By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
By Jesse Jarnow
By Eric Tsetsi
By Raillan Brooks
Like The French, radical black folk are genetically predisposed to support all signs of insurrection, insurgency, and revolutionary suicide wherever in the known universe they rear their lovely and indignant little heads. That said, some observers of the current American progressive scene have accurately noted OWS's paucity of participants proudly gleaming signs of African descent and dissent. Herewith a few of our idle speculations as to wherefore art thou anti-capitalist Negroid rabble-rousers riled up over any of the causes now being featured at Zuccotti Park.
10. YOUR BASIC SOAP-AND-WATER THEORY We love the funkmetaphorically speaking. Ditto goes for colored folk's oft-stated ardor for all things "gully", "gritty," "grimy," and "dirty south." But you out your nat'chall black mind if you think hordes of y'all people will be thronging any protest site that gotta be quarantined, evacuated, or sanitized before the party for rights can continue. Whether from the boojie middle rungs or the bootylicious lower depths, black folk generally refuse to accept the bummy notion that good politics and good grooming need be mutually exclusive. And that whole open-air-food-prep-and-serving-line thing? Not so good a look in many a woogie's book. Strictly family backyard barbecue action. Bottom line: Black folk do demos, but they don't do dirtespecially all those white-gloved and odoriferous-sensitive sisters who easily account for 80 percent of OWS's sideline African Friends Group.
REASONS WHY WE SHOULD ANYWAY Nomadic African women can make a lean-to look palatial in the outback. OWS could surely benefit from an Afrocentric woman's touch. OWS would become known instead as "Occupy and De-Uglify Wall Street." Imagine the difference made by scented candles, patchouli, potted plants, and colorful fabrics. Imagine her rage for spotless and sterilized surfaces set loose on Liberty Street. A rage so bordering on OCD, Pigpen himself would be too shook to leave behind one speck of unconsecrated crud. Yoga in the morning, African dance in the afternoon, prayer and meditation before bed, goddess and ancestor worship all the live-long day. That OWS shiznit would get friggin' spiritual. OWS would get closer to godliness than the Garden of Eden. No silly housecleaning ruses would ever be thrown up again.
9. OUR ABSENCE AS RADICAL LOVE Our sincere desire to see OWS stay alive has us coordinating scant, sporadic, barely visible visits to Zuccotti Park. Hence OWS doesn't come off as "A Black Thang." Because we know that once deemed so, Mike Bloomberg and Ray Kelly would feel compelled to set more upon the movement than decrepit desk sergeants with pepper spray. No longer would cops find the heart to wade alone into the crowds of wan young figures with no backup and meaty fists a' swinging. As Sterling Brown once observed, when they come after even one Stagolee, "They don't come by Ones/They don't come by Twos/They come by Tens." Trust. Thanks to our overwhelming no-show of numbers, 49,000 shots haven't been fired at OWS yet.
8. THE NIGGAS ARE SCARED OR BORED OF REVOLUTION THEORY Say whut? Since when? When it comes to showing radical heart, we damn sure got nothing to prove. Protest history shows our folk couldn't be turned around by deputized terrorists armed with dynamite, firebombs, C4, tanks, AKs, machine guns, fixed bayonets, billy clubs, K-9 corps, truncheons, or water hoses. Stop-and-frisk has prepped most brothers to anticipate a cell block visit just for being Slewfoot While Black. We ain't never been skeered of fighting the good fight. We love a good dust-up on pay-per-view or in the street just on GP! Out there on the street, though, all we need is to feel like you got our backs like we got yours. Herein might lie the rub. People fresh to daily struggle may need to earn our trust more. Clearly we're in no hurry to make loads of new friends spanking new to police brutality.
7. THE OWS BEST GO GET A LATE-PASS THEORY The sudden realization by OWS-ers that American elites never signed the social contract and will sell the people out for a fat cat's dimehey, no news flash over here. Black folk got wise to the game back in 1865 when we realized neither 40 acres nor a mule would be forthcoming. Also, as one sharp strapping ready for whatever you got youngblood recently put it, "I ain't about to go get arrested with some muhfuhkuhs who just figured out yesterday that this shit ain't right."
