The Guardian • Issue #1957

Angela Davis talk “censored” in last minute cancellation

A Jewish group in the United States boycotted the author and academic’s event at Indiana’s Butler University.

Ms Angela Davis’ talk Joint Struggle and Collective Liberation was to discuss state violence against black, indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC), as well as advancements against racism.

In a Letter to the Editor, published in The Butler Collegian, the anonymous author hit back at the decision.

“The administration abruptly and unilaterally cancelled the event without the input of – and without even notifying – the student leaders who spent four months of tireless planning, coordination and collaboration on the event.”

The Jewish group behind the push to cancel the talk at Butler University cited Ms Davis’ support for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement; which is the demand for economic pressure in protest of Israel’s military occupation of Palestine.

“Butler staff and administration gave an array of inconsistent and unfounded justifications for its racist and authoritative cancel­lation,” says the Letter to the Editor. ‘Failure to follow procedure,’ ‘too high of an honorarium’ and ‘inappropriate timing.’ ”

Ms Davis’ intention to talk at the university on the topic of race in the United States comes with the trial over George Floyd’s death and continuing global discourse and demand for action on racial injustices. The reasons given from the administration obfuscate the importance of allowing a woman of colour, who has spent her life fighting against systematic oppression, to speak to her expertise on such a topical and pervasive issue.

Earlier this year, Davis gave a talk at Northeastern University in Massachusetts. Jewish student group Hillel Northeastern released a statement that claimed Davis had made harmful comments to the Jewish community. However, this reference to a “checkered background” comes from the book Chutzpa by Alan Dershowitz, which faced criticism from the American Jewish Congress.

Columnist for The Huntington News, Noah Colbert, underscores how Davis’ entire career has been dedicated to fighting oppression.

“Netanyahu’s government can sign all the arms deals he likes,” writes Mr Colbert. “But they are merely emblems of a negative peace predicated on ignoring the perpetual state sanctioned violence against the Palestinian people. The oppression of any marginalised people is seen as unacceptable to Angela Davis, and it is this that she has dedicated her life to fighting.”

“Hillel’s objection ‘to the politicisation of the conversation of the State of Israel’ is completely irrelevant, considering Davis’ speaking event was not about the Palestine-Israel issue.”

“It is disheartening to see so much of our national discourse on anti-Semitism occupied by a fool’s errand: the equation of anti-Zionism or Palestinian solidarity with anti-Semitism.”

The politicisation around Angela Davis’ talks casts a shadow over the depth of her experience and contributions from her long career.

“Angela Davis came to Northeastern to reaffirm her commitment to the destruction of all oppressive systems,” says Mr Colbert. “Hillel’s statement fails to comprehend the notion that to acknowledge the struggle of one group in no way minimises that of another. Indeed, if we are lucky, that recognition will be the beginning of solidarity between the oppressed people of the world.”

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