On the “Occupy” in Occupy Wall Street

So, in the sparse media coverage I’ve seen on the Occupy Wall Street movement (and it’s many offshoots, including Occupy Boston), I’ve been pretty floored. Unfortunately, those in power and those who benefit from corruption rarely give up their privilege without tons of pressure.

The images circulating about the Occupy Wall Street protests are powerful:

This image was floating around in my facebook feed. If you know who I can credit for this image, please do email me.

This image was floating around in my facebook feed. If you know who I can credit for this image, please do email me.

In my excitement and fervor, however, I overlooked a key issue. Jessica Yee, a fabulous Special Correspondent of the fabulous Racialicious and editor of Feminism for Real points out:

From the protests on the streets of WALL STREET in the name of “ending capitalism” – organizers, protestors, and activists have been encouraged to “occupy” different places that symbolize greed and power.  There’s just one problem: THE UNITED STATES IS ALREADY BEING OCCUPIED. THIS IS INDIGENOUS LAND. And it’s been occupied for quite some time now. Source.

I admit, from my place of privilege, my knee jerk reaction at reading Yee’s post was like, “well, when the protesters say ‘occupy’, they don’t mean to trample all over indigenous peoples.”

But as exciting as protests and standing up against corruption might be, it’s also a very dangerous time. Groups of people who are already marginalized are told that they must sacrifice their concerns for the greater good, and that their issues will only serve to divide the movement.

And that’s beyond problematic. “Solidarity” shouldn’t be synonymous with “silencing marginalized people,” although traditionally, that’s exactly what’s happened.

That’s why voices like Yee’s are especially important right now:

Let me be clear. I’m not against ending capitalism and I’m not against people organizing to hold big corporations accountable for the extreme damage they are causing.  Yes, we need to end globalization. What I am saying is that I have all kinds of problems when to get to “ending capitalism” we step on other people’s rights – and in this case erode Indigenous rights – to make the point. I’m not saying people did it intentionally but that doesn’t even matter – good intentions are not enough and good intentions obviously can have adverse affects. This is such a played out old record too, walking on other people’s backs to get to a mystical land of equity.  Is it really just and equitable when specific people continue to be oppressed to get there? And it doesn’t have to be done! We don’t need more occupation – we need decolonization and it’s everyone’s responsibility to participate in that because COLONIALISM AFFECTS EVERYONE. EVERYONE! Colonialism also leads to capitalism, globalization, and industrialization. How can we truly end capitalism without ending colonialism? How does doing things in the name of “America” which was created by the imposition of hierarchies of class, race, ability, gender, and sexuality help that? Source.

Just read the whole post. Furthermore, Racialicious has a great round up of articles that cover the Occupy Wall Street protests from various perspectives.

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  1. Pingback: Occupy Wall Street: This is Everyone’s Issue « femamom