JohnPaul Montano on colonization and “occupations”:
It seems that ever since we indigenous people have discovered Europeans and invited them to visit with us here on our land, we’ve had to endure countless ‘-isms’ and religions and programs and social engineering that would “fix” us. Protestantism, Socialism, Communism, American Democracy, Christianity, Boarding Schools, Residential Schools,… well, you get the idea. And, it seems that these so-called enlightened strategies were nearly always enacted and implemented and pushed upon us without our consent. And, I’ll assume that you’re aware of how it turned out for us. Yes. Terribly.
Which brings me back to your mostly-inspiring Occupy Wall Street activities. On September 22nd, with great excitement, I eagerly read your “one demand” statement. Hoping and believing that you enlightened folks fighting for justice and equality and an end to imperialism, etc., etc., would make mention of the fact that the very land upon which you are protesting does not belong to you – that you are guests upon that stolen indigenous land. I had hoped mention would be made of the indigenous nation whose land that is. I had hoped that you would address the centuries-long history that we indigenous peoples of this continent have endured being subject to the countless ‘-isms’ of do-gooders claiming to be building a “more just society,” a “better world,” a “land of freedom” on top of our indigenous societies, on our indigenous lands, while destroying and/or ignoring our ways of life. I had hoped that you would acknowledge that, since you are settlers on indigenous land, you need and want our indigenous consent to your building anything on our land – never mind an entire society. See where I’m going with this? I hope you’re still smiling. We’re still friends, so don’t sweat it. I believe your hearts are in the right place. I know that this whole genocide and colonization thing causes all of us lots of confusion sometimes. It just seems to me that you’re unknowingly doing the same thing to us that all the colonizers before you have done: you want to do stuff on our land without asking our permission.
Meagan La Mala on the colonization of Puerto Rico and framing movements:
What I didn’t see or hear was a self-challenge among the participants regarding the language they chose to use. “Occupation” does not sit well with me. As a woman whose country has been occupied by the United States for hundreds of years hearing white men hand out fliers, inviting people to “celebrate the occupation” made me cringe. In a conversation I has with a friend and her friend, I asked if they had heard any discussion of the language used in any of the general assemblies or anywhere really. It was clear that to some (many?) there is no sense of why using the language of occupation is a problem, how it could alienate the very people who are most impacted by the corporate/government policies.
“I saw a sign that said “occupy Wall Street not Palestine,” I was told, as if that was enough. It didn’t feel that way.
I also saw a lot of signs based in the idea of privilege and the bullshit notion of who deserves what. Young people held signs lamenting not being able to pay their student loans and how having gone to college didn’t bring the jobs and success they expected. I thought about the high Latino high school drop out rates and my own lack of a college degree. Were we included in this dialogue/narrative or even within this “movement” were there some who weren’t worth fighting for – some who don’t deserve the “American Dream” because of not following the prescribed order of things.
I didn’t see one sign about immigration. I didn’t see one sign about people of color and the prison pipeline. I didn’t see one sign in any other language except English.
I’m not saying they weren’t there – I’m saying I didn’t see them. [...]
It’s hard for me to fight for “an America” that has made clear that it’s success is to come at my domination – my erasure.
I challenge those who are so strongly supporting this movement hold themselves accountable for the language and framework they put their struggle in. It can’t all be about fighting the powers that be without the acknowledgement of how we be those powers.
Kai Wright, of Colorlines, on what OWS symbolizes from his perspective:
It’s clear to me that NYPD could and would behave dishonestly. It’s less clear, however, what any of this has to do with the fact that millions of people have lost their homes—many in fraudulent, illegal foreclosures on fraudulent, sadly legal mortgages. It’s also unclear what it has to do with the jobs crisis. Or the trillions of dollars in taxpayer money that banks ran away with, while ignoring congressional orders that they ramp up mortgage modifications and small-business lending in return. I mean, I can’t rightly say I know a thing about organizing a movement and I’m all for “a symbolic gesture of our discontent,” as organizers have described this one. By all means, take over the park, the bridge, the street—you name it. But it’s hard to imagine how this becomes anything more than what it is now: a running battle with individual cops over the right to public space in Manhattan.
Which, by the way, is an important issue. NYPD systematically undermines public protest of any sort, often using unnecessarily aggressive tactics. It happens widely enough to suggest it is driven by policy. You see it everywhere from anti-war marches to the Gay Pride parade. So this city could certainly use a movement designed to pressure the mayor and the police chief to change their “crowd control” policies and respect the right to public assembly. We could also use a movement against police brutality. I’d love to see a national movement ally, for instance, with organizers in Brooklyn neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy and Brownsville to help the hundreds of young black men who get harassed daily as a matter of NYPD policy. They could stand in solidarity to occupy precincts until that racist policy changes. But none of this is happening, at least so far.
Nor is it what the movement declared itself to be about. It’s supposed to be about the deeply entrenched economic inequity that has come to define our lives in the 21st century. I argue this inequity grew out of decades of predation on black families, specifically. But the organizers were wise to make room for as wide a range of perspectives on the problem as possible. The point, as organizers have so movingly put it, is that everyone gets screwed by an economic system that amasses so much wealth in so few hands. “We are all races, sexes and creeds. We are the majority. We are the 99 percent. And we will no longer be silent,” they have written.
Out of curiosity we visited with the RDACBX team after a meeting and the result wasnt the greatest. Besides being stared at and looked at as if we were invading their space, the predominantly young, white and liberal Occupiers sent over one of the few African American men over to talk to us. When we asked them why they didnt approach us themselves and build with us, they replied that “they thought we would get mad because they were white.” The situation was pretty bizarre as a woman started ranting incoherently about Nazi symbols being seen over the skies of California, and another man from the Media Team repeatedly offering us the chance to perform if we spoke to the Arts and Culture team. He didnt seem to get that we werent there to perform, rather we were there just to build. After being mean mugged for taking a free slice of Pizza, we decided it was time to leave the hippie fest.
Our intention is not to dismiss it as just this, but the gut feeling was that there is a serious disconnect down there. We left with mad questions! Where was the hood? Where was the poorest congressional district in the USA, from The South Bronx at? Like we say in Hip Hop, where Brooklyn at? Could it be that perhaps the working class couldnt afford to just leave work and the responsibility of bills and family survival to camp out in a city park? Did folks from our communities not know about this? If people of color were occupying Wall St would we have lasted this long? All in all the questions remain, yet with time and reflection , we refuse to just dismiss it. Its a historic time in the world in which general assemblies are starting to happen all over, as cities across the US are also now having “occupations”.
We are looking at race and reactions to the march, but reader Sue sent in a picture that really does speak 1,000 words:
The analysis from the BagNews blog:
Seems like everybody (1, 2, 3, 4- just for starters) led this morning with this Occupy Wall Street photo. Hmm, I wonder why? (The power of the image is not only the 10 for “beauty,” but that it also doubles down on the “martyr/saint.”)
If you can get past the saintly/insanely beautiful girl and her cleavage, though, what we’ve got here also is the latest law enforcement adjustment in the battle for Wall Street — women arresting women.
(Image Credit: Vivir Latino)