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PORTSIDE  December 2011, Week 1

PORTSIDE December 2011, Week 1

Subject:

Bad Form: Dividing the Occupy Movement

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Date:

Sat, 3 Dec 2011 01:44:07 -0500

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Bad Form: Dividing the Occupy Movement

By Carl Bloice, 
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board 
December 1, 2011
http://www.blackcommentator.com/450/450_lm_driving_occupy.php

Wherever Stacey Patton lives she might consider moving
because, judging from what she wrote in the Washington
Post last Saturday ("Why African Americans aren't
embracing Occupy Wall Street"), she's been listening to
the wrong people. She's taken to citing someone's
dubious and quite dated headcount and finding only
limited black faces at some of the Occupy protest sites
and boldly concluded that African Americans don't
support the new movement.

Patten draws her conclusion from a report she read on
the webpage Fast Company, citing as its source one
Harrison Schultz whom MSNBC's Al Sharpton once
introduced as an "organizer" of Occupy Wall Street.

It seems over a month ago Fast Company writer Sean
Captain reported on an email, received from Schultz
about the demographics of the original Occupy encampment
in Lower Manhattan, "And so far, according to the
survey, Occupy Wall Street would qualify as stuff white
people like," wrote Captain. "The sample of non-white
people, according to Schultz, is too small to even
analyze. One thing he noticed, however, is that some
people identify with nationality, rather than race --
another item to keep in mind for target marketing. And
in the vein, the organizers have been discussing doing a
`non-white media day,' in which everyone who speaks to
the media is of another ethnic background. They have
also discussed doing an over-40 day."

"On a personal note, I have noticed plenty of both at
the park and the marches," added Captain.

On that Patten hung her tale.

(Aside: as a black senior I can attest: not too many of
us are into sleeping on the ground.)

Clearly, what Patton has written doesn't reflect the
situation around here where the protests do indeed,
"resonate" with the African American Community, where
most folks are cheering them on. I had to check myself;
could it be West Coast exceptionalism? So I called
friends in New York and Chicago. Same there.

Yes, the proportion of African Americans and Latinos
taking part in the daily actions of the occupiers is not
equal to our proportion in the population as a whole.
As Patten notes, progressives in minority communities --
like Occupy the Hood -- are working hard to connect the
issues and draw more support. And succeeding.

I have no way of knowing whether the words Patton cites
are full reflections of the views of her interviewees
but I was intrigued by the opinion ascribed to Leslie
Wilson, a professor of African American history at
Montclair State University. "Occupy Wall Street cannot
produce enough change to encourage certain types of
black participation," Wilson told her. "The church
cannot get enough blacks out on the streets. Some
students will go, but not the masses."

Didn't he notice that the white "masses" aren't setting
up tents either?

"Black folks, particularly older ones, do not think that
this is going to lead to change."

We heard that in the early sixties when the sit-ins
started. Things have a way of changing.

"This generation has already been beaten down and is
hurting," Wilson is quoted as saying. "They are not
willing to risk what little they have for change. Those
who are wealthier are not willing to risk and lose."

That was true back then too.

I can only wonder why Patton, who has worked at the
NAACP Legal Defense Fund, didn't seek out the opinion on
the occupation of the Chair and CEO of the NAACP, Ben
Jealous, or his predecessor Julian Bond (or writer Alice
Walker, Rep. Maxine Waters, civil rights veteran Judy
Richardson, Rev. Cecil Williams, or West Coast
waterfront union leader Clarence Thomas)?

Patton rightly criticized Jay-Z but failed to mention
the other hip-hop artists who support Occupy. The Bay
Area's Boots Riley, who's performing in Paris, posted a
message on the net Saturday that read: "I'm in Paris,
doing shows. When I say I'm from Oakland, many say `Oh!
Caleeforneea!', but half say `Oui! Occupy Oakland!'"

Patton can't seem to make up her mind whether black
participation in the Occupy movement is a positive or a
negative. First she decries the "lack of leaders to
inspire them to join the Occupy fold," and then says
"blacks are not seeing anything new for themselves in
the movement. Why should they ally with whites that are
just now experiencing the hardships that blacks have
known for generations? Perhaps white Americans are now
paying the psychic price for not answering the basic
questions that blacks have long raised about income
inequality." How a-historical is that?

