I have gone down to Occupy Austin several times and what I have seen is truly dismaying. I saw a whole lot of white folks holding drumming circles (problematic), doing yoga, talking about meditation, worrying about hurt feelings and cooperating with the police. I saw a lot of white, cisgender, men leading and facilitating. I saw a whole lot of standing around, a whole lot of disorganization and a whole lot of complacency.
You know what I didn’t see? I didn’t see a whole lot of people of color. I did not see a whole lot of visibly trans and queer folk. I didn’t see a lot of people who are disabled. I did not see a whole of critical analysis and discourse and I did not see a whole lot of action. What I saw was a bunch of white folks, hanging around and socializing.
This is unacceptable.
Don’t get me wrong; I like meditation and yoga and other forms of self-care, but if we are going to build up a movement that creates lasting social change then we need to be checking our own shit. We need to be examining our privilege and make sure that we have equitable representation of folks that hold different identities. And this means more than just inviting them. This means that we are building a culture of inclusion and radical celebration. It means that we are making room for people of color. We are making room for queer and trans people. We are making room for women and mothers and poor people. It means that we are making room for oppressed people. Equitable representation means that we are examining the effects of white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy. It means the we examine the actions that we take and makes sure that we are not unconsciously perpetuating those systems of power and oppression. This examination must also include our language.
For example, the language around the very name of the movement. Occupy. We need to examine how this word and the language that surrounds it is oppressive language. This is because this land is already being occupied. This land has been occupied since the first colonizers landed 500 years ago. We need to be examining colonialism and our participation in the continued colonization of this land and the Third World. Moreover, we need to realize that indigenous folk and other folks of color have been trying to decolonize their land and their bodies from white supremacy since the beginning of European Imperialism. We need to realize that they are still fighting this. We need to realize that economic growth in the US usually means the suffering and exploitation of the Third World. We need to realize that the US is still pursuing global empire by getting the Third World to be economically dependent on the US. And its going to take more than issuing a solidarity statement to understand and change these things.
We also need to examine our relationship with the police. The police are NOT allies to oppressed people. They work to defend the status quo and defend those in power. The police has a long and bloody history of brutalizing people of color, queer and trans people, people in poverty etc. They do not exist to defend your “first amendement rights” because once you start getting out of line, they beat you down and arrest you. Any movement that seeks to upset the status quo by bringing true equitable power back into the hands of the oppressed will find no friend in the police.
And not only must we be doing direct action, like protests and bank bombs, but we also need to be establishing sustainable communities. We need to be banding together to support one another, whether that be through skill shares or through popular education or even better permaculture. We need to supporting our activism by having active, vibrant, sustainable communities so that we not only have sustainable leadership but so that we also continue to have momentum and not burn out.
We have an opportunity here to help usher in a new era of social change and social justice. We have a chance to make this world a better place for everyone. Now is the moment in which the 99% can be truly and equitably represented. In this moment we can change the course of history.