People of Color and Occupy Wall Street

Articles and comments on the People of Color Organize website share excellent perspectives on the issue of liberals disenfranchising non-whites from the progressive movement. At the New Jersey Environmental Justice Alliance meeting in Newark yesterday I was discussing this very same phenomenon.

. . . some communities of color are rightly suspicious of white left activist initiatives. Some whites react with defensiveness or, worse, as if they are at liberty to just ignore criticism because (they regard what they do) as more essential to the world than what disenfranchised people think (or do).

Comments on another post mention important points about how the inclusion of cultures is being played out in the Occupy Wall Street movement – and beyond.

(Commenter) Zari says:

I agree with this article and the other comments. I also want to add that these people on the white left always get inflamed when THEY start to suffer. I heard one white girl say that she was out there because SHE can’t find a job that she’s passionate about. Okay, white girl, what about all the African, Indigenous (which includes so-called “Hispanics”), and Asian peoples who have endured slave labor and low wage jobs since you all settled this land. You think we don’t have dreams and passions? You think we like working for someone else’s enrichment? And just as the article says, even with good intentions, as someone on the so-called left, who is out claiming to want to build another world, it is your responsibility to understand the fundamental contradictions embodied in colonialism!

Their disingenuous pleas for “People of Color” to join them are even more of a deterrent. They speak about “People of Color”, as if we are some monolithic group with no cultural or colonial nuances. As editors of this site, we use the term because we understand people’s lexicon, but our content is purposefully selected because we understand that colonized people have different realities, cultures, and while our colonial pasts have ended in the same result, we still had various colonial relationships.

Even more arrogantly, these people have not even considered that we don’t have time to spend days away from the low wage jobs we are forced to work in, as if we don’t have obligations to take care of our children (since the state is hell bent on cutting social programs). Most of these people are young, college kids who have been inculcated with the legitimacy of this country and do not have the suffering of colonized people as their primary agenda. Jessica is absolutely correct, an American revolution is nothing that colonized people can and should have any place in.

(Commenter) Jarred Says:

I am really glad to read a critical analysis of the current ‘Occupy Wall Street’ situation.

As I am based in Kaurna Country, Australia, trying to create an accurate picture of the situation is quite difficult. What is disappointing though is the borrowed rhetoric which ‘Occupations’ in Australia are taking on.

Wanting to start their own occupations in solidarity with the New York occupation, yet completely ignoring the fact that the Aboriginal Tent Embassy has been standing for 40 years come this January and is always in need of support. I understand that I have flaws, but it is this sort of behaviour which drives me to avoid many of these ‘left’ groups for their complete obliviousness and lack of acknowledgement of their own privileges.

An Alternet voice points out

“Even though we are all the 99 percent, we experience our poverty—and our privilege—differently from one another,” Kanene Holder, a young black teacher and activist tells me. “The fact of the matter is, these protests were not born because black and Latino and other people of color were experiencing a crisis; they were born because that crisis spilled into the white community.”

and

The People of Color Occupying Wall Street Working Group has already made major strides. This past Saturday’s edition of the Occupied Wall Street Journal—in addition to including the female bylines noticeably absent from the previous edition—is also printed in Spanish. On Sunday, the General Assembly was translated into Spanish, allowing the Hispanic and Spanish-speaking human microphone to speak truth to power to their communities.

Born a little over one week ago, the working group has two major goals: diversifying and addressing issues of racial and economic justice within the General Assembly and bringing the movement to communities of color . . .

. . . nearly 40 percent of the nation’s collective unemployed are black or Latino—while they make up only 29 percent of the total population. Although the overall unemployment rate is 9 percent, when broken down by race it becomes 8 percent white unemployment, 11.8 percent Latino unemployment, and 16.1 percent black unemployment.

Huffington Post on Occupy the Hood

In the four weeks since it began, Occupy Wall Street has drawn the attention of elected officials and presidential candidates, and even Wall Street executives. But as the protests have spread to more cities, participants have remained overwhelmingly white — even in some of the country’s more diverse places.

Now, one group that’s dubbed itself “Occupy the Hood” is trying to change that. The mostly online initiative is nearly a month old, and its organizers are working to bring more people of color and their concerns to the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Working Groups for People of Color

  1. Occupy the Hood
    Every Hood EVERY Where: If POC dont get involved once again your voice will not be heard #OccupyWallSt #OccupyTheHood Stand Up! You can contact OccupyTheHood @ 646-580-4186
    @OccupyTheHood
  2. https://www.facebook.com/OccupyTheHood

  3. People of Color #OccupyWallStreet Working Group.

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