Posts tagged ‘anti-racism’

January 16, 2012

Learning from our Elders

By Prita Lal

On Sunday, November 20, 2011, a group of veteran civil rights activists from the “Council of Elders” Organizing Committee hosted Intergenerational Days at Occupy Wall Street and in other Occupy cities around the country. In NYC, the day included an interfaith worship service at Liberty Square followed by a panel discussion at Judson Memorial Church. The event was organized and hosted by the People of Color Caucus and the Anti-racism Allies working groups.

The Council of Elders is an independent group of leaders from the farm worker, sanctuary, civil and human rights movements that shook the nation’s conscience with public protests during the 20th century. This intergenerational dialogue brought together hundreds of activists, organizers, educators, and community members to discuss questions, challenges, and lessons that can be gained from the civil rights era to the current Occupy movements happening worldwide. As an excerpt from the statement of solidarity by the Council of Elders states:

“We see Occupy Wall Street as a continuation, a deepening and expansion of the determination of the diverse peoples of our nation to transform our country into a more democratic, equitable, just, and compassionate society.”

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January 5, 2012

Why Occupy Wall Street Matters to Me and How It Can Continue to Matter

by Manissa McCleave Maharawal

(In some ways this is a response to Esther Choi’s piece, and in some ways it isn’t…)

I spent yesterday evening as I spend many of my evenings: in the Financial District, at Occupy Wall Street, attending a Direct Action meeting, eating dinner, going to the General Assembly, and going to a POC-DA affinity meeting. As I was standing in the food line, waiting for my portion of beets, greens, cole slaw and bread, the conversation turned to Esther Choi’s article, “Private Danny Chen, and why I will never again reach out to OWS about something that matters to me.” Yesterday when I read this article it nearly made me cry: both because of how right she is, but also because I, somehow, felt personally responsible for the injustices and unjust and oppressive behavior that she had experienced at OWS. As someone who both identifies with the movement and as someone who has worked from the very beginning of my involvement at OWS to confront issues of racism and oppression within OWS, while still standing in solidarity with it, reading Choi’s article I suddenly felt very, very tired, sad, and angry.

To be honest, I was angry at both OWS and at her. I think OWS is strong enough and mainstream enough now to withstand serious critiques, and I think whether weak or strong, every movement should be self-critical. I’m tired of hearing that we can’t take on issues of racism and oppression because it would be “divisive.” I’m tired of hearing people call People of Color (POC) Caucus at OWS divisive because we bring up uncomfortable truths.

A friend of mine who is visibly Muslim (she wears hijab) said the other day, after recounting an incident where she was told that she had made people in a meeting “more uncomfortable than they had ever been” by telling them that she had been triggered by a racist sign: “If this is the most uncomfortable you have ever been, then please realize how lucky you are.” I laughed and agreed with her, but her comment stuck with me. In fact, this is exactly what some people everywhere, including at OWS, don’t want to have to realize–that they have a certain set of privileges in not feeling uncomfortable and that these privileges impact them and everyone around them.

So in these ways I completely understood what Choi meant and why her article feels and is so very viscerally and justly angry.

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January 4, 2012

Moving Beyond a Politics of Solidarity Towards a Practice of Decolonization

By Harsha Walia

image by Josh McPhee

North America’s state and corporate wealth is largely based on the subsidies provided by the theft of Indigenous lands and resources. Colonial conquest was designed to ensure forced displacement of Indigenous peoples from their territories, the destruction of autonomy and self-determination in Indigenous self-governance, and the assimilation of Indigenous peoples’ cultures and traditions. Given the devastating cultural, spiritual, economic, linguistic, and political impacts on Indigenous people, any serious social or environmental justice movement must necessarily include non-native solidarity in the fight against colonization.

Decolonization is as much a process as a goal. It requires a profound re-centring of Indigenous worldviews in our movements for political liberation, social transformation, renewed cultural kinships, and the development of an economic system that serves rather than threatens our collective life on this planet. As stated by Toronto-based activist Syed HussanDecolonization is a dramatic re-imagining of relationships with land, people and the state. Much of this requires study, it requires conversation, it is a practice, it is an unlearning.”

