by Guest Contributor Bridget Todd
People often tell me that I don’t look like your average Occupy protestor. I was initially drawn to the Occupy movement for several reasons. As an educator, anything that gets young people paying attention to the world around them is something that I feel the need to support. As an activist and organizer, I generally believe in the need for all citizens to engage in this kind of political discourse. As a black woman, I feel any conversation about economic inequality is incomplete if it doesn’t also address racial inequality as well. The various occupations across the country present spaces for such conversations to take place. I’ve found plenty of reasons to support the Occupy movement, but does the movement support me?
Much has already been said about race and the Occupy movement. Some have criticized the movement for its perceived lack of diversity and aggressive “whiteness.” Earlier this month, organizers took heat for refusing to allow state representative and civil rights legend John Lewis to address the crowd. A protester at Occupy Philly claimed volunteers called her a “nigger” while she waited to use a communal cell phone charging station. She responded to the incident by forming her own coalition within Occupy Philly: The People of Color Committee.
She isn’t the only protester working to bring race into the central message of the movement by mobilizing occupiers of color. Occupy Harlem’s first general assembly was largely black and Latino and included veteran black activists like Professor Cornell West and Nellie Hester Bailey.
After being confronted by the whiteness of the protesters, two friends from New York and Detroit started Occupy the Hood, a movement that works within Occupy Wall Street to mobilize people of color on issues of economic injustice. According to their Facebook page, “Occupy The Hood stands in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement… It is imperative that the voice of POC is heard at this moment! We must not be forgotten as the world progresses to the next economical stage. We can all agree that the voices in our communities are especially needed in this humanitarian struggle. We are our future and we possess the energy needed to push the Occupy movement to the next phase.”
These attempts to bring race into the conversations taking place at various occupations are integral, as racial injustice and economic injustice go hand in hand. Read the Post Racial Fractures and the Occupy Movement