Many people undoubtedly tuned into Democracy Now! today and listened to the Nation Magazine/New School panel discussion on Occupy that took place last week in NYC as presented on the program. The participants included Michael Moore, Naomi Klein, Patrick Bruner, Rinku Sen, and William Gredier. In the course of the edited broadcast, panel moderator Richard Kim offered up a question to Sen about Occupy Wall Streets being seen, in his words, as an initially white, middle class, college-student thing and the potential for collaborative efforts in wake of the strides made since that time. If the criticism is already to be relegated as a thing of the past, what then of the makeup of the very panel in question? Allow us to break down the demographics: three white men, a white woman, and an Indian woman of color (double bonus score!)
Being New York City and all, I’m sure it mustn’t have been hard to have found Black, Latino, Indigenous people or Persons with Disabilities to offer their perspectives and experiences on not only a single question of inclusiveness, but of general points of view overall. That wasn’t this case in this instance of ‘occupied panel discussions’ (and it surely isn’t the sole, either)
Bruce Dixon of the Black Agenda Report asks what would have been the case if OWS was a heavily dominated people of color initiative from the onset (read block quote below) before looking onward towards possibilities. Based out of Atlanta, Dixon mentions how race issues are met with resistance and dismissed as ‘divisive’ while also noting how gentrification in the city can be addressed by activists who bend the influence towards the everyday concerns of black folk.
If the first occupiers in Zucotti Park had been young and black, they’d instantly have been branded a street gang and arrested en masse, with or without violence, but certainly with little media play or sympathy. If the first occupiers were black, and blathering about the ravages of finance capital and how neither of the two parties were worth a damn, they certainly would not have been endorsed by what passes for the preacher-infested local leadership of black communities. Tied as they are to corporate philanthropy, corporate financing, the corporate-run Democratic party and its corporate-friendly trickle-down black president, our black misleadership class would have run, not walked away from black occupiers who failed to identify as staunch pro-Obama Democrats.
What if the occupiers had been brown? Here’s a clue. In the last few years, hundreds of thousands of immigrants at a time have stayed away from work in near general-strike proportions to march on May Day, no less, for their human rights. The anecdotal evidence is that ICE agents raided many workplaces in California, Texas, New York, Arizona, Illinois and elsewhere, and that without much notice in the corporate media, a wave of retaliatory harrassment, jailings and deportations ensued. Certainly, the Obama administration is on track to deport a record 400,000 immigrants for the third year in a row, already far outstripping Bush’s eight year total. There are in fact, gang injunction-type laws in many states which make it a criminal offense for young people in designated (black and brown) neighborhoods to assemble in groups in public places for any reason.
Full post here!
Speaking of Percentages...
An article in the American Prospect lays bare the stark race problem of the “Occupy” movement. Writer Kenyon Farrow analyzes the problematic frames in addition to other manifestations of white privilege.
Comparing debt to slavery, believing police won’t hurt you, or wanting to take back the America you see as rightfully yours are things that suggest OWS is actually appealing to an imagined white (re)public. Rather than trying to figure out how to diversify the Occupy Wall Street movement, white progressives need to think long and hard about their use of frameworks and rhetoric that situate blacks at the margins of the movement.
Full post here!
Over the weekend, two black women were called the N-word by two volunteers at Occupy Philadelphia (and that’s not all!) A Black Out protest was organized in response to the hateful racial epithets. The participating activists were actually derided as being divisive and told by people who came up to them that racism is a thing of the past. Forget that Blacks and Latinos have been the hardest hit by the recession.
We spoke out about RACISM IN THE 99 percent. We spoke out about how nobody was talking about the racist foundation of corporate greed. How do we talk about classim without taking about racism? American wealth can not be discussed without mention of free African slave labor, the rice, tobacco, sugar and cotton industry. We were called racist because we empowered ourselves and stood up for what was right.
Full post here!
A great link that, aside from great conversation on video, also points out how the General Assembly’s official document doesn’t tell the full story of how it feels to be a person of color fighting for a voice at Occupy:
How many activities and movements or even conversations have I forgone, thinking that they had no space for me? How many times have I thought that some purportedly progressive activity wasn’t even considering anyone like me? How many times have I walked away, rather than saying anything, because I was bone-tired?
Full post here!
As so many people of forward seeking to make sense of Occupy and move forward, Ernesto approaches some inherent obstacles, like Consciousness of History, Credibility Gaps, The Power of Political Trickle Down, Lack of Leaders Means Leaders Move Covertly, Lack of Agenda, Occupy Language, Process Issues. He concludes by addressing those people of color who engaging with Occupy:
It is the obligation of people of color who want to be involved in Occupy efforts and wish to see more political investment by communities of color to organize in a united fashion independent of Occupy actions, and to do community outreach. It is on you to meet with our communities who cannot or will not come out to these events, for whatever reason, hear openly and share their concerns with a movement you clearly wish to support. It is up to you to lead community mobilizations. If you have no relationships or credibility in those communities, beyond your skin tone, it is up to you to be honest about that and mend fences and/or build relationships.
Full post here!
As the conversation about the intersection of Occupy and people of color gains momentum with the public, an issue that many of us have struggled with is the fact that photographers will often spot a group of people of color within a larger crowd and start shooting away. While we’re happy to see more images of people of color featured in the media, we know that this can also paint a distorted view of the struggle that remains before us to decolonize this movement. Huffington Post reporter Janelle Ross explains the irony of being photographed for the sake of multiculturalism, despite the fact she was working on a story and not demonstrating:
I wasn’t carrying a placard decrying the evils of corporate greed or growing income inequality, just my standard equipment — a notebook, my oversized purse and a pen. And, I was there.
“Oh, well, that’s OK,” one photographer said when I told him that I was just a reporter and probably not the best person to mention in his caption. “I want to convey the fact that there are some black people here.”
The conversation was a reminder of the often simplistic, sometimes exasperating way that diversity is thought about, handled and cultivated in America.
Read the entire post here!