Occupy Wall Street’s Race Problem: My Piece for American Prospect

“The economic crisis has disproportionately affected people of color, in particular African Americans. Given the stark economic realities in communities of color, many people have wondered why the Occupy Wall Street movement hasn’t become a major site for mobilizing African Americans. For me, it’s not about the diversity of the protests. It’s about the rhetoric used by the white left that makes OWS unable to articulate, much less achieve, a transformative racial-justice agenda.” Go to AMERICAN PROSPECT to read the rest.

2 thoughts on “Occupy Wall Street’s Race Problem: My Piece for American Prospect

  1. Kia ora. Thanks for a great read. I think there is a continual and growing critique of the whiteness that inhabits (dominates?) OWS, and what can be done about it. I’ve written about it myself as an indigenous woman half a world away, where we too watch with interest. It is a call that has been met at times with a willingness to be reflective on what is being offered; but in the most part with defensiveness and indignation. It goes against the ‘one love’ ethos that often encircles movements like this one. And yet, if those involved in OWS cannot listen to the voices of those with less social-power, how can they expect to be listened to by those with more? If there is no willingness to listen and more importantly to change; then the movement risks reproducing the power and privilege they purport to oppose. My thoughts anyway…

  2. Thanks for writing this! I have also noticed reductionist tendencies within the occupation often saying, “this isn’t about race it is about class,” without thinking fundamentally about the history and politics of exploitation, power and unearned privileges done (and still done) on the backs of the internal colonies within the U.S, as well as the pillage and plunder done (and still done) to “developing” nations. I have found in my dealings with white folks (and also certain folks of color), when these issues surface, the conversation is usually flattened and dismissed as a “race/divisive” and or “regressive” issue rather than seen as deeply tied to a class issue that effectively maintains our present systematic inequities. This does not allow for us to find creative ways towards struggling for a better world where we all can benefit. Truthfully, I am not even sure how we will move forward in our analysis/work if we are constantly finding ways to distort facts, forget history and deny the experiences of our most economically exploited populations. Further, I have not seen much self critical and reflexive work done on grappling with the complexities of this reality, rather it is the tried and true tactics of hostility, guilt and selectively choosing which points should be valid when it is beneficial to prove one’s point. In this way, I also fear the movement will become reformist if we continue to deny white supremacy’s central(historic!) role in our current class contradictions, as well as our roles in solidifying these unequal relationships. Even the discourse on the “99% versus the 1%” needs to be broadened and deepened, especially in its relation to the world.

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