REASONS WHY WE SHOULD RECONSIDER BEFRIENDING NU PEOPLE VIRGIN TO DAILY NYPD ASSWHUPPINGS Repeatedly finding oneself on the business end of a NYPD nightstick and expecting the same result is either a sign of madness or a sign of virtual blacknuss. Either way, even your most hardened Pan-Afrikanist should now be open to giving the OWS-ers a hug of solidarity. Maybe if organized, this form of outreach could function as the larger community's first olive branch. (Air kisses and arms length for some snooty African noses still, I know).
6. THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX CRICKETS THEORY The predominant age range of OWS's paler male participants is roughly 18-29. This age group among African American cats accounts for 40 percent of the country's prison populationa national crisis which predates the bailout by several decades. This disgraceful disparity could likely continue after every OWS-er has been gainfully reabsorbed into the American workforce. Although Wall Street profits from our brothers' massive enslavement by incarceration, so does Main Street. Perhaps OWS should ponder putting prison abolition on their unformulated list of demands. Until then, some black progressives, though duly sympathetic, might not hear a roar coming from Zuccotti but simply crickets.
5. THE MOM AND POPS AIN'T HAVING IT/I NEED MY PAYCHECK THEORY Currently employed grown-ass black folk will tell you they can't spare not one day off the plantation for this worthy cause. More than a few young black folk now in college have an inbred fear of being cut off by mom and pop if caught on camera decrying capitalism and inviting arrest when they need to be hitting those books. Such parents might even harbor high hopes of their prodigal progeny becoming well-paid corporate shills. Coming out Rad, Green, and Anti-Goldman Sachs in some black families can require more heroics than coming out punk rock musician. Or even sapphic Muslim MC. One just imagines the fallout that might occur in the Herman Cain household, for example.
4. THE GREAT RACE AND CLASS DIVIDE/SCHOOL-LUNCH-TABLE THEORY It's hard to locate many instances in American radical or cultural history where goo-gobs of black folk leapt to join predominantly non-black movements. Or even school lunch tables. Post-racial as Obama's voting bloc might have been, America remains a country more divided by race than class. Even the most progressive non-black folk tend to only have that One Good Black friend in their social clusterfuck. Radical politics can make for less estranged bedfellows, but OWS still has America's mucky river of racial segregation and alienation to cross. Not to mention a certain perception, right or wrong, that OWS is white privilege gone wild again. More enlightened self-interest than interrogating whiteness on the agenda.
REASONS WHY WE COULD AT LEAST OFFER OWS A SPARE BAG OR TWO OF C-TOWN KALE OR COLLARDS Although we used to have the dibs on kick-starting revolt, these OWS kids are onto something big and quite necessary here. The groundswell looks globally awesome from here in Harlem. How many times have you, à la Malcolm X said, "White folk need to get their own people organized and out on the frontlines." Well alrighty then! No danger of anybody being the next Crispus Attucks here. Not unless you wanna step to the front of the line that is.
3. THE IT AIN'T CALLED SHIV GANK STOMP OR ROB WALL STREET THEORY This rather romantic and lumpen proletarian conceit is worthy of the studio gangsta Thug-Life era. Especially since, as we all know, real thugs don't do demos or entertain police assault for abstract carnivalesque goals. Death Row Tupac's target audience is, as we speak, in fact more likely to be joining that 40 percent in G-Pop after putting in work on "Black Wall Street."
