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Davis Still Jousts Against Racism and Injustice

Barrington M. Salmon | 2/20/2013, 12:09 p.m.

If the FBI and the federal government believed that imprisoning Angela Davis would scare her into disavowing her political positions and push her into hiding, the years since her incarceration are a clear illustration that that strategy failed.

Davis, a renowned author, educator and human rights activist, lectures widely in the United States and elsewhere around the world, speaking truth to power on issues of race, economic disparities, the vagaries of capitalism and the scourge of white supremacy.

Last Thursday, Davis, 69, addressed a standing-room-only crowd at Gallaudet University's Elstad Auditorium, about these issues but she returned often to the idea of intersectionalism. This is a term describing the reality that everyone belongs to one or more categories including race, gender and sexual orientation. Davis encouraged the audience to reach across artificial barriers to learn about each other and find common ground.

"... As someone who has studied feminist theory, I believe that we should think together things that are often kept apart," said Davis. "... the indivisibility of justice implies that we cannot separate different posits, different struggles. It is counter productive and contradictory to choose whether to support justice for people of color, for black people, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, or justice for the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. It is also wrong ..."

Davis said it's wrong for anyone who is able-bodied to believe that justice is on their side alone. She also said that while it's wrong to exclude deaf communities and the disabled from the "circle of justice," the discrimination against these groups will not be corrected if they are suddenly included in the mainstream.

Davis -Distinguished Professor Emerita of History and Consciousness and Feminist Studies at the University of California, Santa Clara and author of nine books - was at Gallaudet at the invitation of the University Office of Diversity and Inclusion as a part of Black History Month. Her lecture was titled "The Indivisibility of Justice."

The theme of her presentation, she said, came from a statement by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King that justice is indivisible.

"He said injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere and as people on this campus have demonstrated through the defense of the rights of deaf people and the foraging of a vibrant deaf culture, including a black deaf culture, history reveals the expanding parameters of justice," said Davis to thunderous applause. "We cannot [assume] that democracy can work if it is confined only to a specific group of people."

She used the 2012 election as an example.

"Affluent, white, straight, hearing men used to control this country. But the recent election showed that even though the majority of white men voted for Mitt Romney, they did not get their will," said Davis. "Ninety-seven percent of black women, 87 percent of Latina women and the majority of white women voted for President [Barack] Obama. This means that it's a new day in the United States of America."

The Birmingham, Ala., native said Black History Month is tied to struggles for freedom everywhere.