TCW Reads #001 - Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement
Editor’s Note: This issue is a book review/commentary on Angela Davis’ book, Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement. Themes included here involve abolition (prison, police, etc.), Black radical feminism, and global solidarity. Out of the exploration of this book, and the recent events occurring in occupied Palestine- Sheikh Jarrah, is why The Conflicted Womanist exists. Additionally, I’m experimenting with sending out our newsletters weekly on either Wednesday or Thursday mornings. Let me know what you think.
What is happening in Sheikh Jarrah?
October 2020 set the tipping point to the already existing tensions between Palestinian natives and Israeli settlers. With the Israeli court ruling in favor to forcibly invade the homes of at least 500 Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah (an East Jerusalem neighborhood), protests and resistance against this ruling rightfully ensued.
Sheikh Jarrah is the home of Palestinians who have already been forcibly removed from their home in other parts of Palestine during the 1948 war. Instead of being granted citizenship like Jews born in East Jerusalem, in the same region, Palestinians receive permanent residency and can be uprooted from their homes at any point. Since then (and prior to this recent ruling) the Israeli police and military have harassed, tear-gassed, bombed, and killed Palestinians.
The need for Black-Palestinian solidarity
So how do the events in Palestine relate to the Black experience across the diaspora? Why is there a need for Black-Palestinian solidarity?
Because what we see happening around the world are not isolated random events. They are interconnected, just as we are.
I’m talking about from the United States to Palestine. From Ethiopia to India. From Colombia to Myanmar. From Brazil to South Africa.
YK Hong sums up what we’ve been seeing worldwide as …
The forced ethnic displacement of Palestinians by Israel.
The military coup in Myanmar.
The COVID crisis in India.
The police and state-sanctioned violence in Colombia.
The deep-seated anti-Black racism and police brutality in the United States.
All linked to imperialism, capitalism, and (depending on the region) white supremacy.
Open-air prisons, and in many cases, enclosed prisons, is what can often be described as the lived experiences of us marginalized people in this global community. Though we live scattered in different time zones, the presence of settler colonialism, as well as all forms of oppression, are quite prevalent once we take a closer look.
Settler colonialism is a form of colonialism that seeks to replace the original population with a new population of settlers. By any means necessary.
Is not what is happening in Palestine, the similar actions of the Puritan settlers who arrived in what is now known as the United States? Where the indigenous Native Americans were forcibly removed from their homes so that the settlers could permanently reside?
Is not what is happening to Palestinians similar to the experiences of Native Americans who were killed, targeted, separated from their families, and displaced? Or of our Black Americans who too have been killed, systemically targeted, separated from their families, used for labor, and displaced?
The intended genocide of current-day Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, Gaza, and across Palestinian land, remind us of the evil done to Indigenous, Black, and Brown people here in the United States.
It reminds us of the necessity to reject the military (and its extension - the police) presence as normative and rightfully name it as a historical and present-day evil in our global community.
What is happening in Palestine reminds us that prison abolition, police abolition, military abolition must happen now. That homophobia, transphobia, anti-Blackness, and racism in general, misogynoir/misogyny, classism, imperialism, and colonialism must be dismantled together as they are all interconnected.
And it can happen because the resistance to such oppressions is already happening through collectives.
About Davis book
Angela Davis, an American Political Activist, Professor, and Academic, unpacks in her book Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement, state violence and oppression that we see both now and throughout history. After reading her book, below are a few of my takeaways.
Highlights from the book
Ferguson Reminds Us of the Importance of a Global Context (Chapter 2)
Why do I say that Ferguson reminds us of the importance of a global context? What we saw in police reaction to the resistance that spontaneously erupted in the aftermath of the killing of Michael Brown was an armed response that revealed the extent to which local police departments have been equipped with military arms, military technology, military training. The militarization of the police leads us to think about Israel and the militarization of the police there - if only the images of the police and not of the demonstrators had been shown, one might have assumed the Ferguson was Gaza. I think that it is important to recognize the extent to which, in the aftermath of the event of the war on terror police departments all over the US have been equipped with the means to allegedly ‘fight terror’ (pg. 27, digital version).
Abolition and the Prison-Industrial Complex (Chapter 4)
We know too well that our freedom is incomplete with the freedom of the Palestinians (pg.64, digital version, Nelson Mandela).
We are now confronted with the task of assisting our sisters and brothers in Palestine as they battle against Israel apartheid today. Their struggles have many similarities with those against South Africa apartheid, one of the most salient being the ideological condemnation of their freedom efforts under the rubric of terrorism (pg. 66, digital version).
The majority are people of color. The fastest-growing sector consists of women - women of color. Many are queer or trans. As a matter of fact, trans people of color constitute the group most likely to be arrested and imprisoned. Racism provides the fuel for maintenance, reproduction, and expansion of the prison-industrial complex. And so if we say abolish the prison-industrial complex, as we do, we should also say abolish apartheid and end the occupation of Palestine. That means, first and foremost, that we will have to expand and deepen our solidarity with the people of Palestine. People of all genders and sexualities. People inside and outside prison walls, inside and outside the apartheid wall. (pg. 73, digital version).
Black Radical Feminism and Abolition (Chapter 8)
We are four decades removed from the era of the 1960s, which is universally remembered as an era for radical and revolutionary activism. Being at a historical distance, however, does not extricate us from the responsibility of defending and indeed liberating those who were and still are willing to give their lives so that we might build a world that is free of racism, and imperialist war, and sexism, and homophobia, and capitalist exploitation. (pg. 107, digital version).
The point that I’m trying to make is that we learn a great deal about the reach of the prison system, about the nature of the prison-industrial complex, about the reach of abolition by examining the particular struggles of trans prisoners, and especially trans women. Perhaps most important of all, and this is so central to the development of feminist abolitionist theories and practices: we have to learn how to think and act and struggle against that which is ideologically constituted as “normal.” Prisons are constituted as ‘normal’. It takes a lot of work to persuade people to think beyond bars and to be able to imagine a world without prisons and to struggle for the abolition of imprisonment as the dominant mode of punishment. (pg. 115, digital version).
Feminism involves so much more than gender equality. And it involves so much more than gender. Feminsm must involve a consciousness of capitalism - mean, the feminism that I relate to. And there are multiple feminisms right? It has to involve a consciousness of capitalism, and racism, and colonialism, and postcolonialism, and ability, and more genders than we can even imagine, and more sex-ualities than we ever thought we could name. FEminism has helped us not only to recognize a range of connections among discourses, and institutions and identities, and ideologies that we often tend to consider separately. (pg. 118, digital version).
Bringing abolition within a feminist frame means that we take seriously the old feminist adage that “the personal is political”. The personal is political - everybody remembers that, right? The personal is political. We can follow the lead of Beth Richie in thinking about the dangerous ways in which the institutional violence of the prison complement and extends the intimate violence of the family, the individual violence of battery, and sexual assault. We also question whether incarcerating individual perpetrators does anything more than reproduce the very violence that the perpetrator has allegedly committed. In other words, criminalization allows the problem to persist. (pg. 120, digital version).
What stood out to you the most? Or, if you’ve already read the book, what were some of your takeaways? Below are a few links for resources and ways to support the ongoing struggle to end the occupation of Palestine.
Resources & Ways to Support:
Until next time