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  •  My thoughts on Lewis/Atlanta (9+ / 0-)

    I saw only one diary that even mentioned it. Although it was not the subject of the diary, one commenter mentioned the incident and then declared, without citing any other evidence, that the reason Lewis did not receive immediate speaking privileges was racism on the part of Occupy Atlanta. The commenter then declared that anyone who disagreed was themselves racist. That is the only thing I saw, so it is all I can comment on. That commenter was completely out of bounds, and other commenters said so in ways that were in no way offensive (I stayed out of it). From what I've seen, Lewis handled himself with class and stated that he had no problem with what happened. Personally, I have no problem with what happened. The agenda for the gathering was what it was, it was not altered for Lewis, but he was invited to speak during the speakers' portion. He had another engagement, which is understandable, so he left. This seems like a respectful interaction. The Occupy gatherings also have a culture, which all of us should respect, and it clearly does not value elders or hierarchy the way other cultures do. Everyone at the gathering is considered equal in terms of the value of what they have to say, whether or not they've done something heroic. We can agree or disagree, but that is an egalitarian principle. As for the gatherings being white, first I'll add that Al Sharpton broadcast today from downtown NYC and spoke about economic equality, certainly an issue of importance for non-white Americans. The OWS movement is about reducing economic inequality and increasing economic fairness, it is about the 99%, what could be more inclusive than that? Let's please focus our anger where it belongs, at those who want to divide us and work against equality. Please.  

    My forthcoming book Obama's America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity will be published in Summer 2012 by Potomac Books.

    by Ian Reifowitz on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 02:55:44 PM PDT

    •  PS-Thanks to Denise for raising the topic here (7+ / 0-)

      in the way she did. Passionate, but respectful.

      My forthcoming book Obama's America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity will be published in Summer 2012 by Potomac Books.

      by Ian Reifowitz on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 03:07:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I don't agree with you - since this (14+ / 0-)

      is not about Al Sharpton and NY - suggest you read some of the comments attached to O-Atlanta news articles.

      It is about "privilege" - since our communities are about elders.  Period.  

      Yes - he handled it with class -cause that's who he is.

      That has nothing to do with the tenor of remarks being made.

      And yes - the crowd in Atlanta GA was predominantly white.
      I seriously doubt a crowd of black Atlantans would have had the same attitude.

      "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

      by Denise Oliver Velez on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 03:14:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I understand, but I respectfully disagree (3+ / 0-)

        First, I would have had no problem with the Occupy group having altered its procedures and having Lewis speak immediately, but neither do I condemn them for not doing so. I don't see it is as fair for you to criticize them for respecting their own culture and their own principles, so long as they apply them fairly and evenly to people of all races. It's not as if they treated Lewis differently from how they treated an equivalent white person. It seems as if you want to impose the culture of a different community on them in order to gain your approval, and that doesn't feel fair or right. In the fight for social justice, I would think that any group who is fighting a fight that will improve the lives of those left behind by Ayn-Rand style capitalism is a group everyone here would support, even if they did something that felt disrespectful, so long as it was not reflective of some kind of bigotry. I would hope that the rightness of their cause, which has the potential to undermine the root, structural causes of inequality, would earn them a bit of slack. As you well know, a group of banksters can say all the right things regarding respecting black elders or anyone else while they exacerbate inequality and destroy opportunity. Your feelings are your feelings, and this is a safe place to share them and discuss these issues among friends, of course. I'm glad we can do that together.

        My forthcoming book Obama's America: A Transformative Vision of Our National Identity will be published in Summer 2012 by Potomac Books.

        by Ian Reifowitz on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 04:04:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I left my feelings out of this long (15+ / 0-)

        enough. I did my organizer commentary.

        John Lewis took himself on a bus and knew he might have been beaten to death, ripped apart by dogs or hanged. He did it so it would never happen to me.

        You don't dis that man, you just don't. We love our elders for reasons that a lot of people can't understand. They lived in times of terror and had the courage to risk their precious young lives so that mine would be better, even if they did nothing but be determined to live and create another generation in a hostile society that wanted them all dead. They couldn't bear to see me forbidden to use a lunch counter. It was bad enough that it happened to them.

        So, we don't wanna hear that shit. Period.

        "It's not enough to acknowledge privilege. You have to resist." -soothsayer

        by GenXangster on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 04:13:28 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I understand a lot of what your saying (13+ / 0-)

      but we really need to find a way to broaden this movement. John Lewis is a person who can do this. I like to think of this as a learning opportunity, the occupy movement I hope can start discussing who they want to invite and how they want this movement to grow and diversify.

      What major Latino/Latina political leaders do they want? Let's figure this out before we have more incidents like this. We really need to spread the movement.

      -1.63/ -1.49 "Speaking truth to power" (with snark of course)!

      by dopper0189 on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 04:04:02 PM PDT

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      •  I think the point is that they don't want leaders. (2+ / 0-)

        This is very hard for many of us to understand.

