The Occupy movement struggles to resonate within the black community

For the past few months cities across America have seen crowds of protestors taking to the streets angered by the state of the U.S. economy in the wake of noticeable corporate greed, Wall Street failures, and home lending corruption scandals to name a few gripes. In what has become known as the “Occupy Wall Street” or “OWS” movement, citizen discourse has largely become a protest of “We won’t take it anymore” politics, against the widening wealth divide and continued mistrust of a political system. A type of corporate-political combo agenda that has seemingly sold out main street Americans for the greater catered interest of the top one percent richest people. Now this does not on its surface mean that the masses of people are demanding a total change of the three branches of government, however people from every sector of civilian life are demanding more accountability in the way politicians and corporations do business.
Many of the captions of the Occupy movement has been one of that focuses on grievance oriented whites against the system. This scene is something that is not new to the rank and file of black Americans who themselves know the routine to what demonstrations can do. Blacks once led marches of change across the south during the height of the civil rights movements of the 1960’s when institutional racism was formidable on the social issues stage. In the decades since 60’s, blacks have continually had a reason to gripe about many of the same issues that the Occupy movement demonstrators are now protesting about. Conversely, critics and pundits alike have been asking why has there not been much larger support and inclusion among the black community to join in with these mass demonstrations across the country.

When I am in the communities of Del Paso, South Sacramento, or Oak Park and ask some of the black brothers and sisters what they think about the issues of OWS or locally organized Occupy Sacramento (OS), and whether or not they feel more blacks should be out on the streets joining this movement, many are conflicted. Some feel as though that other people (mostly politically conservative whites) want to blame President Obama for this country’s political and economic mess, when in fact Obama inherited more on his presidential plate than any other president to come into office during his first term. “I am tired of white folks blaming someone other than themselves for what’s happenings, they had Bush in office for what 8 years” says Mark Livingston. Others such as Kenyon Davis thinks that the problems can’t be easily solved in the manner the protestors are taking action, “I think at the end of the day, these protests are not going to change anything”. Davis sentiment’s seems to be what most blacks are saying about the organization of these protests to really affect this change.

Examining the economic state of the black community, blacks are no better off after the emergence of Obama than when Bush was in office. In some cases segments of blacks are in worse shape. As the cycle of jobs leave areas of the Sacramento valley region so do more opportunities for mainly underserved and less represented groups such as blacks. Studies continue to show that black men in America with bachelor degrees still have a harder time finding upwardly mobile jobs and careers than do their white counterparts with only a high school diploma. Therefore it is no surprise when asking blacks to join such movements as OWS that there is little to no action on the side of the vast majority of black people.

It is quite clear that there is a dire need to increase and improve the level of job and economic opportunities in all communities, however, as the jobs go so do the opportunities for those men in disenfranchised and isolated communities. The problem with the Occupy movement is that there has not been one single leader or voice that can articulate and influence what are the key demands for this change movement. Rather it’s an autonomous leadership model with an underside of freedom, liberty, and justice as its motto for an all people’s revolution. The result being that it allows for as many individual leadership voices as there are grievances. While black leadership on the other hand has pretty much stayed out the fray, you can find pockets of black contribution, activism, and support within the ranks of the Occupy movement. Traditional community action oriented and black run organizations such as the NAACP and Urban League, have only partially galvanized black member support and that visibility is minimum at best in Sacramento.

The national face of the Occupy movement has largely been one of a frustrated white, middle class, college educated, and unemployed demographic group. If the message of OS is to transform the traditional barriers that are now affecting the majority white protestors of this movement, than it must see that these same barriers have limited blacks and other Latinos from gaining a advantage before the economic crisis hit.

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December 22, 2011 | 5:39 AM

Has OWS or OS not seen “that these same barriers have limited blacks and other Latinos from gaining a advantage before the economic crisis hit”? I don’t think so. It seems as if the movement and protests are open to everyone, but if ANY group is looking for a special invite, they will be disappointed.

December 22, 2011 | 6:03 AM

Occupy Sacramento which claimed to be a protest against the special interests whicbh corrupt our democracy, was eventually co-opted as a tool of the SEIU special interests.

The black community should be proud that they didn’t get involved in this corrupt labor rally masqerading as a “protest movement”.

December 22, 2011 | 7:10 AM

What do you know personally about OWS cogmeyer? If you think big labor has co-opted OWS you are wrong. Another lie of the corporate propaganda machine. You should really know what you are talking about before you spout your ill-informed opinions.

December 27, 2011 | 6:52 PM

I am not a union member, have never been a union member – but i do not belive labor unions constitute “special interest groups” – SEIU membership is comprised of ordinary working class people. If labor unions are “special interest groups” then does that make nurses, firefighters, cops, a “special interest group?”

Last time I checked a “special interest group” was the NRA, Big Pharma, AIPAC – all of those are deep pocket, ruling class special interest groups who give huge sums of PAC campaign donations to politicians election campaign coffers.

January 15, 2012 | 10:41 PM

Mark, Pay attention… I never mentioned OWS, only referred to Occupy Sacramento.

OS own meeting minutes and agenda refer to various union activities…
* SEIU offers of food, equipment, media services..
* Arrangments for OS to protest / picket in support of various union causes.

Princess, it is a free country with a great 1st ammendment. Occupy Sacramento can align with any cause that they wish, I have no problem with that.

But the idea that the SEIU has not been propping up Occupy Sacramento is just as farcical as the idea that corrupt union dollars are not a “special interest”.

Remember, nobody has ever been forced to join the NRA, but unfortunately today if you want to work in certain fields you can be forced to join a union, and that union is free to use your dues to also give “huge sums of PAC campaign donations to political election campaign coffers”.

