Do YOU approve of violence?

Angela Davis is a political activist who was closely related to the Black Panther Party through her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. After being asked the question, “Do you approve of violence?”  in a 1972 interview, she goes on to say how involving yourself in a revolution does not involve yourself in violence also. Davis explains how a revolution inst all about violence, although many revolutions that have taken pace highly involved violence. She claims that revolution lies in the goals you are striving for and the way you reach them. Some movements reached or attempted to through violence, while others like the Black Panther Party aided others to gain support for their rights.

I think Angela Davis reveals to us that because black people live in a white society, their revolutions are no doubt going to be viewed as violent or starting violence. But what people do not understand is that living a black life is always violent. Whether if we are speaking about the past, around the time this interview took place, or the present. In past times, racism was commonly practiced and supported throughout America. We all know this already, but black people were constantly treated violently due to just a certain gene in their DNA that produced more melanin in their skin. Davis provides some examples that emphasize how as a little girl she witnessed violence and experienced it as well. And even to this day, black folks across the country are similarly experiencing some form of violence– especially with law enforcement.

Angela Davis’ reaction to this question showed that she seemed a bit insulted or shocked to have been asked that because coming from a black individual’s perspective, you know you do not approve of violence especially if it has effected you in some way. She states that asking this question means that the person who asked it must have no idea or comprehension of what black people go through every day of their lives. There is no awareness, because not everyone lives the same life and therefore not everyone has the same experiences. This relates back to language because language is always changing due to the different experiences everyone goes through. The interpretations of concepts change and the thoughts on one idea are all different. Overall, this question was asked very vaguely with no consideration of what violence black people have gone through however, the interviewer didn’t know because he didn’t share the same experiences as Angela did. Thus, violence is experienced and interpreted differently by everyone. Using language can be harmful and slightly insulting especially if not used properly or used cautiously. Language is a universal tool but it is also an individual representation.

Interpretation of revolution is seen differently by many people. As mentioned earlier, black party movements are often associated with violence when majority of the time, minorities are only defending themselves and it is interpreted as violence. When I searched on the internet for The Black Panther Party a lot of articles mentioned that the movement was heavily associated with guns or at least the general white America felt that way. Yet, nobody knew that the Black Panthers were constantly working on community projects and giving back to those in need. This was their way of gaining support rather than using violence to reach their goals.


3 thoughts on “Do YOU approve of violence?

  1. Wow, this is really thoughtful and well written. Angela Davis is a true revolutionary genius and I wish she was still teaching classes so I could take one of her classes. I’m really glad that she went so far as to tell her story, despite how personal the story is. Her story, like many others, are very important. If more people shared their stories, and others actively listened, then maybe the present would be in a better state.


  2. I think that something that really stands out in this documentary is this idea that some of us don’t know what it is like to black in our society. For me, personally, I never experienced any oppression and never felt like my life was in danger every day. That, in turn, causes me to think of this society as a safe place where I can leave my house with ignorance, and never consider what is in my surroundings. So, it is hard for me to imagine a life where you are dominated by paranoia and anxiety. I imagine the harshness and fear that some people have to live, and Ms. Davis’s interview really exposes a very eye-opening issue that we have in our society.


  3. I can defiantly agree! Including the detail that Davis felt insulted is a major part of this interview. Davis does an excellent job of conduction herself and educating the person interviewing her bout the difference between violence and revolution. Violence can seem to play a major part of revolution, however, in the case of the Black Panther Party, they never turned to violence as a way of achieving their goals. This piece was written very well and it addresses the issue clearly.


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