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Standing with the Occupy Wall Street Movement

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(NNPA) I have been noticing a number of commentaries that in looking at the Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Together movement (OWS for short) conclude that African Americans are not particularly interested, or that this movement is irrelevant to the Black Experience. I disagree.

The OWS movement has been an exciting development on the US political stage. It has shaken this country in ways that it needed to be shaken raising the matter of wealth and income inequality and the depravity of the rich. It has called into question the policies of Wall Street, but also the political allies of Wall Street--both Republican and Democrat--who are more concerned with protecting the rich than they are with the common person.

Yet, it is true that these "actions" have been largely white. My first response: so what? I am actually quite pleased to see white people challenging a system that is crushing us all.

But my second response is a bit different. The reality is that spontaneous movements in the USA tend to be unbalanced racially. The student movement against the Vietnam War in the 1960s, for instance, was very white. This did NOT mean that Blacks were absent. What it often meant, however, is that African Americans formed their own organizations through which they participated in the student movement and/or the anti-war movement.

Where I have seen this play out differently, however, is in some sections of organized labor. I have seen some serious trade union demonstrations and actions that are very multi-racial/multi-ethnic. But part of what makes this possible is that there is a critical mass of a particular group--in our case, African Americans--who can see themselves in the actions. In other words, when they look at an action, they see a critical mass of us.

In OWS many of us, regardless of whether we support the cause, do not necessarily see ourselves represented. While some of us will nevertheless participate, others will sit back and support from the sidelines. My suggestion is that we need to organize our participation. Here are a few examples. We could ask our minister, priest, Imam, etc., to organize a delegation from our religious institution to participate. What the OWS is doing is completely consistent with religious doctrines that overwhelmingly speak to the poor and the dispossessed. A second thing would be to have one of our organizations, such as the NAACP, a black student union or a chapter of a labor union in which we are active, to participate together.

There is something else that we can do. We can organize our own actions that protest not only the income inequality but the growing RACIAL inequality that is crushing working people of color.

Let's stop worrying about whether white people reach out to us. We have our own reasons to be integrally involved in movements like OWS.

Sound like a plan?

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and the co-author of Solidarity Divided. He can be reached at papaq54@hotmail.com.

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