Professor, political activist Angela Davis: Race, class, gender intersect

Angela Davis Speaks at NSBA CUBE luncheon in Philadelphia 2019

‎Educator, author, and political activist Angela Davis advocated for Black Lives Matter, the power of intersectionality, and the enduring fight to improve education for all as the keynote speaker at the Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) luncheon on Saturday at NSBA’s annual conference in Philadelphia.

An advocate for the oppressed and exploited for more than four decades, Davis is a professor emeritus at the University of California-Santa Cruz and the author of 10 books.

In the early 1970s, she spent 18 months in jail and on trial after being placed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List.”

At the luncheon, Davis spoke of her “profound respect” for the work done by CUBE before offering a historical reminder that the “passion for freedom” among enslaved people in 18th and 19th century American “stirred the drive for education.” 

In fact, she said, the public school system that would go on to uplift so many poor black and white students would not have arisen without the struggle of former slaves.

That determination for education decades ago should “give us hope” that we will be able to “do something about the broken system of public education today,” said Davis.

She pointed to the rise of the “school to prison pipeline,” structural racism, and “the rise of global capitalism” begun in the 1980s that resulted in “prisons becoming a priority over education.”

Structural racism is so deeply embedded that it’s assumed black kids are less intelligent than others and that they belong in low wage jobs, Davis said. And instead of schools helping students image their own future and discovering their passion, too often schools want to “move them along a narrow path” where discipline is the primary goal.

“Maybe they’ll discover (their passion) in prison,” Davis said,” adding “schools should not be prep schools for prisons.”

She stressed that an understanding of the intersections of race, gender, and class are important if we are to attain what might be possible for this country.

We can’t talk about issues affecting the black community without talking about Latinx and indigenous communities, and working-class poor whites, Davis said, adding, “they are inextricably connected.”

Making one group out to be the scapegoats” for another group’s problems, “doesn’t really work in the final analysis, she said. “It makes more sense for all of us to stand together. It’s the only way to make a new future for all of us.”

And in this era of Black Lives Matters, Davis said, “when we can create a world where black lives truly matter, we can create a world where all lives matter.”


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