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Like many of you, I have been following the Occupy Wall Street Movement for some weeks now. I thought it would have been a moment that came and went, an episode which crystallizes the frustration that Americans are feeling in the time of the Great Recession, a boil once popped that deflates in a moment of cathartic release.

I still remain worried that the powers that be, will at some point, pull a Douglas MacArthur Bonus Army move and commence to head-cracking. I am also impressed by folks speaking truth to power, and finding their voice in a moment of declining civic engagement, a time when emotional, financial, and spiritual exhaustion could easily lead them to disengage and surrender.

There are numerous challenges ahead regarding the Occupy Wall Street Movement. These include the need for the Occupy Wall Street Movement participants to come up with a dominant frame, find a leader or spokesperson, and form a national organization.

In this regard, Occupy Wall Street's decentralized nature is both a strength and a weakness. It gives flexibility and makes the movement (ironically in some ways) a bit harder for elites to derail. Decentralization also makes it difficult to develop a fixed, clear, and coherent set of policy goals to advocate for in the arena of normal politics.

Occupy Wall Street also faces a practical hurtle, one that at first glance seems insurmountable: can people power have any impact on the decision-making processes of a financier class who are by their very nature(s) both anti-democratic and plutocratic?

Race and class are intimately and inseparably tied together in American society. Blacks and Latinos have been particularly hard hit by the Great Recession. Extreme wealth and income inequality, even as made worst in recent years, are the predictable and intended results of centuries-long government policies that economically disadvantaged people of color while simultaneously subsidizing the creation of the white middle class in America.

Moreover, the destruction of America's central cities by post-Fordist, neo-liberal economic policies put a brown and black face on the American poor in the popular imagination. These early efforts at the shock doctrine, deep retrenchment by the State, and austerity as a policy (and not as a temporary condition or corrective) were first perfected on the poor and working classes in America's central cities. History comes full circle as the knife sharpeners are now at the throats of the (white) American middle class.

Eventually, Occupy Wall Street will have to deal with how differences of ethnicity, race, gender, sexuality, and citizenship complicate their movement culture and policy goals. Diversity can be an asset; it can also make for real difficulties in getting self-interested, albeit well-intentioned, agents to work together towards a common goal.

Like their intellectual fore bearers in the American Communist Party in Harlem circa 1930, some on the Left, the most orthodox and doctrinaire types especially, will insist that the Occupy Wall Street movement is all about class and not race. Moreover, from their perspective, any talk about race is a distraction from more "important" issues.

This is a dangerous and problematic script where even among Progressives and the Left, white (male) privilege threatens to win out, even as the participants in Occupy Wall Street wrap themselves in the power of the "human microphone."

White liberals and white conservatives are both infected by white supremacy and white privilege. In addition, both are invested in the white racial frame and a type of racial heliocentrism where "whiteness" equals normality: in this aspect, I have long suggested that white liberals and white conservatives differ only in how the disease that is white racism manifests itself.

This suggestion offends liberals, because to them, racism is a particular sin of their ideological adversaries--and being politically correct on matters of race is a badge to be worn and a flag flown with (oftentimes) smug moral superiority over others who are not as "enlightened."

By comparison, conservatives react with a mix of defensiveness and aggression as they default to a tired script of white victimology, where in the Age of Obama, anti-racism is the new racism; ironically, for racially resentful white conservatives in particular, the act of naming a thing for what it actually is becomes the greater sin.

In all, white conservatives and white liberals both imagine themselves to be the natural masters of the universe. Liberals are ashamed of this fact. Conservatives revel in it. What will happen to the Occupy Wall Street Movement when black and brown folks assert the relevance of their own experiences? When they/we/us grab the human microphone and take center stage?

The participatory democratic culture of the Occupy Wall Street Movement is fraught with the same challenges of power, inequality, and identity as American society writ large. It would be naive to expect otherwise.

In my reconnaissance of Daily Kos, I closely followed the fallout from a post called "A Black Woman Who Occupied Wall Street: Why She Won't Be Going Back." The comments by (majority white) "Kossacks" to the author's experiences are quite--for lack of a better word--fascinating.

I am all for being alert to how Right-wing types could potentially play the role of agent provocateurs. Yet, I also find it curious, that the general idea, i.e. that "gosh race could be a variable!" in the Occupy Wall Street Movement, was treated with such skepticism.

As is my tradition, I have some questions:

Have any of you been to the Occupy Wall Street rallies? If so, what dynamics of race, class, and gender have you observed?

Is the human microphone really that inclusive? Or are some voices and experiences being censored and excluded?

Are those who are the Other outside of the Occupy Wall Street Movement being treated as others within that counter-cultural setting? Or is the dynamic reversed where black and brown folks give a sense of "authentic" resistance, (and do pardon my obvious pun) some "oppositional color," to what at present appears to be a very white Occupy Wall Street movement?

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Comment Preferences

  •  There's an interesting development (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SadieB, Stude Dude

    of a parallel movement called Occupy The Hood that is allied with OWS in about 25 cities so far. It is doing outreach in minority communities and attempting to find ways to make the movement inclusive for them. It strikes me as a very necessary addition.

    •  Yes, I agree. But it's telling that a separate (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      movement needed to be formed. Occupy Harlem is also a separate movement by people of color. What does it say that these groups felt the need to stand apart from the OWS while also, as you say, allying themselves with it?

  •  "What will happen to the Occupy Wall Street (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Movement when black and brown folks assert the relevance of their own experiences?"

    Short answer? It will be a good thing.

    I don't see how it could be otherwise.