2. THE 'WHAT WOULD JORDAN OR JAY-Z DO?' THEORY Sleeping when not shouting in Zuccotti Park with scruffy haired, fair-faced young hippies is one way to register one's sudden disquiet that hyper-capitalism just ain't working for ya. American black folk, though, have had more than 400 years to neurologically process the whole profits before people thing as The Game that Federal Reserve apparatchiks are most ready to die for here. From this hard-knock-won life-wisdom evolved the kulcha's own 1 percent-ersrappers, ballers, and George Clinton's 3 P's: preachers, pimps, and politicians. These free-booting outliers' drive and commitment to Being On That Grind, Getting One's Hustle On, and Putting In Work also acknowledges we best gaffle three times harder (and take 100 times more risk) than any Wall Street schmuck. Fervently lounging along said schmucks daily footpath expecting a fair shake is simply beneath the hustler's code, Zip Coon dignity, kool trickster-genius, and ride-or-die bootstraps. The racism and disenfranchisement others see as massive obstacles, these sly devils seize upon as photo pops for personal gain. Minds like these were plotting exit schemes and expropriations before they hit the auction block. Such types haven't been preoccupied with getting a hand on Wall Street since they docked slave ships down there.
1. THE ISM SCHISM THEORY Simply put, capitalism is not the "ism" whose evils tends to motivate most American Negroes to radical action, per se. Experience shows that racism can trump even greed in Amerikkkaespecially in the workplace. White dudes with prison records get hired over more qualified bloods with not even jaywalking citations. You don't have to be as high up the food chain as banker-scum to benefit from white supremacy or profit sideways from the mass povertization of the Negro. Cornel West identified 9/11 as the event which affected the "Niggerization" of all Americans. OWS's lack of melanin demonstrates that the n word's first despondents have yet to experience all this widespread mutual sharing of sufferation and American Niggerdom. Possibly because all the non-black folk we see slumming about our gentrified neighborhoods with dogs, strollers, and condos are soooo not the 99 percent.
REASONS WHY WE SHOULD BE MORE DOWN ANYWAY If Zionism can equal racism, then why can't capitalism equal racism, too?
Good article. I read this the day it was posted and I've come back to see that the general consensus is that the piece has points rooted in truth. I happen to like the articulate way the author presented it as well. I was at OWS in its infancy and I was surprised to find they had no central theme, raison d' etre, no identifiable leadership or at least spokesperson. I turned my back politely and knew that the movement was doomed from the start.
Allow me to simplify.
The article is a set of arguments that explain Black folks reluctance to commit resources/privilege we don't have to a cause that we are not convinced is in our best interests.
You can't talk about economics in America without talking about racism - and you can't intelligently discuss either one of them without understanding history. When OWS isn't addressing the problem of racism with specific solutions, or even discussing the connection between economics and racism, it is to us a red flag.
The article is a (partial) list of red flags.
This article is weird and unclear; it's hard to read, and even harder to follow... Can we try again next time? thanks.
1 reason why this article is written: "etroitesse d'esprit" in french : narrow minded (wich is a sign of personal lack of love, you can't care for nor understand others)
Interesting screen name. Open minded? I don't think so.
Your comment is a sign of projection: the unconscious transfer of one's own desires, emotions or personal characteristics, to another person. Likely a psychological defense mechanism triggered by the realization of an uncomfortable truth. J'accuse!
Sometimes I wish people (the writer above) would actually explain to what part of the article they refer. Did using french make your point any clearer? Nope.
Reason 1...Its too fking cold 2. Beyonce won't be there 3. They know that unless you have guns and are willing to use them, nobody gives a damn. 4. They know that white people are arrested, but black people are killed at these events. 5. The people that they really want to hear what they say won't be there.
Maybe it's because the last time they tried to protest they were slaughtered. That's why we have the African Burial Ground. The last time they tried to protest and I'm sure , verbatim they were sayin," I have no problems wit you sir, I don't want no trouble sir, I have a family sir, MASTER PLEASE DON'T KILL ME 2@#$%
Did Greg Tate actually go down to Zucotti Square ?The six times there was a lot of diversity, and yesquite a number of black folk. This is about uneven income distribution and howthe bankers and their political enablers keep ALL middle income --and less- people down, so maybe Greg should got of his highhorse of racial obsession and join the troops. The sixties are long over ,Greg
Speaking as a Black man who has spent some time at OWS with my 5 and 2 year old children, I would have to say that this column is pretty spot on.Unfortunately none of the reasons although valid, should stop us from using this platform to get our issues in front of the world. With media here from the far corners OWS affords us the opportunity to fight back at the idea that many of us are too scared or proud to crit·i·cize this govt and its murdering talking head Mr.Obama. To stop caring about white folks shit is the beginning of our New World Order.Remember our ancestors passed us a legacy not a crutch. Also remember, excessive Eurocentric education breeds deeper fear and admiration of this system. A fear of being left out that only make sense if you were included to begin with.
