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On state violence, white male privilege and ‘Occupy’

November 13, 2011

by Nancy A. Heitzeg

“I ain’t about to go get arrested with some muhfuhkuhs who just figured out yesterday that this shit ain’t right.” – quoted by Greg Tate in The Village Voice

Angela Davis addresses Occupy Oakland on Nov. 2, the day of the General Strike, and sets an agenda beyond the issues of the white left. – Photo: John Osborn, Bay Citizen
Much has been written of late as to the “white maleness” of the “Occupy” Movement. The demographics of the participants, which varies from city to city, but which is consistently seen as predominately young white and male, is not fully reflective of the “99 percent.”

The language of “occupy” itself – this is the rhetoric of colonialism, conquest, imperialism, militarism and, well, “white” males: The class-based framing and the lack of intersectional analysis – it is difficult to undo “the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” by overlooking the centrality of white supremacy and patriarchy. The amorphous lack of specific demands, save that of attention – trust me, if my multi-race, multi-gendered, multi-sexuality crew and I are camping out in protest, in a public space at that, we know exactly what we are gonna ask for.

While the Occupy Movement may evolve and expand in new directions, form new coalitions, as of now, it is a movement dominated by “white” male privilege. And nowhere is this more telling than in the response to state violence against protesters and in the absence of a critique of the political economy of the prison industrial complex.

As of now, Occupy is a movement dominated by “white” male privilege. And nowhere is this more telling than in the response to state violence against protesters and in the absence of a critique of the political economy of the prison industrial complex.

In the aftermath of police actions in NYC, Oakland and elsewhere, some justifiable outrage and even more hyperbole abounded. Scott Olsen, the injured Iraq War veteran who galvanized Occupy Oakland critiques of police action, was described in various blog posts as “the Crispus Attucks of the movement.” Never mind that he is white. Or alive.

A recent NYPD action that moved protesters off a public sidewalk and resulted in 20 arrests was described by an observer as “the most egregious violation of constitutional rights I have ever seen.”

Really?

Rodney King? Oscar Grant? Amadou Diallo? Sean Bell? Abner Louima? Troy Davis?

How many millions more?

And where you been?

Perspectives on police

“Those of us who do not have white skin are the most policed people on the planet. Oakland Police Department shoots unarmed Black men and takes white men who engage police in shootouts into custody alive.” – Rich Ejire

A substantial literature documents the vast gulf in public perceptions of police between whites and communities of color. While whites often view the police as there to “protect and serve,” communities of color have long been clear that the police were there to, in fact, police them. As Laurence Bobo observed in the midst of the Henry Louis Gates Jr. affair:

“For most Blacks, this police-Black citizen interaction is an acutely sensitive terrain. For many African Americans, it is a space marked by live wounds, personal and familial memories of injury and insult, and the heavy weight of group experience of injustice. For most whites, however, there is nothing so close, so profoundly emotion-laced or so fundamentally defined by an ascriptive feature such as one’s perceived racial background. It is, in short, a place where the Venn diagrams of white America and Black America generally do not overlap … It is that point of everyday interaction where race plays out in a face-to-face encounter. In particular, it involves the type of encounter involving respect for police authority on the one hand and, on the other hand, respect for the rights of citizens who happen to be African Americans.”

Communities of color come to expect police encounters, and expect them on a daily basis, not just under protest or “crowd control” situations. Driving/walking/standing while Black or Brown and endless subjugation to “stop and frisk” policies are routine.

Encounters with police that involve excessive and/or deadly force are also routine for communities of color. The incidents tracked by Injustice Everywhere: The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project and illustrated below also disproportionately impact people of color.

Perhaps most disturbing is the rate at which deadly force impacts communities of color. While local, state and federal law enforcement agencies keep absolutely accurate records of the number of police officers killed or assaulted in the line of duty – typically less than 60 killed per year – there is no comparable systematic accounting of the number of citizens killed by police each year.

This data is not nationally gathered or reported. The task is left to individual researchers to cobble together local and state-level data – much of which has had racial identifiers removed – and report what police only seem to be concerned about in light of potential litigation.