    And it's coming:

    Truly the destruction of the earth only results from the destitution of its inhabitants, and its inhabitants become destitute only when rulers concern themselves with amassing wealth. Caliph Ali, 7th century

    by SadieB on Mon Oct 24, 2011 at 07:34:38 PM PDT

  •  Zucotti Park had wide variety of ethnicities (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I've been twice and seen all skin colors well represented.

    I ♥ President Barack Obama.

    by ericlewis0 on Mon Oct 24, 2011 at 08:00:04 PM PDT

  •  You lost me at post-Fordist. n/t (0+ / 0-)
  •  I have been in many marches in Sacramento, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    in which nearly every race on Earth were represented, and in large numbers.  If your harsh words are a product of your fear, well get over your bad self, come to an Occupy movement, and view with your own eyes what is, or is not present.  If you don't like what you see and what you hear, then go home.  This is for 99% of Americans.  I'm positive that that includes black people as well.  There are more black and latino participants than you may imagine.
    And as for grabbing the microphone (if there is one), using the people's microphone is very different than standing on a stage and being spotlighted.  Only a facilitator (not a leader) stands up high and facilitates the General Assembly.  The rest of the Assembly is allowed to speak (in turn, usually by who raises a hand first), and everyone is to 'respect the speaker' (meaning shut the hell up), and when that person is done speaking, the next speaks up.  Some make a 'motion' that an action of some kind be taken, and others discuss it, and finally come to a consensus about it.  Most of the speakers aren't heard first hand.  The crowd around them loudly repeats what they said, and the crowd behind them, etc. As far back into the crowd as it takes.  Most people would have no idea what you look like.  But, your voice is not only being heard, it is being repeated and broadcast by a thousand other voices.  It's moving.
    If you're too scared to show up, we will understand.

    Come to the Dark Side, we have cookies

    by Evolutionary on Mon Oct 24, 2011 at 08:52:11 PM PDT

    •  That's kind of the definition of post-racial (0+ / 0-)

      right there: that the goal should be to erase the color of your skin and your history; that everyone should aspire to the American default, whiteness.

      Gender concerns are being erased in much the same way. Women are being told they are "tattling to mom and dad" if they contact the police about sexual assault rather than allowing OWS to investigate internally. Women, in this understanding, aren't allowed to have unique concerns within the OWS movement, namely that their sexuality be their own rather than a tool for submission. Again, they are supposed to shut up and defer to the norm of OWS, namely white maleness

      When you erase identities of women and people of color, you are demanding submission. And when you tell us we're goddamned "too scared to show up" you are highlighting our perceived inferiority. You haven't shown jack shit in the way of an ability to "understand."

      But thanks for telling me what I think and am. It's like you know me. Damn am I scared of you, you brave and special person, you!

      •  Thank you. I am totally open to constructive (0+ / 0-)

        criticism.  I guess I feel like this type of Diary is promoting divisiveness rather than inclusion.
        What I read gave me the impression of a person that isn't too sure of what they will be subjected to in a General Assembly.  I felt I was (hopefully) chiding the Diarist about their fears of what to expect if they show up at OWS.
        My experience in participating in these protests tells me that there isn't a whole lot of "white privilege" stuff going on there.  BUT, my experiences, first hand, are only in Sacramento.  Sacramento is one of the most integrated communities in the nation.  So, my experience is limited.
        My basically saying, "come on fraidy cat, come and see what you are missing, so you can be sure for yourself what it's really like, rather than staying home and making seriously racist assumptions about it." isn't meant to be hateful.  I am just trying to point out that if you don't participate, and you just play armchair quarterback at home behind your computer, you don't really know what's going on.  Making accusations of 'white privilege' without even having been there seems disingenuous at best.  

        Come to the Dark Side, we have cookies

        by Evolutionary on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 08:54:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  interesting point (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          white privilege, like racism, and sexism, is/are a concept(s) that lives in the ether throughout and across our society. the assumption should be that it will likely be operative until proven otherwise.

          •  That sounds rational. I will remember when (0+ / 0-)

            commenting on the subject in the future.  Sometimes, I guess we/I have built in assumptions based on what we learn from our parents and other authority figures - that aren't realistic from another point of view.  Being a fairly typical (if very Liberal), white guy, I may not be able to see the problem as clearly.  I appreciate that you take the time to explain.

            Come to the Dark Side, we have cookies

            by Evolutionary on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 02:30:26 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  sorry, evolutionary (0+ / 0-)

      you wrote a good informative comment there, but your attitude/tone/language is obnoxious, thus destroying any attempt to enlighten

  •  yep over in RWville we are already seeing (0+ / 0-)

    claims of anti semitism and racism among the protestors as well as allegations of sexual harassment. So far there has not been a face put on any of these allegations but the groundwork is being prepared and the seeds of discord are being sown

  •  I had missed (0+ / 0-)

    Bruddaone's diary so thank you for pointing it out.

  •  (facepalm) (0+ / 0-)


    OK, for the record, I agree:  Daily Kos and OWS MUST stop their racist exclusion of people of color other than white.

    "Mr. Obama needs to put forward a comprehensive plan and fight for it. If he loses to obstructionist Republicans, Americans will know who is to blame."---NYT

    by claude on Tue Oct 25, 2011 at 05:37:27 AM PDT

  •  trash talk (0+ / 0-)

    yep the trolls are out for Halloween. First, OWS is too large for Republican trouble makers since the movement is several blocks long. Secondly, the Republicans still want everything to be defined by Race. So GET GONE TROLL!

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