Angela Davis on racism, prison, and the women’s suffrage


Angela Davis is a political activist, social commentator, and educator. During the 1960s, she was an important voice who advocated for the oppressed and the Civil Rights Movement.

Here are Davis’s three thoughts on society:


1) “In many ways you can say that the prison serves as an institution that consolidates the state’s inability and refusal to address the most pressing social problems of this era.”


With this quote, Angela Davis is saying that there is more to America’s prison complex than to just merely imprison criminals. Prisons also act, and in ways strengthen, society’s refusal to get to the root causes of social problems in America.

Have you noticed how the state would rather throw people into jail than trying to find ways, such as providing better education, to improve their community? This is because imprisoning people is much quicker and easier to do than addressing the root causes of the country’s social problems.



2) “'Woman' was the test, but not every woman seemed to qualify. Black women, of course, were virtually invisible within the protracted campaign for woman suffrage. As for white working-class women, the suffrage leaders were probably impressed at first by the organizing efforts and militancy of their working-class sisters. But as it turned out, the working women themselves did not enthusiastically embrace the cause of woman suffrage.”


Although the woman’s suffrage was meant to give women more equality in society, it only did so for certain ‘races’. Davis says that the white women’s voice was heard during the campaigns, while black women’s voices were unnoticed. The problems white women had to face were talked about extensively, while the problems of black women were not.

Racism within feminism is still a common thing today. You may not have noticed this, but many women’s issues that are discussed are from the points of view of white women. The problems of black women are not discussed as much as their counterparts by mainstream media. Additionally, society still views white women as higher up on the hierarchal ladder than women of color.

3) “I feel that if we don't take seriously the ways in which racism is embedded in structures of institutions, if we assume that there must be an identifiable racist who is the perpetrator, then we won't ever succeed in eradicating racism.”


This is one of Davis’ most important quotes, in my opinion. With this, she is saying that racism is a much larger entity than that one racist guy in your community. Racism is institutional, meaning that there is racism in your social institutions. There is racism in the policies that governments pass, there is racism in the law, and there is racism in the educational material that your teachers teach.

And according to Davis, the sooner we recognize this, the sooner there will social justice and equality, and the sooner we can eliminate racism.

These are Davis’ three thoughts on society. Which one do you think is still a major problem in society today and why? Leave your comment below.

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