Monday, November 21, 2011

Complicated: The Occupy Movement, Folks of Color, and Bad Checks

Dr. King taught us about cashing checks.  Sooner or later, everyone's bill comes due...on Front Street (or Wall Street).

In case any of us had forgotten, recent years have served as a strong reminder that hard times bring out the truth in just about anyone.

The highest - and lowest representations of the nation's character have been on display in ways that are often heartwarming, and other times downright shameful.  So many of our greatest citizens have demonstrated the amazing spirit and fortitude to be found in our country - volunteering, banding together, protesting, and truly making a difference in the lives of their neighbors.

Other folks have been busy booing our First Lady (seriously?), and demonstrating their very worst in a series of public bad behavior incidents that have been too numerous to count.  So, why start now?

I just stopped by to discuss the ways in which the Occupy Protests have become such a defining movement in recent weeks.  Some of us are wondering whether that bad check could finally clear.  And no, I'm not speaking of community and personal bail-outs.

I'm talking about a tally of moral obligation to everyday folks in America.

I'll be the first to admit that there are some troubling aspects of the 99 movement.  Certainly, the issue of the inclusion of people of color and of other underrepresented communities can't be overlooked.  Nor should the tactics employed by Occupy Protester groups, which keep many would-be activists at bay.

Let's face it: While a number of privileged, Gen-X educated younger folks have been subject to unjustifiable violence at the hands of police, many black folk, people of color generally, and LGBT folk can't afford to place themselves in a position where a beat-down at the hands of police (in public, among witnesses and cameras) would likely be the least of their worries.

Many of these folks are too busy trying to hold their families together, hang on to a "piece a" job, and/or put food on their tables.  The trouble with discussions about the Occupy Movement is that the uprisings themselves are fraught with complex issues of race, gender and class, even as the actions attempt to draw attention to those issues (or in most cases, at least the latter).

Too, speaking of the issue of class and the protests, we also shouldn't ignore the fact that people in the halls of privilege aren't immune to the issues of the 99 Percent.  Comfort doesn't make one blind (necessarily). Take the example of these Harvard University students.

And there's also been some amazing work happening on the ground in many cities.  The organizing capacity of many Occupy protesters, both in new media and on the ground, is notable.  The communal and democratic nature of day-to-day activities have been extraordinary to watch.  Speakers' words are repeated to aid comprehension in the absence of megaphones.  Sanitation solutions in lean-to tent cities are better than in some rural areas around the country.  The committees for education, for the arts, and for other major initiatives have been formidable.

This all makes the discussion...Complicated.

You can't hate on progress.  And you don't want to draw attention to those moments when the progress ain't so progressive. Even when that's your mission.

And you don't want to point out a minor (...okay) categorical list of flaws in an uprising, especially when you're still breathing a sigh of relief over the fact that people still seem to know how to stand up at all. Or, when you are wondering whether that promissory note is finally worth it's weight in paper.  Heck, even with the sinking feeling that the "bank of justice" is no less bankrupt than it was nearly 50 years ago, a movement is a movement.

Now that more folk know what a bad check is...who knows? Weary folks can't be choosers.

It's funky.

But it isn't hopeless.  Case in point: Some intrepid journalists have pointed to the participation of activists and supporters of color who are making good use of the Occupy platform in various cities.  Of course, the equity of leadership and participation, along with some of that support, has been called into question: Think Jay-Z and Russell Simmons, for example (apparently, the duo has an Occupy Wall Street concert in the works).  But it can't be overlooked.

What history, herstory, and ourstory will write about these events has yet to be seen.

But some of us are watching...and maybe even hoping.


Below: Talib Kweli has shown up.

Along with Angela Davis.

And grass-roots community folk in Oakland, where the newest encampment has just met the same fate that befell the Occupy Wall Street camp at the hands of police and city authorities.

And, too, they have gathered in DC.

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