        I have read very little about what happened so I probably shouldn't jump in.

        Maybe people should know more about history and more about their politicians and realize they are not all cut from the same cloth. But so many Americans have received lousy educations and they only know that the system is broken and that politicians seem to be a big part of the problem. They want to see an equalizing in society - and I'm not talking about race. They want to see a society where the common citizen is treated with the same respect as a politician. That's what I truly hope these folks were trying to do.

        •  Frankly angela, I'm no more ready to give (7+ / 0-)

          credence to those who don't know their history than I am to those they are protesting against.  The protestors can't demand respect for their "culture" while dis-respecting the "culture" of POC.

          And how do we talk about an equalizing of society without talking about race? We can't. Trying to leave that out is willfully ignorant at best.

          Years ago, I told my mother that respect was earned. I didn't see anything in that long, long, ten minute video that was deserving of respect, except for Rep. Lewis. He earned it long years ago and has never stopped proving why.

          If corporations are people, then I want to see some birth certificates and talk to their parents.

          by Onomastic on Tue Oct 11, 2011 at 07:17:03 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  This is a tough conversation. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Onomastic, angelajean
            The protestors can't demand respect for their "culture" while dis-respecting the "culture" of POC.

            It seems as if POC are thinking "they dissed the black man and the civil rights hero" and some others at this scene (and not all) see John Lewis as a Congressman, which he presently is.

            Perception is everything and I am a little pissed about how Congressman Lewis was treated but...mistakes get made, Occupy Atlanta was what, 5 days old at the time of this incident and I'm getting a little pissed at the browbeating that #OA is taking for this

            my $.02.

            •  It's an important $.02 and I'm glad you shared it. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Chitown Kev

              This is a tough conversation to have. Everything that's going on is so new in some ways and uncertain. We're all on a learning curve.

              It would be much easier to deal with what happened in Atlanta if there wasn't so much history where POC were constantly devalued and dis-respected.

              It just smacked too much of that, the old, as soon as the white folks get it figured out, we'll have time for ya.

              I don't want #OA to fail. I very badly want them to succeed, just like the rest of the OWS movement.

              I know they're new and that they're going through all the organizational confusions of any new group. I just hope they take some time to think about how their actions can be perceived by others who do not share their culture.

              And I hope they learn to make distinctions, to see people as more than one dimensional. I don't want them co-opted by anyone. But I do hope they allow those who do want to support them to be there for them. Even if they are, among other things, a Congressional Representative.

              I had not meant to offend anyone and my apologies if I have. I had not known about what had happened with Rep. Lewis until I read Dee's piece. Being an old broad, it brought up too many memories, none of them good.

              Unfortunately, and I know it was not intended that way, it "felt" too much like, take a seat at the back of the bus moment. That's not something that goes away in the first five minutes.

              So what would you recommend?

              If corporations are people, then I want to see some birth certificates and talk to their parents.

              by Onomastic on Wed Oct 12, 2011 at 05:17:41 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Something to the effect that (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                the #Occupy groups absolutely and categorically do not want elected officials to speak at their events should do the trick.

                The groups are very hyper-sensitive about be co-opted by politicians and it seems as if they are making a concerted effort not to become the Tea Party in the sense of being co-opted.

                Make the statement and their wishes and desires should be respected for the time being. If they want to speak to a Congressman Lewis or former Black Panther Congressman Bobby Rush (and Bobby Rush would have the exact same problem here) then they could do that on the DL.

                •  One suggestion that I have (0+ / 0-)

                  Invite Julian Bond.

                  Invite those that participated in the SNCC and other movements that are a) still living and b) are not elected officials...

                •  Can completely understand why they would not (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Chitown Kev, Dancun74

                  want to be used as the tea party was.

                  But does that mean they can't use some discernment?

                  Wait a minute. Look what I just found.

                  Occupy Atlanta: John Lewis is invited to speak, we're sorry if we offended anyone
                  Posted by Thomas Wheatley @thomaswheatley on Mon, Oct 10, 2011 at 10:47 AM

                  Occupy Atlanta, the leaderless group of protesters who set up camp at downtown's Woodruff Park this weekend to rail against corporate greed, is apologizing to people the crowd offended for not allowing Congressman John Lewis to speak during its Friday planning meeting.

                  The group's press committee today released a long statement explaining why the congressman was asked to wait to address the crowd. (For what it's worth, Lewis told reporters that he undersood, wasn't disappointed he couldn't address the crowd, and supports the movement.) According to the press committee, the protesters voted this morning to invite the civil rights icon to address the group.

                  The incident, which critics of the Occupy movement have pounced on with glee, turned off some protesters. Hell, Russell Simmons even got pissed (and later said to "let it go"). From the statement:

                      Occupy groups are governed by procedural rules that allow them to function in chaotic circumstances and to exercise participatory democracy in a large group. These rules are based on the principle of absolute equality and each voice being heard.