It is a positive sign that a growing number of social movements are recognizing that Indigenous self-determination must become the foundation for all our broader social-justice mobilizing. Indigenous peoples are the most impacted by the pillage of lands, experience disproportionate poverty and homelessness, are over-represented in statistics of missing and murdered women, and are the primary targets of repressive policing and prosecutions in the criminal injustice system. Rather than being treated as a single issue within a laundry list of demands, Indigenous self-determination is increasingly understood as intertwined with struggles against racism, poverty, police violence, war and occupation, violence against women, and environmental justice.

Intersectional approaches can, however, subordinate and compartmentalize Indigenous struggle within the machinery of existing Leftist narratives: anarchists point to the anti-authoritarian tendencies within Indigenous communities, environmentalists highlight the connection to land that Indigenous communities have, anti-racists subsume Indigenous people into the broader discourse about systemic oppression, and women’s organizations point to relentless violence borne by Indigenous women in discussions about patriarchy.

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December 12, 2011

Why I Am Protesting at Occupy

By Hena Ashraf

A piece written by Ayesha Kazmi, aka AmericanPaki, called “Why I am Not Protesting at Occupy”, has been making the rounds amongst my circle of friends and with people involved and curious about the Occupy movement. In her blog post Ayesha explains why she is not protesting at Occupy because she is at risk of being targeted by law enforcement agencies, because she is Muslim.

I want to first acknowledge that I genuinely appreciate what Ayesha wrote and that she made her concerns public, because stories like Ayesha’s need to be told and heard. She has experienced questioning by the FBI, discrimination in her personal and professional life post 9/11, and raises very real points about how Muslims are targeted in this country at the hands of federal and local law enforcement.

As for me, I am a visible Muslim woman of color. By visible, I mean that I wear hijab. I’ve been politically engaged and involved with various causes and groups since I was a teenager, around issues such as militarization, Islamophobia, and Palestine solidarity. Growing up during the Bush administration, I felt that my faith community was under attack by the mainstream media and the government, with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the passage and practice of oppressive domestic policies. There is war abroad and at home. Attacking and occupying Muslim countries had a boomerang effect of defaming and targeting Muslims here domestically, and these practices are still in place today. Under Obama’s watch, the United States is militarily aggressive in six Muslim countries (and Iran might be next, making it seven) and now openly assassinates American Muslims, and has just passed the terrifying National Defense Authorization Act.

So, I understand where Ayesha is coming from. Though my own personal experiences of Islamophobia do not mirror hers, I understand the sentiment of a need to be careful because there are real risks for Muslims who are politically involved – or honestly, in just being Muslim, as we have seen with the NYPD infiltrating mosques, Muslim student associations, and even local restaurants. Muslims are monitored, followed, screened, tracked, defamed, entrapped, incarcerated, abused. These horrible realities are facing Muslims, and have affected many oppressed communities before us.

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December 7, 2011

A Therapist Talks About the Occupy Wall Street Events

By Lane Arye

Last night I was talking with a group of activists/organizers from around the country about their impressions of the OWS movement. They were curious how the insights of a therapist and conflict facilitator schooled in Worldwork (which was developed by Arnold Mindell) might be useful to folks in the movement. After our teleconference, the activists encouraged me to write this.

First off, OWS is surrounded by a host of critics, from long-time social change organizers to mainstream media.  (Much of the media criticism has been debriefed, so I’m focusing on internal criticisms I have heard.)

We can learn from critics in at least two ways. They can help us improve by pointing out what we genuinely need to change. Paradoxically, they may be criticizing us for something we actually need to do more congruently. Seen from this angle, critics may be highlighting strengths we don’t yet know we have.

Take one criticism: The General Assemblies lead to a kind of individualism of people wanting to be heard and contribute, unaware of the impact on the thousand people listening.  In one recent GA, a small group of frustrated men hijacked the meeting, cursing and physically threatening the entire assembly.  Even in less dramatic situations, most GA’s are filled with judgment, fracturing statements, and individuals repeating each other just so they can get themselves heard.

From one point of view, the criticism is valid. Yes, Western individualism can be very problematic and it is always a good time to learn to become communitarian.  But perhaps there is also something beautiful about this individualism. People have the sense that they can finally speak up about the economy, that their voice is important, that they do not have to shut up and listen to talking heads who supposedly know better.

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