Angela Davis, the Stupidest Person Who Ever Lived

Until a few days ago I had only a vague idea of who Angela Davis was or what she stood for. All I knew was that she was some sort of political activist from sometime around the Civil Rights era and I knew that her afro was one of the most salient things about her popular image so I think I imagined that she was some sort of black nationalist. Little did I know that she was actually a despicable communist.

When I originally read the Autobiography of Malcolm X, I remember learning how government agents were always seeking evidence or making allegations that the Nation of Islam was somehow affiliated with the communist movement. Seeking to tie the civil rights movement to communist influence was a common tactic of the J. Edgar hoover era and I remember thinking that this was simply a smear campaign and I marveled that anyone would think that black activists would be dumb enough to fall for the communist propaganda that the racial struggle in America was actually a class struggle. Also, however wrong I thought Malcolm was for his religious based racist ideology before his discovery of orthodox Islam, I always admired his unwillingness to compromise his quest for racial justice by allowing white people to take the reins behind the scenes or, worse yet, to subsume his quest to a larger goal. Malcolm made his mistakes but his dedication to the black community was real. Angela Davis, however, has no similar redeeming qualities and, as far as the civil rights movement is concerned, is worst case scenario.

As a so-called intellectual and revolutionary, Angela Davis is a mess of contradictions. In her autobiography she relates how when she first read the Communist Manifesto, she was moved to an overwhelming desire to throw herself behind the communist movement. She specifically draws attention to the following paragraph of the manifesto:

The communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can only be attained by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. WORKERS OF ALL COUNTRIES UNITE!

Herein lies the distinction that separates declaring ones self a communist from declaring one self a member of just another political party in the United States. With the acceptance of the communist agenda and their express aim of forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions, Angela Davis implicitly accepts the premise that violence is a proper tactic of dealing with ones political enemies. This is no small distinction and the importance of this concept cannot be overstated. As anyone can tell by even the most cursory examination of ethics, it is a contradiction to claim a right for yourself that you do not recognize for others. The idea that you can apply a standard to other people that you do not hold to yourself and that others will willingly share your position that you are a special case exception is irrational and where there is no consensus, there can be no shared ethic. The problem with Angela Davis’ worldview is this: where one person or group has not renounced the initiation of violence as a valid means to an end, that person can have no valid claim to the right to be free from the use of force.

The two things that bothered me the most about Angela Davis’ story, however, did not have to do with the actual content, they were the omissions. The first was the explanation as to why she thought the communist ideology was the answer to America’s race problem. The cursory observation she did make, that she believed racism was a tool used by capitalists to create divisions among people in the lower classes which would enable rich people to make more money, is so simplistic to defy belief. In the realm of bad ideas, this explanation is even dumber than Elijah Muhammad “white people are secretly the devil” idea. Even if racism could be seen as a benefit to employers (an argument I don’t buy because the first non-racist employer would have an advantage over his competitors since he would be able to lure away all the good black workers who were underpaid elsewhere), the author never goes on to explain why the economic explanation was so compelling for her. Furthermore, there is no attempt to back up the assertion with supporting facts. Was capitalism more effective and did employers make more money in the Jim Crow South than they did in the North? (no) Was racism nonexistent before the advent of capitalism or is there any evidence in American history of a concerted effort where capitalists initiated a propaganda effort to teach racism to the lower classes who were previously egalitarian in regard to race issues? (no) In fact, according to “Ethnic America, a History” by Thomas Sowell, in the post bellum south employers who did attempt to underpay newly freed slaves were forced to begin paying higher wages when black workers, who were quick to communicate information about wages and working conditions with friends and relatives in other areas, responded by leaving employers who underpaid them in droves. The fact is that not only was capitalism not the cause of racism, the supply and demand of the free market was actually the driving force that raised wages for underpaid black workers. Racial discrimination, specifically as it pertained to wage differences among races, continued to exist in the south despite capitalism, not because of it.

The second glaring omission of her book is the fact that Angela Davis barely even bothers to deny involvement in planning the murder and kidnapping for which she was charged. The closest she gets to an outright denial is that she proclaims to have been surprised when she heard about the crime which could be construed that she was unaware only of the timing. In the book she doesn’t address whether she had ever heard talk of any such plot before the event happened, she doesn’t express anger or even disappointment in the fact that people close to her committed these crimes with weapons that were purchased by her or registered in her name, and furthermore she never specifically renounces violence as a means to achieving her political ends or indicates that she ever even discussed the issue of violence with other group members. She does, however, make references in other parts of the book that indicate that she approves of the use of force in some instances. In the following passage she describes her admiration for members of the German Socialist Student League when she was living abroad:

I was most impressed by the consciousness of the student movement when I heard about the Berlin campaign led by SDS against the movie Africa Adio, directed by two Roman playboy types, dealing with the ousting of the colonialist from Africa. Not only was the movie thoroughly racist in that it depicted African Liberation Fighters as aggressors against pure, civilized whites, but the directors went so far as to stage actual killings in order to do on the spot documentary coverage of Africa. SDS members in Berlin tore up a theater which refused to boycott the film.

TORE UP A THEATER WHICH REFUSED TO BOYCOTT THE FILM??? If this sort of behavior is a valid form of protest, then so is it when white racists burn black people out of their homes so long as nobody is hurt. I denounce both of these examples of crime which is not a permissible form of political or social protest.

My final objection to Angela Davis is her lack of integrity. What kind of communist black activist allows themselves to get bonded out of jail by a wealthy white man? This is like the reverse of that episode of The Jeffersons where George Jefferson gets into an argument with a racist white man who then has a heart attack after which George performs CPR saving the man’s life. It literally killed me to read this book. I am now dead. Thanks a lot Kristin 🙁

UPDATE: My favorite part of the book was where Angela helped write a book about communism while she was awaiting trial but they couldn’t publish the book by a communist organization because it wasn’t economically feasible so they had to resort to having the book published by an established publisher for profit. And somehow communism isn’t fail?

7 Responses to “Angela Davis, the Stupidest Person Who Ever Lived”

  1. […] of the ASA’s 14,000 members, declares the freedom to form unions must be guaranteed by law. Angela Davis, the Stupidest Person Who Ever Lived – 08/21/2009 Until a few days ago I had only a vague idea of who […]

  2. Kristin says:

    I laughed and smiled through your entire tirade.

  3. mexi says:

    Yay! Did you read the Steven Pinker book?

  4. Kristin says:

    I have it but I am currently reading the Historian and I don’t usually like to read more than one book at a time. I should start on it late Sunday.

  5. Kristin says:

    I just finished the chapter on Culture Vultures. I was hoping to finish part one but I’m done for tonight. I thought it was interseting that Pinker has given a solid case for the objection people have of transracial adoptions.

  6. mexi says:

    I actually feel kind of terrible that I didn’t like your book and I was hoping that you would still like the Steven Pinker book. I’m glad to see that you’re reading it. I don’t remember how I found out about his work, it might have been a random library browse!

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