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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Enough Already!

I have absolutely had it with all those claiming that all of us enraged over Troy Davis didn’t give a shit about Lawrence Brewer (who also apparently ended Texas’ last meal policy).

Lawrence Brewer- convicted of murder after lynching James Byrd, declared before his execution, “As far as any regrets, no, I have no regrets…No, I’d do it all over again, to tell you the truth”- was murdered yesterday. Troy Davis- whose case had holes the size of Georgia, including seven witness recanting- was murdered yesterday.

The bottom line remains, capital punishment is legalized murder. It comes from a long line of barbarity that included boiling to death and crucifixion and that we’ve moved on to more “humane” methods, like killing people with pentobarbital, a drug used to euthanize animals. But no worries, right? Since they’ve been sedated beforehand, anyway?

Right.

Both of these men were murdered. However, note this.

80% of capital punishment cases involve white victims even though approximately 50% of murder cases involve white victims.

72% of cases approved for the death penalty by prosecution involved people of color.

As of October 2002, 12 people have been executed where the defendant was white and the murder victim black, compared with 178 black defendants executed for murders with white victims.

ACLU – Race and the Death Penalty

Are you still unaware of the reason why Troy Davis’ case was more than another cry against capital punishment?

Do you get it yet?

What Justice? It’s Just A System

There’s no processing this for me. There’s just no way I can get my head and heart around the fact that we all got to watch another murder go down. There’s no way to get myself to understand that this isn’t the last that’s going to go down exactly like this. There’s no way I’m doing myself the mental anguish of trying to process people like this.

There are some things that need saying (again), however:

Capital punishment is disproportionately invoked on people of color.

Capital punishment is disproportionately invoked on people of color who are convicted of killing a white person.

Capital punishment is legalized murder.

So as for me, I’m going to take a time out from humanity tonight because I simply can’t, and I just won’t tonight.

RIP Troy Davis, 11:o8pm ET, 9/21/11

Black Is Beautiful

When I looked in the mirror today, after my shower, after I put a favorite dress on just because, I was stunned. In the mirror, in the horrid bathroom lighting, my dark brown skin seemed to glow in all its shades of red and brown. I was mesmerized. I was beautiful.

Unfortunately this is not a 24hr experience for other black women, hell, this is not an experience I have too often. It should be though, right? My sister, my mother, my family, my friends, perfect strangers, should be able to look at their black skin and smile wide because damn, we are hot. And we are? Really, we are. Not that you’d know it, living as we do in a society that has elevated certain features not our own, certain skin not our own, certain hair not our own.

Really, we are.

So, you must have seen it by now.

That post by Psychology Today, that shall not be linked in this blog, claiming to have statistical proof on why black women aren’t attractive. I have been debating whether or not to respond because I really do not feel I have to justify my skin to anyone.

Unfortunately, I live in a world that makes justifying my skin a necessary, everyday thing.

[ETA: Apparently, PT took it down (which I don’t think is fair because they shouldn’t get to act like this never happened). However, the interwebs are always prepared for this eventuality. Here’s a link to a Scribd screencap of the article because I won’t be linking PT even if they repost it.]

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