Occupy Wall Street: A teaching moment for racism in America
Stick with me on this.
First, I’m going to admit, front and center, that I’m a white, middle-class, cis-male. I have privilege, and if it comes out and screws up my reasoning, tell me to check it.
Second, I’m going to say that I support what Occupy Wall Street is trying to say about wealth disparities in this country and about the rampant, rapacious capitalism that we as a country have been encouraging for centuries.
Third, I’m going to say that I’m not at all surprised by the way the police, especially as they get support from banks and others who hold wealth and political influence, are reacting to these protests.
Wait! What did you just say? I can hear you ask.
I am not at all surprised by the way the police are acting based on the kinds of political and monetary clout and support being wielded in this conflict.
Now, here’s where it’s going to get tricky. One thing I’ve seen repeatedly on my dash is people of color (PoC) reacting to the outrage over police brutality with, “Uh, have you seen the way they treat us every single goddamn day of our existence?”
This is why I think this is a teachable moment.
In the horror of, generally white people’s, reactions to the police brutality, we see a largely ignorant (because privileged) section of the populace finally confronted with an open example of institutional racism. That is an extremely difficult concept for a lot of people to understand. PoC live with it every day, and, often, white-folk who don’t want their feelings hurt by having their privilege pointed out to them dismiss it with phrases like, “Well, it’s not like they have something against you personally” or “It’s not like they have some kind of policy against black people, that’d be illegal.” That’s not the point. Institutional racism is insidious precisely because it is screened out of the perception of those who don’t face it as “normalcy,” while those who are constantly presented with it must suffer the consequences without any easy way to point out the racism in action because it is embedded systemically.
So, why would I say that this offers a teaching moment? The blatant classism coming out in the conflicts around Occupy Wall Street is born of exactly the same fundamental “Othering process” that operates in instances of institutional racism. This is institutional classism, and it has long existed before this, but usually it was proxied in various ways by racism, sexism, cis-sexism, colonialism/imperialism. For once, class warfare is out and proud to be so.
Do I think this means we shouldn’t be appalled at what the police are doing? No.
Do I think this means we shouldn’t support the Occupy Wall Street movement? No.
Do I think this means we need to hold onto this outcry against the media and police and carry it with us? Yes. Until we cling to these kinds of atrocities, prepared to hurl them back into the faces of authority every single time they happen, no matter who they happen to, we will continue to divide ourselves in the face of power and money that wants nothing more than that those who are disadvantaged, even in the slightest of ways, should continue to fight each other instead of focusing on the real systemic problems.
Reblogging myself for the later crowd.
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- randomberlinchick said: nice one.
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- gamerchick02 said: Preach.
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