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Is Capitalism really working?, Pro Peace Journey, Queer Politics, Trans Inclusion, White Privilege

Why I will not “Occupy” Anything:

“We have to work hard against what destroys who we are, what prevents us from reaching our best selves and stalls our efforts to create a truly just society.”
– Tricia Rose.

I feel this applies to, well, almost everything, but is especially apropos to the sexism, cissexism, racism, classism, and ableism we fight in our everyday, as well as in larger movements such as Occupy Wall Street, or Occupy Chicago where I am.

I really want to believe in the Occupy movements. I really do.

Considering that I’m anti the capitalistic system that institutionalizes all the discrimination and harm done to women, LGBTQ folk, people of color, low-income people, individuals with disabilities, and the list goes on, right? I really do want to support these movements. But, what if the movements are exhibiting the same prejudices as the government system that I am opposed to?

Enmeshed in this movement are gross statements of classism, racism, ableism, sexism and cissexism (which is assuming that all individuals are the gender they were assigned at birth, one definition given here).

  • Consider, first of all, the name of the movement: occupy.

You Are All Immigrants - from tumblr

To which, so-treu (one of the most amazing blogs you can follow to learn about how to be anti-racist to the best of your ability) replied:

I am not an immigrant. My people were stolen and brought here against their will.

The word occupy in itself has a negative connotation for numerous individuals. Not only does it “invoke images of ruthless invaders,” but has “historically been connected with the theft of Native American lands.

Not only does the land protesters are standing on belong to indigenous people (as mentioned in an amazingly powerful  Open Letter to Occupy Wall Street Activists), but “police brutality and state violence are everyday realities in communities of color, but Occupy has made it seem like white kids are suddenly the ones suffering.

These blogs and  DisOccupy are but a few of the many critical, amazing, and necessary critiques of the lack of racial inclusivity in the Occupy movements.

There’s a Justified Rage from an Unsafe Space: Reflection on Occupy Wall Street, in part, saying “the arrogant dominance of young white men is constant and has turned many experienced organizers—particularly women, queer and trans people, and people of color—to withdraw support for the movement.” Remember that instances or individual experiences of sexism and racism are not in isolation: we operate in a society that privileges a very specific few, that “1%” being white, heterosexual, upper-class men, and systematically disadvantages the largest portion of our population.

The job crisis, systematic oppression, and -more extreme- police brutality has been happening to people of color, women, and queer and  trans-identified individuals for a long time. The whole protest shows the institutionalized racism, sexism, and cissexism and how the myth of meritocracy is prevalent in our common social narratives. Now that this oppression and violence is happening to white America, a large-scale movement has sprung. It is not possible to achieve social and economic equality -taking privilege away from white individuals- unless these individuals sit down with people who are marginalized most and include their voices and demands.

Otherwise, the movement will lose support and will fail.

  • So, let’s start with language.

“Language like, “brothers and sisters,” while good-natured, alienated our transgender and gender-variant siblings,” -which includes statistics about the high numbers of marginalized individuals who are in poverty, and more- from Stuff Queer People Need To Know.

More inclusive language doesn’t have to be hard. When I re-posted this, I got a rather frustrated response saying how long the poster or flyer would be if they included every identity possible (I’m paraphrasing). But really, that’s not true. Inclusive language can be as simple as saying friends, fellow supporters, neighbors, comrades -really, whatever isn’t gendered, see?

Occupy Wall Street Must Resist Cis-Supremacy and Trans-Misogyny.

  • Accessibility has not be part of the activist process. Nothing on Chicago’s site introduces access to the protests and sign language is not included at speeches (or asked for in volunteers on any forums), which is a serious ableist oversight of this movement.

  • Also, let’s raise awareness of the term Occupy and how the negative connotation is harmful for a large majority of people.

  • Then, when considering making demands or adding voices in support in the Occupy movement in your area, look at how they exclude people of color, women, and queer individuals.

I cannot support a movement that operates under similar racist, sexist, and cissexist frameworks that the dominant society does. I only wish to incite thought and invite change regarding a movement that has the potential to be powerful and affect us all and the way that you support it to.

A side note, from my partner:
“No matter what you think of the OWS movement, here’s a cool way to be a pain in the ass for big banks. You know those credit card offers you get in the mail every other day? Send those little pre-paid postage envelopes back with any type of message- the banks pay the extra postage price, and you support USPS (which needs funds desperately!). I love it!”