Anywhere from 350 to 400 civilians are killed by police each year — an average of one per day. This number is certainly an under-count since it is based on police shootings and does not include deaths by choke-holds, hog-ties, tasers, reactions to chemical sprays or injuries sustained in beatings.

Those killed by police are disproportionately Black and Brown. A variety of studies have found consistent racial disparities in police shootings:

“Since the 1970s, sociologists and political scientists have consistently found that minority suspects in the United States face lethal force from police officers at a disproportionate rate. According to 2001 figures from the Department of Justice, Black suspects were five times more likely to be shot and killed by officers than white suspects.”

Black suspects were five times more likely to be shot and killed by officers than white suspects.

A 2007 study conducted by ColorLines and The Chicago Reporter examined police shootings in the 10 largest U.S. cities. The findings were sadly predictable:

“African Americans were overrepresented among police shooting victims in every city the publications investigated. The contrast was particularly noticeable in New York, San Diego and Las Vegas. In each of these cities, the percentage of Black people killed by police was at least double that of their share of the city’s total population.

“A second significant point: Latinos are a rising number of fatal police shooting victims. Starting in 2001, the number of incidents in which Latinos were killed by police in cities with more than 250,000 people rose four consecutive years, from 19 in 2001 to 26 in 2005. The problem was exceptionally acute in Phoenix, which had the highest number of Latinos killed in the country.”

Until the Occupy Movement offers a systemic critique of routine police practices that target communities of color and not just those mostly white male occupados, then it will be difficult to imagine sustainable coalitions or a centering of non-white and non-male voices.

Perspectives on the prison industrial complex

“There are currently 12,000 prisoners on a hunger strike in California. This is major. We need to surround the prison grounds and give more power and love and solidarity to those in the racist/classist labor camps inside. We need to surround federal courthouses around abolishing the death penalty.” – Rich Ejire

A dramatic escalation of the U.S. prison population has occurred in the past 40 years, a 10-fold increase since 1970. Between 1987 and 2007 alone the prison population nearly tripled. The rate of incarceration for women escalated at an even more dramatic pace.

The United States, which has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, has 25 percent of its prisoners. This is the highest incarceration rate in the world. Over 2.4 million persons are in state or federal prisons and jails – a rate of 751 out of every 100,000. Another 5 million are under some sort of correctional supervision such as probation or parole. The U.S. remains the last of the post-industrial so-called First World nations that still retains the death penalty, and we use it often. Nearly 3,300 inmates await execution in 35 states and at the federal level, and it was not until the early 21st century that the U.S. abolished capital punishment for juveniles and those with IQs below 70.

This increased rate of incarceration can be traced almost exclusively to the War on Drugs and the rise of lengthy mandatory minimum prison sentences for drug crimes and other non-violent felonies. These harsh policies have not proliferated in response to crime rates nor any empirical data that indicates their effectiveness. This vast machinery, with its deep connection to profiteering, has come to be termed the prison industrial complex.

The prison industrial complex is a self-perpetuating machine where the vast profits (e.g. cheap labor, private and public supply and construction contracts, job creation, continued media profits from exaggerated crime reporting and crime/punishment as entertainment) and perceived political benefits (e.g. reduced unemployment rates, ‘get tough on crime’ and public safety rhetoric, funding increases for police, and criminal justice system agencies and professionals) lead to policies that are additionally designed to insure an endless supply of ‘clients’ for the criminal justice system (e.g. enhanced police presence in poor neighborhoods and communities of color, racial profiling, decreased funding for public education combined with zero-tolerance policies and increased rates of expulsion for students of color, increased rates of adult certification for juvenile offenders, mandatory minimum and ‘three-strikes’ sentencing, draconian conditions of incarceration and a reduction of prison services that contribute to the likelihood of ‘recidivism,’ ‘collateral consequences’ – such as felony disenfranchisement, prohibitions on welfare receipt, public housing, gun ownership, voting and political participation, employment – that nearly guarantee continued participation in ‘crime’ and return to the prison industrial complex following initial release.)” – Brewer and Heitzeg 2008

And unsurprisingly, mandatory minimums for drug violations, “three strikes,” increased use of imprisonment as a sentencing option, lengthy prison terms, adult certification for juveniles and the expanded use of the death penalty — all disproportionately affect the poor and people of color. Indeed this has been the history of the U.S. criminal justice system from the outset: The poor and especially people of color have been disproportionately policed, prosecuted, convicted, disenfranchised, imprisoned and executed. The current explosion in mass incarceration simply exacerbates this historical trend.

