Davis, Angela Y. “The Color of Violence Against Women.” Keynote address at the Color of Violence Conference in Santa Cruz. Colorlines 3.3 (Fall 2000). Available here.


Summary: In her keynote address for the Color of Violence conference organized by Andrea Smith, Davis challenges the reliance on state intervention and laws that further criminalize violence against women within feminist movements to challenge the prevalence of violence against women. She argues that the movement’s work to remove rape and domestic violence from the protected realm of private matters to sites of public debate was crucial and continues to be an important project. However, continuing the work of raising awareness of and challenging violence against women must also entail a critique of state violence if we hope to also challenge the racism that has run through so many debates about violence against women thus far. That is, in order to challenge the racist casting of men of color as violent aggressors and the equally racist silencing of women of color’s experiences of violence, then we must begin imagining a new approach to violence against women that does not depend on a state that systematically perpetuates gendered and raced forms of violence and that criminalizes race (and necessarily gender) through the prison industrial complex.


  • Part of the work of addressing violence against women is to develop an analysis that does not reify gender roles. That is, we need to find ways of talking about violence against women that do not simply cast men in the role of aggressor and women in the role of victim, but that rather incorporates a complex analysis of intersecting oppressions (including state violence) that compound and perpetuate violence against women.
  • Beyond the prison industrial complex, the state’s treatment of Native Americans functions as another important example of the futility of looking to a racist, homophobic, misogynist, violent state to protect women from violence.
  • We need to pay attention to the ways in which laws designed to prevent domestic violence function through the increased criminalization of domestic violence. Criminalization only works to land more men and women of color into the prison industrial complex, which ultimately means placing them within a necessarily violent system and only aggravates the problem of violence against women of color.
  • As we work on short-term solutions to violence against women, we also need to be focused on more long-term issues such as links between violence against women and globalization, capitalism, racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.

Quotable Quotes:

  • “One of the major questions facing this conference is hwo to develop an analysis that furthers neither the conservative project of sequestering millions of men of color in accordance with the contemporary dictates of globalized capital and its prison industrial complex, nor the equally conservative project of abandoning poor women of color to a continuum of ciolence that extends from the sweatshops through the prisons, to shelters, and into bedrooms at home.”
  • “[P]recisely because the primary strategies for addressing violence against women rely on the state and on constructing gendered assaults on women as ‘crimes,’ the criminalization process further bolsters the racism of the courts and prisons. Those institutions, in turn, further contribute to violence against women.”
  • “I suggest that we focus our thinking on this contradiction: Can a state that is thoroughly infused with racism, male dominance, class-bias, and homophobia and that constructs itself in and through violence act to minimize violence in the lives of women?”