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About aoawaywego

I’m struggling to discover reality in a society that hides behind a curtain of falsified perfection. Without believing in impossibilities, my thoughts are written out to find beauty in the imperfections and intricacies.

Discussion

10 thoughts on “Why I will not “Occupy” Anything:

  1. Thanks for writing this article, Amanda. You have brought up a ton of issues that we should all be talking about. But, I must say that I disagree with your fundamental point that you stated in this sentence:

    “But, what if the movements are exhibiting the same prejudices as the government system that I am opposed to?”

    I disagree that the movement as a whole (or a majority of the people that make up this movement) operate with these prejudices. However, there are individuals involved in the movement that do hold these prejudices. I would argue those involved in this movement that do hold these prejudices do so unconsciously due to social training or propaganda. Let me respond to your individual points as well.

    The name Occupy: I agree that the connotations of this word are troubling. Occupation has been a brutal tactic used by imperialistic forces for centuries. I have a problem with it but I feel it is semantic. The purpose of this occupation is not exploitation. It is to raise awareness, shake the foundations of our economic and governmental systems, and come together as people to create a better society.

    As far as indigenous groups: I think this a large problem. Anything we do to “bring this country back to its founding principles” will put America in opposition to Native Americans. The United States lied, cheated, and used genocidal tactics to steal the land from Native Americans. The main problem is that most Americans do not know the extent of this history. That is why we (speaking for Occupy LA) have welcomed indigenous groups into the movement and I personally hope that more can become a part so that they can help educate all Americans.
    Along with this idea you said, “Occupy has made it seem like white kids are suddenly the ones suffering.” I personally have not seen this sort of mentality at Occupy LA. Is Occupy Chicago more “white bred” or am I missing something?

    I also would like to speak about the white privilege myth. This is a false division in my opinion. The privilege is money and education. It’s a really a class division and dividing upon so-called “racial” lines is counter productive. Yes, minorities are mistreated and have been historically but poor white people do not have it much better. It all comes down to fitting into the cultural norm. It does not matter whether you are a white if your hair is styled the wrong way, you have tattoos, wear the wrong clothing, are too short, are too fat, are too bald, are too (Insert characteristic deemed “abnormal”).

    “These blogs and DisOccupy are but a few of the many critical, amazing, and necessary critiques of the lack of racial inclusivity in the Occupy movements.”

    I completely disagree; the Occupy LA movement has been incredibly inclusive to every “racial” group. If someone has a point to make, it will be heard at the GA and committee meetings. The problem is hearing every point. Just because you can’t make your point one night doesn’t mean you are being censored. If you want to moderate, go to the facilitation committee meeting and there will be a time when you can moderate.
    Now, the Safe Space issue is a huge problem. I agree that Occupy is not a safe space for women and queer individuals. But, I do not think that it is because of a culture of hate or rape. I believe it is because in general a camp is not a very secure location. There are no locks on doors and anyone can enter a tent. I think it needs to be said that there are plenty of people (including white men) patrolling Occupies all over the country, VOLUNTEERING their time to ensure safety. It is just hard to secure a massive camp like this.
    Here is a statement that Occupy LA GA recently passed support of: http://occupypatriarchy.org/2011/11/09/statement-on-the-right-to-safely-occupy/
    “Language like, “brothers and sisters,” while good-natured, alienated our transgender and gender-variant siblings,” -which includes statistics about the high numbers of marginalized individuals who are in poverty, and more- from Stuff Queer People Need To Know.

    I don’t think this sort of semantics should be a reason to walk away from the movement. These types of words are compounded into our heads by society and I think you should be at the Occupy helping to educate people. I agree with you that the language needs to change and you can help to change it.
    Other points:

    “Accessibility has not be part of the activist process. Nothing on Chicago’s site introduces access to the protests and sign language is not included at speeches (or asked for in volunteers on any forums), which is a serious ableist oversight of this movement.”

    I think if this is occurring you need to bring it to people’s attention. I think there are plenty of reasonable Occupiers that would agree and didn’t really think about it.

    “Also, let’s raise awareness of the term Occupy and how the negative connotation is harmful for a large majority of people.”

    Again, the semantic problem is hard to get around. It’s the intention behind the word that should really be looked at.

    “Then, when considering making demands or adding voices in support in the Occupy movement in your area, look at how they exclude people of color, women, and queer individuals.”

