the examples of Barack Obama and Martin Luther Jr. King, both are sanctified as heroic individuals – Obama’s election as the first Black president and Dr. King’s leadership in the U.S freedom movement – but by failing to recognize the backbone of these movements we fail to recognize our potential agency to set systemic change in motion. It is crucial to reject the notions of individualism and recognize the power of collective movement in order to make lasting social impact. In order to build collective movement in a capitalist society promoting individualism it is critical to use education and dissemination of the socio-historical conditions and the structural inequalities in movements in an organized manner.

Angela Davis conceptualizes freedom as something we have to constantly fight and struggle for and in order to attain this freedom, we must work together in solidarity and support interrelating and intersecting global movements. Her ideas about freedom are similar in a way, but different in contrast to James Baldwin’s such that he believes that “Freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take and people are as free as they want to be. One hasn’t got to have an enormous military machine in order to be un-free when it’s simpler to be asleep, when it’s simpler to be apathetic, when it’s simpler, in fact, not to want to be free, to think that something else is more important” (Popova). It is agreeable that freedom is not just given away, but different such that to Davis freedom has to be fought for, but to Baldwin freedom is to be able to live freely as ourselves. As discussed in class, the terms freedom and civil rights are often interchangeable, but Davis condemned the notion that civil rights equates to freedom and freedom equates to civil rights because civil rights movement is already taking place, but freedom is still being fought for. This in a sense relates to Du Bois’ idea on “double-consciousness” and “sense of twoness” (Du Bois).

Works cited

  1. Davis, A. (2016). Freedom Is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. Haymarket Books.
  2. Hagler, R. S. (2014). How the Black Lives Matter Movement Connects to Palestine. The Real News Network.
  3. Davis, A. (1981). Women, race & class. Vintage Books.
  4. Baldwin, J. (1963). The Fire Next Time. Dial Press.
  5. Du Bois, W. E. B. (1903). The Souls of Black Folk. A.C. McClurg & Co.
  6. Hooks, B. (1981). Ain't I a woman?: Black women and feminism. South End Press.
  7. Lorde, A. (1984). Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Crossing Press.
  8. Collins, P. H. (1990). Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. Routledge.
  9. Chomsky, N. (2015). Masters of Mankind: Essays and Lectures, 1969-2013. Haymarket Books.
  10. Grosfoguel, R. (2013). Decolonizing post-colonial studies and paradigms of political-economy: Transmodernity, decolonial thinking, and global coloniality. Transmodernity: Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World, 3(1), 1-37.

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