This has been the history of the U.S. criminal justice system from the outset: The poor and especially people of color have been disproportionately policed, prosecuted, convicted, disenfranchised, imprisoned and executed. The current explosion in mass incarceration simply exacerbates this historical trend.

Despite no statistical differences in rates of offending, the poor, the under-educated and people of color, particularly African Americans, are over-represented in these statistics at every phase of the criminal justice system. While one in 31 adults is under correctional supervision and one in every 100 adults is in prison, one in every 100 Black women, one in every 36 Latino adults , one in every 15 Black men, and one in nine Black men ages 20 to 34 are incarcerated. Approximately 50 percent of all prisoners are Black, 30 percent are white and 17 percent Latino. Race of victim, race of offender and social class remain the best predictors of who will receive the death penalty. A brief glimpse into the statistics – courtesy of NewsOne Prisons and Projects Series immediately reveals both the magnitude of these policy changes as well as their inequitable dynamic.

One of the most insidious aspects of this project in mass incarceration is its connection to the profit motive. Once solely a burden on taxpayers, the so-called “prison-industrial complex” (PIC) is now a source of corporate profit, government agency funding, cheap neo-slave labor and employment for economically depressed regions. This complex now includes over 3,300 jails, over 1,500 state prisons, and 100 federal prisons in the U.S. Over 30 of these institutions are super-maximum facilities, not including the super-maximum units located in most other prisons. Nearly 300 of these are private for-profit prisons, and privatization of prison services is an increasing trend that magnifies corporate profits.

Certainly any critique of late capitalism in the 21st century USA must address the on-going connections between corporate profit and the mass incarceration and neo-enslavement of millions of mostly Black and Brown citizens. Right?

So far the response of the Occupy Movement has been “crickets.” Yes, there have been moments of solidarity for Troy Davis and in opposition to NYC Stop and Frisk. These efforts are laudable, but Occupy has offered no deep critique of the PIC and the connections between classism, racism and mass incarceration. As Greg Tate observes (the bold is mine):

“The predominant age range of OWS’s paler male participants is roughly 18-29. This age group among African American cats accounts for 40 percent of the country’s prison population – a national crisis which predates the bailout by several decades. This disgraceful disparity could likely continue after every OWS-er has been gainfully reabsorbed into the American workforce. Although Wall Street profits from our brothers’ massive enslavement by incarceration, so does Main Street. Perhaps OWS should ponder putting prison abolition on their unformulated list of demands. Until then, some Black progressives, though duly sympathetic, might not hear a roar coming from Zuccotti but simply crickets.”

Here’s the truth: Much of the “white” “progressive” “left” stood idly by throughout the incarceration explosion – their interest sparked only occasionally by calls to legalize marijuana or free white men such as Bradley Manning from “tortuous” conditions of solidarity confinement that frankly, however onerous, are routine for the “typical” inmate, who is typically Black or Latino. If they were paying attention at all, much of the “white” “progressive” “left” knew implicitly or otherwise that the PIC was never primarily intended for them anyway; it was and is a contemporary extension of both slavery and convict lease and serves as the major mechanism in the Post-Civil Rights Era for controlling communities of color.

For the “white” “progressive” “left” to now decry state violence as applied to them is, well, too little too late. Until Occupy addresses this key capitalist growth “industry” and major drain on governmental resources as well as the deep connections to both racism and gendered racism, then the economic analysis and the opportunity for meaningful coalition remains shallow indeed.

