The #Occupy Movement’s Race Politics

Kenyon Farrow makes some very cogent points on why the #occupy movement, while very visible nowadays, is not doing so well with the non-white demographics. As always with a lot of these movements, part of the issue is always a message delivery problem.

The economic crisis has disproportionately affected people of color, in particular African Americans. Given the stark economic realities in communities of color, many people have wondered why the Occupy Wall Street movement hasn’t become a major site for mobilizing African Americans. For me, it’s not about the diversity of the protests. It’s about the rhetoric used by the white left that makes OWS unable to articulate, much less achieve, a transformative racial-justice agenda.

A big issue with the coverage of police brutality a lot of non-white people have had is this idea that police brutality is so exceptional that when it goes down it should have been news yesterday. And you know what? That should be true. Police brutality should be that damn rare. However, try being POC in this country dealing with law enforcement.

Pundits have observed that many black people may be staying away from the Wall Street protests to avoid (additional) direct contact with police. Last year, New York City carried out 600,000 random stop-and-frisks, half of which were conducted on black citizens, according to the New York Civil Liberties Union; it makes sense that blacks, who are often in daily contact with police, would stay away from an event where interaction with law-enforcement officers would be inevitable. In fact, on October 22, scores of OWS protesters joined a Harlem demonstration against the practice of stop-and-frisk, during which several people were arrested.

But when the New York Police Department began to act violently against the mostly white protesters on Wall Street, many of the videos posted by OWS attendees on YouTube made the point that protesters were arrested, beaten, or pepper-sprayed “just for asking the police a question” or for “just exercising their right to protest.”

In contrast, many nonwhites assume the worst in any interaction with police, and if the worst doesn’t occur, we often consider that the exception, not the rule. [Emphasis mine]

Then there’s the fact that the middle class didn’t feel attacked till it was the white middle class getting attacked and then shiiiiieet. Suddenly, this mess doesn’t fly. Suddenly, we need to take this country back from corporations and corrupt congressmen. Unfortunately, for a lot of POC, we’ve never had anything that we’re supposed to take back.

Another fundamental flaw of white progressives (like many participating in the OWS movement) is the “take back our country and/or democracy” framework. In order to be invested in that idea, you have to see and believe that you had some stake in it to begin with. If you’ve been stopped and frisked 50 different times with as many fines to pay, or you’re HIV-positive and your welfare benefits were cut off because you were too ill to keep an appointment with a case manager, it’s hard to believe that the government is just broken—it seems pretty insistent and hell-bent on your demise.

Kenyon ends with:

Comparing debt to slavery, believing police won’t hurt you, or wanting to take back the America you see as rightfully yours are things that suggest OWS is actually appealing to an imagined white (re)public. Rather than trying to figure out how to diversify the Occupy Wall Street movement, white progressives need to think long and hard about their use of frameworks and rhetoric that situate blacks at the margins of the movement.

The piece doesn’t address everything, but it makes enough of a noticeable dent that’s worth repeating till something sticks.

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Nigerian Senate Moves To Ban Gay Marriage

The Nigerian senate is moving to ban gay marriage as well as discourage any allies of the Nigerian LGBTQIA community. According to Nigeria’s Daily Times, all the senators participating in the ‘debate’ took the same stand. That gay marriage is wrong, both morally and spiritually.

“We as a country need to act very fast for this trend not to find its way into our country,” said Obende [the bill’s sponsor]. “Same sex marriage cannot be allowed on moral and religious grounds. The Muslim religion forbids it. Christianity forbids it and the African traditional religion forbids it. It should not be allowed because it will lead to a breakdown of the society.”

To make it worse:

Penal Codes in Nigeria already prohibit same sex marriages or carnal knowledge against natural order in Nigeria. Homosexuality can land men up to 14 years in prison in the South and capital punishment for men in areas under Sharia Islamic Law.

The bill prescribes three years imprisonment for couples convicted of same sex marriage and five years for any person that witnesses, abets and aides the solemnisation of same sex marriages.

Another unfortunate blow against collective LGBTQIA rights in Africa.

Ugandan MPs Walk Out In Protest of The Kill The Gays Bill

Further continuing to defy western expectations that us poor oppressed marginalized people of color aren’t possessive of our agency, Ugandan female members of parliament staged a walk in explicit protest of the anti-homosexuality bill. Colorlines via AP reports that the bill is due for a special hearing today.

Bahati’s original bill would mandate a death sentence for active homosexuals living with HIV or in cases of same-sex rape. “Serial offenders” also would face capital punishment. Anyone convicted of a homosexual act would face life imprisonment.

Anyone who “aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage of acts of homosexuality” would face seven years in prison. Landlords who rent rooms or homes to homosexuals also could get seven years.

If the bill is picked up by the next session, some, all or none of those provision could change during parliament negotiations.

CNN reports that the State Departments official position is condemnation of the bill:

The State Department Thursday condemned a proposed bill in the Ugandan parliament that could make engaging in homosexual acts a capital offense punishable by death. The bill may be debated Friday by the Ugandan parliament.

“No amendments, no changes, would justify the passage of this odious bill,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. “Both (President Barack Obama) and (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) publicly said it is inconsistent with universal human rights standards and obligations.”

[…]

The State Department says the current bill appeared on the parliament’s agenda Wednesday but lawmakers adjourned without debating it. The parliament plans to reconvene Friday, but Toner said it is not clear whether the bill will be debated or whether an amended bill still contains the death penalty.

Meanwhile the original author of the bill, and prime proponent of the proposal, David Bahati, continues to be a bigot in the most spectacular of ways, referring to homosexuals as victims in need of care.

Uganda’s ‘Kill The Gays’ Bill May Be Up Tomorrow

via Warren Throckmorton:

UPDATE: (noon, 5/10) – I just spoke with Helen Kawesa, Public Relations Manager of Uganda’s Parliament. She told me that Stephen Tashobya, Chair of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee completed his report on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.  When I asked her if the AHB would be on Wednesday’s agenda, she said,

All indications show that it should be coming up tomorrow. The committee has finalized its reports so they are ready to table it tomorrow and discuss it in the House.

She said one bill passed today which moved the Company and Marriage and Divorce bills to tomorrow as well.  Regarding the duration of tomorrow’s session, Kawesa added, ”if there is business that they have to conclude they will push it to late, eight or nine o’clock.”

Committee suggests changes in the bill

Not long after speaking with Ms. Kawesa, I spoke with AHB author David Bahati who told me that the death penalty had been removed from the bill in the committee report. He said that the plank criminalizing “attempted homosexuality” had been removed, with penalties for same-sex intimacy reduced from the current life sentence, although he said he did not know what the new penalties were. Committee chair Tashobya was not available for comment.

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