Saturday, November 26, 2011

Why African Americans aren’t embracing Occupy Wall Street

Don't Ignore Us!

The title of Stacy Patton’s article in the November 25, 2011 Washington Post, implies that the reader will learn why blacks haven’t embraced OWS, but after reading the article twice, I’m still not sure why.

Statements like the next two support the idea that blacks are “punishing” whites by not joining the protests.

“Perhaps black America’s absence is sending a message to the Occupiers: ‘We told you so! Nothing will change. We’ve been here already. It’s hopeless.’”

"Why should [blacks] ally with whites who 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."

But the following statements imply that African Americans simply lack the courage to protest the corporate oligarchy.

"We can’t expect our civil rights organizations and political leaders to help blacks rage against the corporate machine when they are part of it."

"[Blacks] are not willing to risk what little they have for change. Those who are wealthier are not willing to risk and lose.”

Perhaps Patton means to suggest that some blacks are sneering at the protests and others are protecting their turf. However, she leaves out another group of blacks like me who are, in fact, firm supporters of OWS. This article, in effect dismisses us, but we are African Americans too.

What magic number of blacks needs to support OWS in order for African Americans to be seen as “embracing” the movement?

The OWS movement is not yet six months old; why are we already declaring that blacks aren’t supporting it?

Or, is this article, like so much that picks at our racial wound, meant to support the 1% by stirring controversy and promoting divisiveness?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Abandoning Prejudgment

We may yet find miracles…a metaphor for the insight that comes with …the abandon of prejudgment, the willingness to see another viewpoint, and be converted, if only for a moment. Patricia Williams

Someone posted an observation in a Face Book discussion, that white privilege was evident in the gentle treatment of the rioters at Pennsylvania State University by the police. The point was that police are never that polite with black demonstrators. Someone else wrote that there were lots of white people in the nonviolent group at Occupy Oakland, yet the police there were quite vicious.

Both of these posts are accurate and may portend a looming miracle.

People of African descent are the traditional, tried and true outcasts of America, and have been for four hundred years. What has changed, in response to persistent pushback, are the artillery used to enforce racism. These weapons have evolved from whips and dogs, to restrictive laws and policies, to this current awkward period where the laws have changed, but the traditional feelings of superiority remain intact for many. Being avowedly racist, sexist and homophobic is no longer publically acceptable, so such outbursts these days are served with an apology. Although some whites are openly hysterical that “white America is an endangered species,” racism meant to maintain white privilege is now a bootleg operation, which means nobody admits to it.

The reason I think a miracle may be looming is that it is the nature of oppressive power to beat back anybody who dares defy the status quo. The students at Penn State were decidedly not questioning the status quo; they were angry that it had changed. Their desire was to maintain the system as it had been and Joe Paterno’s place in it. The protestors in the national Occupy movement are peacefully demanding that business as usual come to a halt, consequently, they are subject to (almost) the same treatment that blacks routinely receive. It was this way in the Sixties as well when white demonstrators against the Vietnam War were beaten and killed as if they were blacks in the civil rights movement. Far fewer whites than blacks, mind you; I did say almost the same. All of us protesting the status quo—black, white, brown, yellow and red—at some point will join forces. That is the looming miracle.