Author D. Scot Miller at Occupy Oakland protest
Yesterday at 4pm in Frank Ogawa Plaza, the Oakland version of the Occupy Wall Street movement was born after approximately a week long gestation period of serious strategizing and organizing. I attended a few of the meetings, am on the media/communications committee and am looking forward to being present at what is turning into a national and global movement against economic injustice.
So the thing that seems to be consistent about the "occupies" is that although the rallying cry is for the "99%", most of the occupiers, and especially organizers thereof tend to be male and white. Although the movement has been open, inviting and encouraging of People Of Color (POC) involvement, it still requires POC organizers to enter a space that can be culturally alienating, and the power dynamic of POCs bringing POC issues to a predominantly white forum, even with the best intentions of progressive and radical white folks.... can be problematic.
Even the wording of the movement, "Occupy" evokes histories of European domination and colonization. Movements to rename it "Decolonize Oakland" "Liberate Oakland" & "(re)occupy oakland" have arisen on the tongues of Native folks and POCs. And Monday was, after all, Indigenous People's Day (in some parts known as Columbus Day...boo).
I give props to the other POCs who I have seen organizing in this movement, making sure that the lens of racialized economic oppression is present in the living documents. I know it's not easy and a lot of us have been torn. This feels like an opportunity for change, but is this the opportunity? After some meditation on the whole thing, and getting some wisdom from a particular Native elder, I have come to a new place on this. This new place is still evolving, but I am feeling some things pretty strongly.
This is not the only revolution. This is a movement around class and economic oppression.
These are important issues that affect everyone, more so the less privileged in this society. But while it intersects with all of our oppressions, it is not the only form of oppression. And many of us are trying to annex our struggles onto this one. The environmental justice movement is feeling left out of the living documents, and wanting to annex this struggle. What about queer rights? Native sovereignty? Abolishing the death penalty? Dismantling the prison industrial complex? Disarming BART police?
I believe we should support the "occupies" but I also believe that this is in fact a struggle that specifically progressive people of European descent should get behind. I believe that this is the time to use your sheer numbers and white privilege to effect real change. Those of us who do not have white skin are the most policed people on the planet. OPD shoots unarmed black men, and takes white men who engage police in shootouts into custody alive. White folks, for change to happen, you need to be on the front lines. In this regard, the more of you that are present, makes it safer for everyone. This is the time.
And the rest of us can still support and engage. But more importantly, we all need to organize our struggles now. While Occupy Oakland moves in to Frank Ogawa Plaza, we need to get with our peeps around our own issues. There are currently 12,000 prisoners on a hunger strike in California. This is major. We need to surround the prison grounds and give more power and love and solidarity to those in the racist/classist labor camps inside. We need to surround federal courthouses around abolishing the death penalty. We all need to act around whatever our communities are passionate about while the "occupies" keep OPD... occupied.
I want to go support manifesting Queer Power actions. Actions to reinstate Native Elders into positions of power on this land. Actions to end gender oppression, ableism, institutionalized racism, anti-immigrant initiatives, actions that defend Mother Earth and hence the health of all of us... I want to be a part of all of it. And we can and should all support each other's struggles, because none of us are free until all of us are free. But we shouldn't have to try to fit all of our struggles in one movement that is focused on class and economic oppression.
If you feel me... then organize. Trust your struggle. and let's usher in a new age, an Age Of Alliance.
Much respect and love to Native ancestors, and solidarity with my Native fam today. See y'all at Frank Ogawa Plaza.
Love & solidarity,