My brain is working overtime these days on weighty matters but that is surely a sign of the times. *nods to Prince fans* At times like these, it’s difficult to know where to begin because there is no beginning, it’s all interconnected. It would be accurate to say that the volume of this conversation had been grown steadily thanks to Occupy Wall Street (OWS).
Foremost, in my mind is the subject of civil rights and OWS. My followers know that I am an advocate of the Occupy Wall Street movement and may have noticed that I haven’t posted about them in some time. I’ve been weighing, there goes that word again, the issue of OWS, POC and their minimal involvement in the movement. Quite honestly, I’ve been angered by the firestorm of controversy that I’ve seen unfolding in mainstream and social media. It pissed me off because it seemed to be a no brainer.
Simplistically stated, the argument goes this way: OWS was initially conceived to fight against the tyranny of corporations, mass greed and economic injustice PERIOD.
It would be fair to say that there was a very slow initial response, if any, to the trickle, turned deluge, of voices that said their attempts were overly simplistic, exclusive, one sighted and reeking of white privilege. Needless to say, that erodes the very claim that the movement purports to represent the 99%.
There have been numerous responses to this claim:
- Talk of race/racism is divisive and seemingly unnecessary as this is a time for unification and solidarity.
- Issues of socio-economic justice that affect a specific segment of the population are not part of this movement. Seeming to imply that all is more important than some.
- I’ve even heard it opined that It’s too big a nut to crack.
Please note that I cull from a host of comments, Tweets, blogs and posts when citing these as the main responses. I could not possibly list them all but will give a small sample here.
- The People’s View: On State Violence, Occupy Wall Street & White Male Privilege
- Racism Review OWS Articles
- A personal account: Why I am not protesting at Occupy Wall Street
For those who agree with the claims above, I will state unequivocally that you are wrong.
1. People are NEVER divorced from their experience
Asking me to look at life through the singular focus of your concerns immediately predicates a non-reciprocal relationship. There can be no consensus, or the much espoused solidarity in such a case.
Experience colors everything we do. It is unspoken baggage that informs your behavior, and effects your decisions. It is an integral who we are and no one, but no one, appreciates being told that their experience is negligible when attempting to address an issue, particularly one of this magnitude.
2. Race talk is divisive
Only in a racist society would one say that discussion of race is divisive. It is typically uncomfortable for Americans, considering our traumatic past and the current state of affairs, but it is an integral part of healing, empathy and progress.
Any friend whom I can not discuss issues of race with, as an African American, is NOT my friend. You dismiss a part of me that inform the very basis of who I am. It is more than necessary, it is germane to my input as a human being. That anyone would attempt to refute that is insulting and dehumanizing. This would explain why folks have begun to distance themselves in the face of such close-mindedness, even though they wanted to support the movement. How counter-productive is it to alienate the very people whose support you need?
3. “We are all one race, the human race.”
That is certainly true. Genetically, it has been proven that humans are more alike, than dissimilar, and I will gladly say that I am first a human being. But, I am also an African American woman, a descendant of Cherokee Indians and African Slaves, and a New Yorker, just to name a few things. All central to my experience in the world.
People have attempted to use that statement in a pat way as if it erases all else we are and that is, quite frankly, bullshit. My experience is not the same as a Latina, an Asian, an Irish American, a Southerner etc.
4. An injustice for one IS an injustice for all
To profess that you are standing against injustice and tyranny caused by capitalism, and yet refuse to address the issues of those historically affected for generations by a system of disenfranchisement is more than unjust, it is morally reprehensible. The two issues cannot be separated because one is clearly the antecedent for the other. There is a causal relationship as one reinforces the other in order for capitalism to thrive.
The injustices in the US did not begin in 2008 and anyone who thinks so should pick up a history book. In any historical analysis of colonialism and the effects of capitalism, it is correct to say that the “dominant” group subjugates the oppressed for material gain, be it land, wealth, resources etc. racism is used as a means to an end at it’s very base.
So, perhaps it is understandable why so many people of color are/were deeply offended by any attitude which purports a concern for justice but dismisses our reality, our very history, as marginal. As well meaning as the messenger might be it is a clearly unjust stance. A stance that relies on the white privilege, ignorance of history, our struggles, convenience and a special sort of blindness.
Any struggle for socio-economic justice must address not just the current situation, but the sum of conditions that led to this historic moment in history for the 99%. If it does not, I can guarantee that we will go back to business as usual for the majority, and only a illusory victory for a few, and that is unacceptable. No one wants to risk imprisonment, police brutality, or a criminal record etc. for such a one-sided goal.
Yes, that mean significant changes must be worked for, the abolishment of the death penalty; tackling the giant of the prison industrial complex, constitutional amendments and the like.
It will not be easy but those who join in the struggle for liberty have never walked an easy path. They do what is hard and they do it because it is right. We should not be short sighted as what we do at this moment affects not only us but generations to come.
Wait for it…
I did and I am. I waited to see the movement evolve and listen, rather than just sought to be heard, and it seems to be coming, slowly but surely. For starters, there is the announcement that church leaders are joining the movement and the International Civil Rights Restart which I am very excited about. I don’t think it’s my imagination that a heightened sense of awareness and sensitivity has become prominent in our conversations as people have begun in greater numbers to speak out against social injustice everywhere. I can’t wait to see what’s to come…