    I don’t think this exclusion is purposeful. I really think that the Occupy Movements are microcosm of society and will exhibit a large amount of the same social problems. But, the difference is your participation in the Occupy movements can help to change these things. People need someone like you Amanda to kick them in the preverbal ass and say hey look at what you are doing. Some people might have good intentions but no good training. We all need to train each other in being sensitive to the causes and needs of others.

    PS – I am a white bisexual crossdressing gender bending human with xy chromosomes (that have impacted but not decided my gender).

    Posted by Dylan Quercia | November 18, 2011, 12:07 AM
    • Thank you for proving my point.

      I appreciate the very interesting feedback. The purpose of this blog that I wrote is to incite some thought surrounding the movement–bring attention to the ways in which it is exclusive and un-affirming. The only way to invite change is to talk about these things. I will not support a movement, young or new, or with amazing ideals, or anything unless there is more inclusivity of race, gender-identity, and more. I hope only to incite thought around individuals checking their OWN privilege before contributing or supporting the movement. With that new attitude, we’ll have a great, well-thought and well-rounded movement for all the participate safely in, welcomed.

      Posted by aoawaywego | November 18, 2011, 10:28 AM
      • I agree no one should support a movement that is not all inclusive. Have you read the principles of solidarity? One of the key points is to recognize individual privilege and the inherent influence it has on interactions with others. I don’t think race is an issue at Occupy LA but it may be at others like Occupy Chicago. I wonder if it is a demographic issue. It would interesting to do a study to see which Occupies have more trouble with these issues.

        I know that gender, sexual orientation and gender identity are issues wherever we go in society. My main point above was that it is not an intrinsic or intentional characteristic of the movement. If there is exclusion, it is because of ignorance in the general population as a whole. BUT, just from being at Occupy LA I do see an attempt to address these issues and be more inclusive.

        Posted by Dylan Quercia | November 18, 2011, 12:00 PM
    • For realz. Way to prove her point exactly. This movement pays no attention to the long history of organizing. It pays no attention to wide spread criticism (all the points Amanda made have been made over and over and over again). Do you know why they aren’t heard? It’s because of people like you. People like you keep brushing off their privilege. Cool- you gender bend and have tan skin in the summer. That doesn’t mean you speak for those people who have experienced centuries of discrimination, rape, pillaging, violence ALL AT THE HANDS OF WHITE MEN WHO WON’T LISTEN TO OTHER VOICES.

      Stop excusing your privilege and the privilege of the strongest voices in this movement. Shut up and listen.

      Posted by Grace | November 18, 2011, 10:48 AM
      • To me, this type of response is part of the problem. You appear not to want to work with “people like me”. That is silly in my opinion. You must listen to the opinion of others without slinging mud before people will be willing to listen to you.

        If you have a constructive response to an actual point that I made, by all means make it. Don’t just generalize everything that I said because really that is very hurtful.

        PS – I don’t just gender bend. I have been a crossdresser all of my life and have dealt with many issues within the transgender community.

        Posted by Dylan Quercia | November 18, 2011, 12:05 PM
  2. errr did I say white? No – Italian American with golden brown skin the summer and a more slightly pale tone in the winter.

    Posted by Dylan Quercia | November 18, 2011, 12:19 AM
    • Also, just for reference, pigment or tan/pale, doesn’t apply to race.

      Posted by aoawaywego | November 18, 2011, 10:42 AM
      • The point is there is no race. That is a fallacy. Race is a construction. There is only human. Melanin is a pigment.

        Posted by Dylan Quercia | November 18, 2011, 11:50 AM
      • Race may be a social construction, yes, but the way our society operates -a system that advantages whites over people of color, who are placed at systematic and institutionally recognized discrimination. Race may not matter to you, because you have not had to consider it. Race is a huge factor -a fallacy or social construction or not- in many individuals’ every day.

        Posted by aoawaywego | November 18, 2011, 11:53 AM
  3. Yeah, definitely but the way that it is being used above is divisive. In my opinion class is the real issue. It doesn’t matter what “race” you are, if you are poor then you will be trod on.

    And, lovingly Amanda: You need to be aware of the terms. You are hyperaware of the term relating to LGBTQ issues but this is a big one. Race is completely wrong. I would prefer to use Skin Color.

    Posted by Dylan Quercia | November 18, 2011, 12:11 PM

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