Beyond ‘Occupy’

“This is not the only revolution. This is a movement around class and economic oppression. The environmental justice movement is feeling left out of the living documents. What about queer rights? Native sovereignty? Abolishing the death penalty? Dismantling the prison industrial complex? Disarming BART police?” – Rich Ejire

“Occupy” has had great success in drawing world-wide attention to the economic exploitation of capitalism and the stranglehold the 1 percent have on resources that rightly belong to the 99 percent. Certainly communities of color and women, via the feminization of poverty, have suffered disproportionately from this greed. Variations from city to city reveal different degrees of success in attempting to address issues of inclusion. Off-shoots like Occupy the Hood are attempting to bridge that gap.

But as Bill Fletcher Jr. notes:

“The Occupy Wall Street movement is a fabulous display of antipathy to economic injustice and the elites who feel that they can ignore the growing misery suffered by the U.S. public. It is an audacious stand against a class that has acted in vampire-like fashion to drain the blood from the rest of the country.

“Yet it is a movement that must at some point confront the question: ‘Where to from here?’”

That remains to be seen. The full potential of Occupy can only be realized with a true commitment to intersectionality and multi-level social activism that includes both protests and participation in electoral politics. Quoting Audre Lorde, Angela Davis recently asked at OWS Washington Square:

“How can we come together in a unity that is complex and emancipatory? Differences must not be merely tolerated but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which poles creativity can spark like the dialectic.”

The diversity of the 99 percent must fully be represented – not just at the margins but at the center of discourse and agenda setting. True commitment to intersectionality requires much more than an “add and stir” approach, which ultimately often tokenizes the handful of people of color and women brought in as cover for a white male agenda. Attempts to address class disparities without attention to the role of racism, sexism and heterosexism ultimately is, again in the words of Audre Lorde, attempting to use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house. It will never happen.

The future of the 99 percent – of people of color, women, queers – must not be jeopardized further by a subset of white males whose privilege blinds them to the dangers of flirtations of “outreach” to the tea party right or to alliances with Ron Paul libertarians whose disregard for the historical and contemporary significance of the 14th Amendment is stunning. The future of the 99 percent must not be jeopardized by a subset of white males whose privilege blinds them to the history of hard fought struggles for the right to vote, whose willingness to stay home on Election Day, imagine primary efforts against the first Black president or third party fashion statements belies that very privilege. The rest of us can ill afford another Republican in the White House or a Supreme Court that moves even further to the right, undoing for generations the thin but hard won legal protections for people of color and women. That result means simply that the “occupation” remains that of women’s bodies and of Black and Brown people in still more jail cells.

In her remarks at Washington Square, Angela Davis made a call for intersectionality:

“We say no to big banks. We say no to corporate executives making millions of dollars a year. We say no to student debt, we say no to evictions. We say no to global capitalism. We say no to the prison industrial complex. We say no to racism, we say no to class exploitation, we say no to homophobia, we say no to transphobia, we say no to ableism. We say no to military occupation. We say no to war.”

I stand with her and the communities that have long said No! to all the oppressions, not just to classism alone.

And until “Occupy” demonstrates their opposition to all of it, it will remain a “white male movement,” one manufactured by some ad-busting Canadian culture-jammers whose regard for interests of all of the 99 percent is suspect at best.

So I will end as I began with a slightly more polite paraphrase of the opening quote:

I am not about to trust a “movement” that offers no critique of the role of state violence in upholding capitalist economic interests. I am not about to support a “movement” that simplistically centers class to the exclusion of racism, sexism, heterosexism. And no, I am not about to get arrested with some “white” guys whose interests are just their own, who only noticed injustice when they were the ones who got laid off, arrested, beat down or tased.

Instead, I will continue, as always, to Occupy Classrooms, Occupy Academic Journals and Conferences, Occupy Blogspots, Occupy Grassroots Community Groups, Occupy Political Organizing and Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts and, yes – Occupy Voting Booths.

Again, Bill Fletcher Jr.:

“When we counter-pose street-based activism to electoral activism, we ultimately stall. Protest alone is not enough. It simply says what we do not like. Today, we have to fight to put people power in the hands of those who are being crushed by the economic juggernaut. The 99 percent should be in the streets and in Congress.”

Our lives – quite literally – depend on it.

