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Angela Davis Rocks My Socks Off

June 22, 2010

Angela Davis recently spoke to a group in Berlin about Judith Butler’s decision to refuse Berlin Pride’s Civil Courage Award (which we mentioned yesterday).  She also took the opportunity to remind everyone that Butler’s decision is part of a lineage of increasingly intersectional feminist analyses of oppression, which owe much basically everything to the hard work of women of color.  A video of her remarks (via TransGriot) follows, with a transcript below.

TRANSCRIPT:

Well, I certainly hope that Judith Butler’s refusal to receive the Civil Courage Award will act as a catalyst for more discussion about the impact of racism, even within groups that are considered to be progressive. [applause] …Somehow, [the idea that] people from the Global South, people of color are more homophobic than white people—is a racist assumption.  [applause] When we consider the extent to which the ideological structures of homophobia, of transphobia, of heteropatriarchy are embedded in our institutions, the assumption that one group of people is going to be more homophobic than another group of people misses the mark.  It misses the mark because we not only have to address issues of attitudes; we have to address the institutions that perpetuate those attitudes and that inflict real violence on human beings.

…And I was going to say, in answer to the last question about the urgency of the late 60s, if had people not acted with that urgency, we would not perhaps have the expanded notion of social justice that we have,  wouldn’t perhaps have the vocabulary—and it’s always been a struggle over language, over vocabulary, and I’ve come to believe that ..that when we win victories in movement struggles, what we do is we change the whole terrain of struggle.  So we don’t simply add on: we don’t add on women to black people; we don’t add on LGBT people to women and to black people; we don’t add on trans people and so forth.  Each time we win a significant victory, it requires us to revisit the whole terrain of struggle.  And so therefore, we have to ask questions about the impact of racism in gay and lesbian movements, we have to ask questions about the impact of racism in the women’s movement, we have to ask questions about the impact of sexism or misogyny in black communities, and we have to ask questions about the influence of homophobia in black communities or communities of color.  This notion of intersecting or cross-hatched or overlaying categories of oppression is one that has come to us thanks to the work of women of color feminists. [applause]

UPDATE: For another articulation of the extent to which Butler’s refusal of the award depended upon the hard work of activists of color, check out this excellent piece at Bully Bloggers.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 23, 2010 5:12 pm

    Hi, I was checking for the right translation and looking for transcripts in order to double-check my own translation, I found your site, but I want to make you aware that you forgot the word homophobia in your transcript there :
    .. and we have to ask questions about the influence in black communities or communities of color..
    She said .. and we have to ask questions about the influence of homophobia in black communities or communities of color ..

    Thanks a lot.

    • marybullstonecraft permalink*
      June 23, 2010 6:50 pm

      Thanks for pointing that out! I noticed that I had forgotten that earlier and thought it had been fixed. I’ll correct it right away.

  2. June 23, 2010 8:30 pm

    There’s so much I want to say about every single line of Davis’ speech, but for now I’ll just say how grateful I am to her fro this part:

    When we consider the extent to which the ideological structures of homophobia, of transphobia, of heteropatriarchy are embedded in our institutions, the assumption that one group of people is going to be more homophobic than another group of people misses the mark. It misses the mark because we not only have to address issues of attitudes; we have to address the institutions that perpetuate those attitudes and that inflict real violence on human beings.

    As a person who has lived in the American South for a long, long time, I’ve always wanted to find the right words to explain why blaming all racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. on one region of the world is a huge mistake, activism-wise. But I could never have said it better than Davis does here. When we focus our lens on one group of people, we are automatically OTHERING a problem that, ultimately, is embedded in our national and global institutions. We are ALL responsible for the -isms of the world. And I’m glad that Davis – and Butler, via her refusal of the award – are around to remind us of this.

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