Patton then quotes New Jersey comedian John "Alter
Negro," who must have been still joking when he told her
that the banks' "bad behavior just gets lost in the
sauce, so to speak" and "High joblessness and social
disenfranchisement is new to most of the Wall Street
protesters. It's been a fact of life for African
Americans since the beginning. I actually think black
people are better served by staying out of the protests.
Civil disobedience will only further the public
perception that black people like to cause trouble."

Like those Egyptians.

Here's what healthcare provider and community activist
R. Dafina Kuficha wrote about the Occupy Oakland's
November 2 General Strike:

     It was a most auspicious day, with Oakland's
     infamous diverse population gathered in unity to
     support a Peoples' march and rally on behalf of
     enacting a true occupation. Some of those marching
     came with groups, organizations, family, friends,
     co-workers, alone, but they came. It was an awe-
     inspiring sight and experience. I marched with
     Angela Davis. She was bombarded with people who
     knew her place in the Movement was iconoclastic.
     She didn't feel that way at all. She was thrilled
     to see the people united and empowered to provoke,
     inspire, motivate and march for change.

     Let the world see the spectacular example of a city
     unified in Solidarity. Look at the number of people
     who walked and protested peacefully and powerfully.
     The violence only served to make folks think the
     overall Strike was a fiasco. NO! It wasn't! There
     were over 50,000+ marchers! They were marching to
     close down Oakland's Port, and they did! This was
     my experience, People Empowered to Stand in Unity!
     Power to the people!"

It was not the first time Davis had connected up with
the Occupy movement. In late October she addressed the
occupiers who had set up hundreds of tents on the plaza
outside Philadelphia City Hall.

"In the past, most movements have appealed to specific
communities -- workers, students, black people,
Latinas/Latinos, women, LGBT communities, indigenous
people -- or they have crystallized around specific
issues like war, the environment, food, water,
Palestine, the prison industrial complex. In order to
bring together people associated with those communities
and movements, we have had to engage in difficult
coalition-building processes, negotiating the
recognition for which communities and issues inevitably
strive.

"In a strikingly different configuration, this new
Occupy Movement imagines itself from the beginning as
the broadest possible community of resistance -- the 99%,
as against the 1%," Davis went on. "It is a movement
arrayed from the outset against the most affluent
sectors of society -- big banks and financial
institutions, corporate executives, whose pay is
obscenely disproportionate to the earnings of the 99%.
It seems to me that an issue such as the prison
industrial complex is already implicitly embraced by
this congregation of the 99%.

"Indeed, it can be persuasively argued that the 99%
should move to ameliorate the conditions of those who
constitute the bottom tiers of this potential community
of resistance -- which would mean working on behalf of
those who have suffered most from the tyranny of the 1%.
There is a direct connection between the pauperizing
effect of global capitalism and the soaring rates of
incarceration in the US. De-incarceration and the
eventual abolition of imprisonment as the primary mode
of punishment can help us begin to revitalize our
communities and to support education, healthcare,
housing, hope, justice, creativity and freedom.

"There are major responsibilities attached to this
decision to forge such an expansive community of
resistance. We say no to Wall Street, to the big banks,
to corporate executives making millions of dollars a
year. We say no to student debt. We are learning also to
say no to global capitalism and to the prison industrial
complex. And even as police in Portland, Oakland and now
New York, move to force activists from their
encampments, we say no to evictions and to police
violence.

"Occupy activists are thinking deeply about how we might
incorporate opposition to racism, class exploitation,
homophobia, xenophobia, ableism, violence done to the
environment and transphobia into the resistance of the
99%," continued Davis in the November 15 commentary in
the Guardian (UK). "Of course, we must be prepared to
challenge military occupation and war. And if we
identify with the 99%, we will also have to learn how to
imagine a new world, one where peace is not simply the
absence of war, but rather, a creative refashioning of
global `social relations'."

There is nothing Pollyannaish about Davis' approach to
the Occupy movement, about the urgency of supporting it,
about the need to make it even more inclusive or the
need to stand up to those who arrayed against it. "The
most pressing question facing the Occupy activists is
how to craft a unity that respects and celebrates the
immense differences among the 99%," she wrote. "How can
we learn how to come together? This is something those
of the 99% who are living at Occupy sites can teach us
all. How can we come together in a unity that is not
simplistic and oppressive, but complex and emancipatory,
recognizing, in June Jordan's words that `we are the
ones we have been waiting for'."

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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