When the Latino Insurgent wrote to me asking for the “black female militant perspective” on world events, I couldn’t refuse after hearing that Angela Davis would be in the
Like Mondo and Ed, Angela Davis fell victim to the “bin of terrorism.” She served 18 months in prison and was placed on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted List,” for her political views. The parallels between the terror watch of the sixties and post-9/11 shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. After all, we are fighting a war of rhetoric—Iraqi Freedom, Terrorism, etc—blanket abstractions that are expansive and flexible enough to sweep anyone within the great terror bin. I mean seriously, do we really know who our enemies are?
I’ve been reading Scott McCloud’s book on comics with my students. He talks about the differences between received and perceived information, how the more abstracted the image is the greater the levels of perception. We have to do a lot more with the information—we have to decode it and process the decoded message. We have to be versed in specialized language to some degree in order to do this. BUT if abstractions are molded into recognizable shapes then we’ve shifted back to received information. I think that something similar has happened with our war of rhetoric. That is, we have blanket, abstract ideas to which the admin attaches faces. And these faces are shaped out of what we are culturally indoctrinated to recognize as dangerous—black faces, Latino faces, Middle Eastern faces, etc. The faces that are attached to these ideas are so temporary that they serve their purpose—to divert our attention—for a singular political moment. And then they (these faces) don’t matter anymore and they disappear from the national consciousness. Case in point: when was the last time that anyone mentioned bin Laden?
To go back to that political moment, open up the terror bin, and release the prisoners of conscience who were imprisoned due to the corrupt practices of COINTELPRO is another deal, but Angela Davis has spent her life doing this work.
It’s hard for me not to agree with the parallels
Since we’re only a couple months away from the election, I’ll end on some words that Angela Davis offered in this regard. She said that we should “take seriously, the contributions of those that were active during that year.” She was talking about the year 1968—the election year that MLK and RFK were both assassinated. Although she holds both leaders in high regard, she reminded us that “we often individualize history” forgetting that it’s a “community of struggle.” She said, “We always ask who is going to lead us to freedom and we give up our individual power.”