The Guardian has published a wonderful, wide-ranging interview with all-around extraordinary person Angela Davis. In the interview, she shares her thoughts on structural racism, including mass incarceration:
Surely the lives of African-Americans in 2014 are better than during the days of slavery? Yet Davis isn’t the only black American intellectual to be less than sanguine. Professor Cornel West recently said that the US still has in effect a “Jim Crow criminal justice system” that “does not deliver justice for black and brown people”. Davis agrees. “You have this huge population of people who come up against the same restrictions that the Jim Crow south created,” she says. The segregation laws that existed until 1965 in the American south, where she grew up, might have gone but, as Davis points out, racist oppression remains.
One key feature of that racist oppression, Davis says, is what she and other leftist intellectuals call the “prison industrial complex”, the tawdry if tacit alliance between capitalism and a structurally racist state.
“The massive over-incarceration of people of colour in general in the US leads to lack of access to democratic practices and liberties. Because prisoners are not able to vote, former prisoners in so many states are not able to vote, people are barred from jobs if they have a history of prison.”
. . .
In Davis’s philosophy, this should come as no surprise; for her, the prison industrial complex is not just a racist American money-making machine, but a means to criminalise, demonise and profit from the world’s most powerless people.
The interview – which is really worth reading in full – covers lots of other topics, including the marginalization of women in discussions of prison, the expectations on and failures of the Obama administration, and. . .Beyonce. (Yes, a major international newspaper gets to interview one of the most influential, interesting women in the world, and one of the things they just had to make sure they got her perspective on was Beyonce. Hard-hitting journalism.)