I think it is valid to criticize some of the OWSers for not caring about inequality until it reached into their privileged, white, middle-class world, but the fact is, here they are, aching for justice. Speaking for myself, if someone who has an experiential and cultural history of enduring injustice, I want to hear from you! Expand my mind! My heart is in the right place, I promise you. Help me not make this some fly by night operation. Help me make this about more than something as petty as "saving the middle class." Help me make this a bigger issue. Help me add the historical issues that we still have to make progress on. Because even though I focus on the Wall Street crap, I do so because my heart aches when I see racism in policing, in sentencing, in hiring and I feel very strongly that the two go together hand in hand. Some of the young, naive, privileged white people might not even have a clue that this has been going on forever. But that doesn't mean they won't make excellent foot soldiers alongside their brothers and sisters of color if given the chance. I happen to think economic injustice helps perpetuate racism. So I am focusing on the economics. That's my bias. But we have to attack the problem from all angles with all of our best people and ideas. Please, help me see the other viewpoints. Let's look at our similarities. Looking at our differences weakens us against the true enemies of equality and democracy. The fact that the 1% is mostly white means that for me, the only way to see them as my enemy is to look at their differences, which is economics. I can't make this a racial issue by myself. I need help to do that, I have no background in fighting for racial equality but it is something I want to fight for. Thanks for reading....
I believe the constitution was made for the poor white trash (descendant of plantation and slave owners). So I agree with what you are saying Calvin it's never a problem until it hits home. We are descendant of a people who were brought here against their will. We are living in a police state. Our young aboriginal men are constantly being stopped for no reason yet I see young Albion (European) boys standing on corners lingering all the time. So we aboriginal people could protest all we want but we will be the ones arrested and have hate crime on our rap sheet. And guess what ? we still won't get a job on wall street unless we are willing to divide and conquer within our own ethnicity (ie. house nigger or Uncle Tom)
Thank you Calvin for stepping up to the plate.
We deal with racism every day of our waking existence, and we are aware that one of White folks first responses is to "change the subject." We understand that you feel uncomfortable investigating privilege, so you change the subject to economics. We know this and have seen it played that way for generations and at this point, we find it patronizing - we remember that racism exists in good economic times too.
I understand that you believe that White people, both young and old, that are participating in OWS will make excellent foot soldiers, but I am not necessarily convinced.
I believe that it would be possible to cut a deal where White people's economic problems are solved, but still leaving Black folk in the lurch. For example, stopping the drug war, without dealing with it's effects on the Black community. One of the commenters here wrote about us getting the "shank" after the "New Deal" as a concrete example.
If you want to convince us that you are sincere about solving racism, you have to be more sophisticated than we are seeing at OWS (though there are some bright spots - use of Twitter to coordinate, "peoples mic", videos of police offenses, etc.). Believe me when I tell you that the people, politicians, news media, and corporations that you are up against certainly are sophisticated.
There are things you can do. You might want to convince us that you have read some history (start with Howard Zinn), maybe read some critical race theory, and also understand how media projects a "white racial frame" that does not reflect reality. You might want to get involved in politics to the extent that democrats win both presidential and mid-term elections. You might want to get some Black friends.
You might want to organize boycotts of companies that advertise on Fox News, or Rush Limbaugh (or that support Koch Brothers). You might want to resist and inhibit the politicking of candidates running on a strong "law and order" policy - usually, that means political oppression in the form of jailing African Americans/Latinos (see prison industrial complex, punitive counties, etc.).
