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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.