Angela Davis inspires in visit to CSU Bakersfield


Angela Davis speaks inside the Dore Theatre on April 11. Photo by Marsulh Mussad/ Special to The Runner

By Lauren Silvis, Reporter

Angela Davis, 75, visited Bakersfield, California, for the first time in history on April 11, to speak at CSU Bakersfield. The event was hosted by The Kegley Institute of Ethics.

Over the next hour, Davis sorted through her various talking points. The talk was titled “Education or Incarceration Activism and the Prison Industrial Complex.”

Davis explained she would be focusing on the relationship between gender violence and the prison complex.

“Immediately, the response is we need prison reform. But if one looks at the history of the prison system it is the history of prison reform,” Davis said.

Davis said when trying to fix the prison system solely on its own, the result is more prisons. And in order to get out of the cycle, the changes must be made in other places first.

“It is impossible to imagine a solution to the prison crisis without re-imagining our whole education system,” said Davis.

Davis goes on to discuss the “metoo” movement. She said sexual harassment is finally in the spotlight and during this moment where women all over the world are standing up, big changes can be made societally. And these changes could help with the prison crisis.

Davis explained that individuals who suffer from reported or unreported sexual assault and those perpetrators can lean towards violent tendencies. Those then violent people are put in an environment, prison, which is inherently violent. This situation then makes them more violent and they are released into the world with a heightened level of violence and anger.

This cycle produces violent people who are likely to go back into the system, which will then have them restart the cycle. With the way it is going, Davis said, nothing will change.

Continuing the evaluation of sexual harassment, Davis dove into the racism behind some of the discrimination.

Davis said, “Whenever we bring up racism, or misogyny, there is this tendency toward individualization.”

She explained when speaking about racism, it is commonly attributed to a person or a character trait. Davis said, “We are transitioning from a purely individualized notion of racism to understanding more complex ways of thinking about racism.”

Davis brought it all together explaining that capitalism relies on racism and gender discrimination, and the prison system relies on capitalism. She said that the prison system is run by gender and race discrimination.

Next, Davis said, “It is absurd that prison is being used to address something as urgent as sexual abuse.”

She discussed how Larry Nassar, convicted abuser, has been sentenced to 125 years in prison. Davis suggested that by putting him in prison, it is a way of forgetting about the problem that needs to be solved.

“Because we assume jail is the end of the line. Once the perpetrator is sent to prison then we can forget about it. The problem has been solved,” said Davis.

She went on to explain that putting somebody in jail because they assaulted 100’s of girls is not enough recourse. There has to be more done to prevent this from happening again instead of punishing it after the crime has been committed.

Davis said “This is a really exciting moment that is calling on us to combine our scholarship, our activism and our imagination. Because I think we all want to be able to look forward to a better world.”

During the question and answer segment, attendees had a chance to interact with Davis.

Alexandra Thomas, CSUB student asked, “Dr. Davis, throughout your career, your life, and everything you’ve been through, would you do it again?”

Davis said “Absolutely. What may appear to have been a difficult time in my life, I look back and see as a gift.”

Davis said “I think it is the responsibility of everyone to make those who have been behind bars feel welcome and allow them to see they have something to offer.”

Professor Tracy Salisbury asked, “I am concerned about the black community and the disbelief of black women by other black women. And I agree 100 percent that men need to step up and help this. But what do we do when they think they’re doing the work but they’re not?”

Davis said, “I think we do it by doing what you have done just now. We do it by not being afraid to speak out. But also, we act as if lines have to be drawn. If a man says something misogynistic, then he goes on the other side of the line. But there has to be a way to communicate between those lines.”

Laura DeLeon, Dolores Huerta’s daughter, thanked Davis for her influence in her family’s life and for being at CSUB to talk.

Michael Burroughs, Director for the Kegley Institute of Ethics said, “Dr. Davis is a central figure in the history of U.S. civil rights and political activism, an amazing speaker, and she both educated and inspired the audience of well over 1,000 attendees.”