We want OWS to be a success, but for the reasons enumerated in this article, we need to play things very carefully. If you don't deal with the race issues in America, correctly, and on a deep level, you won't win no matter what you do. By the way, I'd be talking about addressing pressing issues, like occupying housing!
Yes I agree that Africans/Moors are what keep the jail system flowing. I've heard stories about how African/Moor men and women are insured and bonded. Wall street has invested thousands of dollars in prisons. We need to educate our people and let them see the importance of education. I believe that America should be a country where people come to visit and that every one should stay in their own land. All humans were better off when the world was this way. A human that is always trying to discover the 5 w questions who,what ,when, where, and why is a human who does not know where they belong.
Thanks for your reply. I have been pondering these issues since I read this article and especially your reply. My normal reaction is to reply back right away and essentially try to "have the last word". I'm trying to listen more these days, and I'm glad you gave me something good to listen to, especially with these issues that are outside my normal frame. Even though I am no mainstream thinker, the mainstream frame is powerful. I think even more so as a white person, it is easy and comfortable to not challenge it when it serves me in a certain selfish way. This is where your specific suggestions of Zinn's histories and critical race theory are much appreciated....I think I am ready to do that work...since the mainstream frame isn't truly satisfying me, but I can't free myself from it without some alternative. And certainly not without trying and working at it.
Thanks for making me think harder about my biases. I realized I shouldn't speak for anyone but myself...I have no clue which of these OWS folks will make good foot soldiers in the fight against racism...but since I don't want any solution that solves problems for White folks while leaving Black folk in the lurch, I take it to heart that for me to become a foot soldier in the fight against racism, I will work hard to not change the subject.
Calvin I understand you. Being a bi-racial child myself I can't help but take it back to racism. It's a boycott when ppl of color assemble and a protest when the European/caucasian race assemble. But there are some European ppl that are actually empathetic to ppl of color situation. There is only one race and that is the human race. I personally thought this was about the rich ppl getting richer with the bail out in a economy that is broke. We can't blame Obama because he can't clean up what the European ppl did on wall st. Now Black ppl are not a ppl of color because we are born black,die black,bruise black. European ppl are the only ppl that change color so to me they are the colored ppl or and i quote"people of color".
I too want Black friends, like Sally & Johnny: http://www.blackpeopleloveus.c...
Reasons #7 and #1 remind me of the New Deal—we showed up for that and caught a proverbial shank. African Americans had traditionally voted Republican but threw in with Roosevelt because of the New Deal's potential not only for economic relief for blacks but its potential for civil rights advances. Too bad so many of the so-called reform programs embraced racist practices and the majority of Roosevelt's appointments for blacks were tokenism at best. It wasn't a complete loss but considering the quantum leap we could have taken as a nation with economic and social reform, it was pretty damned close to a wash.
Flash forward several decades. Just as the New Deal's propaganda was predicated on putting the "deserving poor" (read: white men who'd lost their livelihoods during the Great Depression) back to work, we have a new generation of "deserving poor" clamoring for reform. One distinction is that the white men of the 1930s who suddenly wound up broke had zero pretense about wanting to include people of color in the recuperation of wealth. They weren't claiming 99% status. They weren't trying to appropriate poverty as an emblem of street cred in the place of interrogating privilege. I'm not sayin...I'm just sayin'.
I believe Black folk have given plenty in terms of their contribution to occupy wall street. Black folk will always be present as the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in any non-violent assembly. As you may remember, before MLK, demonstrations featured bats, bricks, and Molotov cocktails.
Expanding on that, it is White women that have benefited the most from the civil rights movement of the 60s. They are finally giving back what Black folks opened up for them, by their activity in these current demonstrations.
We've endured enough.
Hysterical-- even though I couldn't understand half of what you're talking about-- the ebonics parts. Thanks!
"Hysterical-- even though I couldn't understand half of what you're talking about-- the ebonics parts."
These words speak volumes about your privilege and ignorance. If I were you, I would have thought twice before posting. Not exactly cool that you find something you can barely understand "hysterical."