December 22, 2011 | 6:17 AM

I believe the frustrated middle class, college educated and unemployed whites understand all to well how public policy, corrupt politicians and corporate bribery has hurt African-Americans and Latinos. Unlike the Tea Party, there is not an underlying racist element in the OWS movement. But is it really up to OWS to engage these communities or is it up to them to engage OWS?

Because you don’t miss what you never had, historically the poor and under-educated within society have NOT been the revolutionaries. Part of the problem is that blacks have been politically, socially and economically disfranchised for so long that many believe they cannot make any real difference. Also I believe religion plays a role in helping to pacify people’s anxieties and divide the communities along self-defeating lines. Lastly, I wouldn’t discount a racial/class element. If blacks see OWS as just a bunch of upset privileged white people then why would they get on board? The fact is, if we do not stand together, we will fall apart.

December 22, 2011 | 9:25 AM

What do you know personally about the Tea Party Mark? If you think the Tea Party has an underlying racist element you are wrong. Another lie of the liberal propaganda machine. You should really know what you are talking about before you spout your ill-informed opinions.

December 22, 2011 | 1:21 PM

newguy-you obviously did not see or pay attention to the signs and slogans the manipulated Tea Party seniors were carrying. These dunderheads were so uninformed that they carried signs that read “keep the government’s hands off our Medicare.” Mark is right and he is informed–you’re not because you must have been watching FOX which didn’t air them..

December 22, 2011 | 4:22 PM

Just who are you advocating for? OWS were photographed carrying signs glorifying Communism, Socialism, and skinhead Nazis. And you should check your information before posting.

This is a well-written article. It is true that Obama inherited much of his problems from Bush and his poorly implemented liberal economic policies. That’s why Obama is even more at fault for where we are economically. If Bush couldn’t keep the economy going with leftist economic policies what made Obama think he could do better repeating Bush’s mistakes?

And all this bad economic government policy has fallen very hard on everyone — black, white, and every shade in between. What do OWS protesters want? Anything they can get for free!!! All this free stuff comes are a huge price to our children and grandchildren who we’re stiffing with the huge bill we’re leaving for them.

January 7, 2012 | 10:28 PM

Wow, “advocate”, MediCare was supposed to be “self-financing” from the workers’ payroll, right? So you leftist statists were lying about that too, weren’t you?

Meanwhile, Obamacare effectively dumps younger people who never paid a lifetime into Medicare into the program, which means the existing seniors will get short shrift. You think they are not supposed to notice that, “advocate”? Really?

Or are they just supposed to do what you tell them to?

Just when the facts are that the retirement ages will have to be raised because people are living longer and there are fewer young workers in proportion to elderly retirees, Obamacare blatantly disregards these two inevitable facts.

And those who rely on Medicare *now* are supposed to just lay back and think of heaven, to which the New Obama oversight (rationing) panel will bring them to that much sooner. Really, “advocate”? You want to keep thinking you can pull off that crap?

December 22, 2011 | 5:09 PM

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December 27, 2011 | 5:21 PM

The author of the above article has no hidden agenda. Nope, the author just laid it all out there in the open. Too bad this is not labeled as an “opinion’ piece because that is exactly what it is. Objective journalism is dead. And then people complain about Fox news…. ROTFLMAO

December 27, 2011 | 7:12 PM

This is a very sloppy piece of work and poorly researched. Where is the author’s research and methodology? Just a bit of anecdotal conversations he had with black people who live in his neighborhood does not qualify as professional journalistic research. The artile is isn’t based on anything but the author’s personal opinion. This article could be published in a Letter to the Editor or a blog – but doesn’t belong published as a Sacramento Press article.

#1 – The OWS movement never specifically targeted Obama as the main problem with what is going on in the nation. Obama has rarely even been mentioned by OWS. Most of the protest is against $800 billion bailout – Wall Street crash of 2008 and the huge economic disparity between the dwindling middle class and billionaires. Half of Congress are millionaires and 18 million Americans are unemployed. I’ve been to several Occupy Sacramento events and UC Davis campus demonstrations and Obama was never even mentioned as the cause of societal discontent.

Why is the author using Obama as the flimsy reason as an excuse why black people are not out in large numbers at OWS demonstrations? A little farther on in the article, the author admits black people are no better off with Obama in office – than under 8 years of Bush – so exactly is the author’s point? Obama’s poll ratings are down to 50% and as a white person I understand he inheirited a horrendous mess from the years of the Bush/Cheney/Rove Crime Regime. I am neither pro nor con on Obama and I am white. If black people are not active in OWS, what movement or organization have they joined? The author never raised the issue of what are groups which attract black people. NAACP and the Urban League are fairly establishment organizations – maybe way back in the 1950′s – 1960′s civil rights movement they were considered cutting edge – but not now.

#2 The author blames the lack of one leader as a sign OWS has allegedly failed. The problem with having only one leader is if that leader is assassinated, has a sex scandal, etc – then the whole movement goes to pieces. Since when does the Cult of Personality define a viable political movement? Where is it written that a leaderless, autonomous movement is inferior to a movement with just one leader? When Mahatma Ghandi was assassinated it created chaos and civil war between Hindus and Muslims in India. Why put all your eggs in one basket and only have one leader? OWS is about representation democracy – this is why it deliberately is a leaderless movement.

I’ve been reading Sacramento Press for years and this is the worst article ever published.

December 28, 2011 | 11:36 AM

Hi PrincessFifiTrixibelle,

While definitely harsh, we certainly welcome your feedback and opinion.

I wanted to remind you that The Sacramento Press has a mix of articles by professional journalists and close to 2,000 citizen journalists, including Mr. Baadqir. We welcome all contributions by our community contributors as long as they meet our guidelines.

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