“Freedom Is Still More Expansive Than Civil Rights”
Posted on April 30, 2018
This past week, I was given the opportunity to present at the 19th Annual SALISES conference in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The theme of the conference was “Sustainable Futures for the Caribbean: Critical Interventions and the 2030 Agenda.” I learned a great deal from that conference and was able to see a lot of great presentations and take-in a lot of knowledge from those presentations…
However, that is not what this blog post is about.
That information simply sets the stage for my leisure reading that I was able to do on my way to Jamaica and whilst in Jamaica. I decided to take the book Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angel Y. Davis with a foreword by Cornel West with me and it was a really good addition to my trip.
The book spoke to the violence of austerity, prison as part of an industrial complex rooted in slavery and capitalism, anti colonial struggles which are happening in various parts of the world, and transnational solidarity along with the importance of making the links/connections of our local struggles with global ones. In all the book made a statement about the power in protest and in collectivising— in a world where neoliberal ideology teaches us to value individualism— which still matters for systemic change.
The book also raises an important set of questions. Namely, “[h]ow do we respond collectively to the militarization of our societies? What role can Black feminism play in this process? What does being a prison abolitionist means in concrete terms today?” (sic) (xiii).
In the opening interview by Frank Barat, the dangers of individualism are spelled out—not only as promoting capitalism, but also as minimising history and the work of ALL of our ancestors to historic individual stories. It is noted that “it is essential to resist the depiction of history as the work of heroic individuals in order for people today to recognise their potential agency as part of an ever-expanding community of struggle” (2).
I think that this is important to remember as someone continues on to read the book,so that they can make the broader connections of the themes. There are a few themes in the book which stood out to me, that I would like to potentially engage with others on. This can be done in the comments or in person. To save time on this post however, I will share some general thoughts and ideas that I had whilst reading the book—which should collectively be on all of our 2030 agendas.
1: We need to, in these United States of America, recognize that our tax dollars fund imperialism, thus genocide, abroad. We need to not only acknowledge this, but take responsibility for this—in terms of who we elect and whether or not they will continue to fuel a military industrial complex which are hurting those in the Arab world in the Middle East and in Africa.
SETTLER COLONIALISM AND APARTHEID IS HAPPENING IN PALESTINE BECAUSE THE UNITED STATES AND THE UNITED KINGDOM FUNDS IT THROUGH ISRAEL.
2: Academic institutions within the United States of America, MUST do more for advocating issues regarding social justice—in the US and abroad. They advocated against an apartheid South Africa and they must do so again for Palestinian, Black, and Indigenous struggles.
3: Thanks to the Occupy Movement, we can now openly critique capitalism. We must not think of the Occupy Movement as done, just because people aren’t visible with tents.
4: What does the world’s largest private corporations say about us? (Walmart, Foxconn, and G4S)
5: We need more action— not conversations on race— however, we also need to learn how to talk about race, in order to have meaningful action.
6: We can learn from feminism— in terms of methodologies. We can learn from trans-feminism’s which would allow us to be flexible precisely because “we have to learn how to think and act and struggle against that which is ideologically constituted as “normal”” (100).
I think that we have gotten this wrong many times, which is why we are still in struggles which have started long ago.Trans-feminism teaches us that “the process of trying to assimilate into an existing category in many ways runs counter to efforts to produce radical or revolutionary results” (101).
7: In regards to feminism which shows that the “personal is political,” we must acknowledge and recognize that “[t]he imprisoned population could not have grown to almost 2.5 million people in this country [USA] without our implicit assent” (106). If we protested under the Reagan-Bush era and the Clinton era— we would not be dealing with a prison crisis.
8: We all— not just white people— have to unlearn racism. People of colour unlearn that racism is an individual act that can be dealt with via sensitivity training (cough, Starbucks 2018). “No amount of psychology therapy or group training can effectively address racism in this country, unless we also begin to dismantle the structures of racism” (107).
9: Protest matters.
10: Do not let narrow individualism overwhelm you because ‘when x happens you’ll be dead’ — if our ancestors gave up, where would we be? This is why i also think these points matter for a 2030 agenda. The future generations should always start at a different (more progressive) point in the struggle (freedom is a constant struggle).
11: Freedom is more expansive than civil rights (Black Panther Ten Point Programme highlights what freedom would look like. If Civil Rights guaranteed freedom, we would still not be engaged in the same struggles)
12: Education has been so commodified, that “the very process of acquiring knowledge…is subordinated to the future capacity to make money” (120).
13: We must expand the sole emphasis on the working class to also focus on the poor— as distinct— in our critiques of capitalism.
14: We must incorporate, into our stories of Black struggle, LGBTQ struggles, Islamophobia, Immigrant Rights, and Transformative Action—because they are all related and interconnected.
“Justice is indivisible. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (127).
15: Genocide, as per the Genocide convention at the U.N. still happens within the U.S. against Indigenous (Native) and Black communities.
16: Why is a foreign government (Israel) aiding in the training of policing U.S. citizens? Is the Israeli police mandate to “protect and serve?” If not, is their training of our police warranted? Especially when that training has helped the militarization of U.S. police forces.
17: How is it, that we have allowed corporations to make connections between education, health care, security and prisons to increase their profits— before we have made these connections within our own struggles? (e.g. G4S has a hand in all of this)
The last sentence within the book reads: “We cannot be moderate. We will have to be willing to stand up and say no with our combined spirits, our collective intellects, and our many bodies” (145).
RECOMMENDED BOOKS IN THE BOOK:
W. E. B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America
Jo Ann Robinson, The Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Women Who Started It
Claudette Colvin, Twice Toward Justice
Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow; All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men, but Some of us are Brave
Judith Butler, Gender Trouble
Beth Richie, Arrested Justice: Black Woman, Violence and America’s Prison Nation
Toni Morrison, Beloved
Eric Stanley and Nat Smith, Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex
Andrea Ritchie, Kay Whitlock, and Joey Mogul, Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States
Dean Spade, Normal Life: Administrative Violence, Critical Trans Politics, and the Limits of the Law