Political activist and speaker Angela Davis addresses sexual violence and abuse
Political activist, educator and author Angela Davis spoke to a full crowd about criminal justice reform as a part of Student Union’s Trending Topics Series in Graham Chapel Jan. 24.
Davis was nominated by the student organization Teaching Racial Understanding Through Honesty (TRUTH), Azadi and Association of Black Students and sponsored by SU to speak to Washington University students and St. Louis community members.
Davis primarily spoke about sexual violence and abuse in America. While she initially brought up the stories of individual women who publically spoke out against their abusers, she emphasized that the courage of the individual is just as important as the sense of a larger community.
“It’s also about movement and about a sense of community and a sense of collectivity,” Davis said.
Although she praised its merits as a movement, Davis pointed out that minority women have not been fully integrated in this resistance, reinforcing the structural racism in modern day society. Davis commented on the history of sexual abuse, addressing that it was a method for slave owners to sustain and grow the slave population.
“Something like systematic sexual abuse only happens with the complicity of others, and it is driven by institutions,” Davis said.
Davis highlighted that unless radical change ensues, the same institutions will promote the same kind of values that engender sexual and domestic violence, citing the prison system as this kind of institution.
“What’s interesting is that it’s done under the guise of state authority,” Davis said. “We always think about sexual abuse as something perpetrated by individuals, but what if we think about the larger framework, what if we think about the state as a perpetrator of sexual abuse?”
At the end of her speech, Davis concluded that she supports the rise of all women.
“She closed by saying that justice is indivisible, and I really liked how she linked all of these movements that we tend to think of as separate together because they’re not separate,” freshman Rachel Sznajderman said. “She’s way in the future [saying] these systems are obsolete. We need to overturn everything; we need to go beyond, and we do need a revolution. Honestly, I think she’s right…It’s not specific aspects of institutions that create issues. It’s institutions as a whole.”
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect that Azadi and Association of Black Students nominated Davis, in addition to TRUTH.