                      Anyone may come and speak to or participate in a General Assembly. There is a set order which includes a point where the floor is opened for comments. Anyone present may put their name on the "stack" as it is called and speak. It might seem a simple thing to break the order, but in a large crowd where everyone is supposed to get a chance to be heard, deviating from it quickly causes chaos. Each deviation encourages the next until no conversation can be maintained.

                      All of the speakers who have attended a General Assembly in New York have followed this process. Occupy Atlanta is unaware of any exceptions. Congressman Lewis, who attended Occupy Atlanta's 5th General Assembly on October 7, is familiar with consensus from his days as a civil rights leader but was unable to stay long enough to allow the process to unfold due to prior commitments. [...]

                      We hope that explaining our process will go a long way towards preventing any future problems or misunderstandings so that we do not inadvertently give offense to those whose voices and knowledge we would very much like to hear. We are dismayed that anything we have done would seem to show disrespect for a man whom many of us revere, and apologize to everyone who was hurt or angered by our actions.

                  Lewis' office tells CL that he's not yet received an official invitation from the group. His spokeswoman passed along the following statement this morning:

                      "As a veteran of the Civil Rights Movement, Congressman Lewis is very familiar with the dynamics of protest, and he respects the right of protesters to choose to follow their own pre-organized agenda. He is not concerned or offended in any way by what happened Friday. In fact, the group's process reminded him very much of SNCC, so he was not disturbed at all by what happened."



                  I'm really glad to have read that. It explained a great deal about their procedures. I'm impressed with both their awareness of how the earlier situation could have been viewed, and their efforts to heal that up.  Nicely done.

                  Thank you for the conversation. Really appreciated it.

                  If corporations are people, then I want to see some birth certificates and talk to their parents.

                  by Onomastic on Wed Oct 12, 2011 at 08:28:03 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

          •  Ono, I went to watch the video because of our (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Onomastic, Chitown Kev


            I think we both see very different things.

            The process itself is painful. And I think many of us look at it and think, If they just would have let him speak, it would have taken less time than the process.

            But did you see John Lewis' face after the BLOCK. He doesn't change his expression but he nods his head in agreement with the reasoning of the man who made the block. He gets it.

            Because they couldn't find consensus they had to move forward. The guy on the mike looks pained. I think many were not happy but this General Assembly process can't move forward if there is no consensus. The lessons learned about direct democracy, to me, are far more important. We finally have everyday people attempting to participate in Democracy, from the ground up. I know that will make you angry and I am sorry. But this is about more than John Lewis.

            The people who seem to enjoy this the most are the videographer and the person with him ( You here the yelling in the background "John Lewis is not better than anyone!"  That comes from him or from a person standing directly next to him. They were there to make this seem even worse than it already was.

            I am sure this conversation is taking place in Atlanta again and again and again. It will be interesting to see what happens the next time, to see what lessons have been learned.

            •  You made me go watch the video again. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Chitown Kev, Dancun74

              I did see Rep. Lewis' response to the block. And yes, he got it.

              He respected it, as he does ows. Just as I respect people getting involved in ground up democratic participation.

              That does not mean that everyone who saw the video or heard about it are going to be happy with how Rep. Lewis appeared to be treated. That does not mean that the lack of respect with which Rep. Lewis seemed to be treated, is going to be appreciated.

              It didn't look like some of the POC and others were happy with how he was treated.

              In some sense, it wasn't the turning away of Rep. Lewis that was so troubling. It was the turning away of a man with a wealth of experience that could greatly benefit OWS. In that sense, he's not like everyone else. He is far more than one man. He's walking history and represents in his own self, countless numbers of people.

              Numbers I would think the ows would want involved in their participatory democracy.

              The group seemed ineffective in it's dealing with Mr. Lewis, unable to even reach consensus on allowing him to speak for a minute or two.

              I do hope they are having a number of conversations about this, about inclusivity, about who their allies are and are not.

              I hope they are discussing how they want to be seen, where they want to go, and how they plan to get there.

              If corporations are people, then I want to see some birth certificates and talk to their parents.

              by Onomastic on Wed Oct 12, 2011 at 07:09:00 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I think this is interesting as an experiment (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Onomastic, Chitown Kev

                (not what happened to Mr. Lewis).

                I think that a lot of Americans don't know what Democracy looks like. They see that Congress can't get anything done and they assume it's because Congress is ineffectual. I don't always like Congress and I can see lots of room for improvement. But getting consensus is damn hard. Maybe people will change how they feel about Congress... maybe it will make them ask different questions of their representatives. Maybe it will make them figure out ways to make it work.

                If anything, maybe it will make them see that Democracy isn't fair unless we make it that way.

                It might only make things worse - the Block by one individual is very much like a filibuster. That may unfortunately be the lesson learned. I hope not.

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