Nancy A. Heitzeg, professor of sociology and critical studies of race and ethnicity at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn., is the editor of Criminal InJustice, a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Criminal InJustice is published every Wednesday at 6 p.m. CST. This story first appeared on Critical Mass Progress.

 

43 thoughts on “On state violence, white male privilege and ‘Occupy’

  1. joewhat56

    Nothing like a bunch of rich white liberals telling black conservatives like Herman Cain that they are too far off the liberal plantation, and that White liberals know whats best for Black people and Cain should get to the back of the DemocRAT line where Black people belong, seen not herd and saying what White liberals want to hear. This is what OWS looks like.

    Reply
    1. @TextualHealin

      I honestly couldn't agree with you less. There's nothing wrong with Herman Cain except he's completely and utterly ill-equipped to function as our next president. It has nothing to do with his race, but the fact that he likes to sexually harass women and cannot answer the most basic questions about anything politically-relevant in a concise, coherent manner. It has nothing to do with his race. And nothing at all to do with what OWS looks like. Why don't you head down to your local #occupy and actually challenge your very myopic beliefs?

      Reply
    1. Coyote

      uh, so the burden of making the movement relevant to people of color is on… people of color? it's not white folks job to respond to these critiques and get over their ignorance?

      Reply
      1. danielfitzsimmons

        yes, the burden is on people of color to get involved if they want to. is that somehow an irrational notion? what is this ignorance you speak of? the movement isn't about race and it's tiresome watching people and causes hijack OWS and use it to advance their rhetoric.

        Reply
        1. ,,,;;/

          But maybe movements or organizations fail to attract a particular group of people not because of some "ism" present within the group but for other reasons. Occupy has probably attracted few members of many different groups outside of race. If Occupy wants to attract people of color, it should adopt those issues, or maybe directly reach out. But if people of color want Occupy to adopt their issues, maybe they should get involved.

          Reply
        2. The tautologizer

          "the movement isn't about race" I hear this crap, a lot, from within the Occupy movement. Refusal to acknowledge the issue of race, in a society characterized by institutional racism, is in itself a racist act.

          Reply
          1. danielfitzsimmons

            so what you're saying is that I'm racist because I said OWS isn't about race? it's exactly those kinds of statements that alienates people because it's ALWAYS ABOUT RACE. listen; do what you feel you have to do to advance your cause. but don't accuse other people of racism or use their platform to advance your ideas. do your own work. if you're hearing from a lot of people "within the movement" that OWS isn't about race, then accept it. you want it to be about race and that's bullshit.

          2. azuremoon

            As a white woman, I agree completely tautologizer! Haven't we learned these lessons yet? Here we go again, all of us having to educate young white males. Maybe they should have to watch 1,000 hours of civil rights documentary. This is a rerun for sure. All movements should inherently embrace issues of race, class & gender. Duh.

  2. Mike Hofler

    Removing corporate money from the political and legislative process positively affects all people, not just white people. For some whites, this is a protest driven by vanity; for others like myself, it is about reform. The TARP bailout took money out of everyone's pockets. The Glass Steagall being replaced would positively affect any American except a bank CEO. Michelle Alexander, a hero of mine, said it right when she stated that the races will need to work together to undo the prison industrial complex. The Civil Rights Movement is proof of what racial harmony is capable of. United we stand, divided we fall.

    Reply
  3. John Mulligan

    "Despite no statistical differences in rates of offending, the poor, the under-educated and people of color, particularly African Americans, are over-represented in these statistics at every phase of the criminal justice system."

    You're saying there's no statistical differences in rates of offending between the races? Seriously? The guy who just got shot at OWS in Oakland was a black man and he was shot by another black guy. Why do you think they have a term like "black on black crime?" Ever notice that you don't hear too much "Asian on Asian crime?"

    Reply
  4. Selina

    The reason you don't hear about asian on asian violence is because SFBay is a Black news paper

    Although there are asian grangs thru out CA and I'm sure they are violently attacking one another but WHO THE HELL CARES

    Reply
    1. Selina

      If this nation's Gov't would allow the asians to grow in population believe me the media here would showcase their violent acts against each other and your kind as well

      Reply
  5. John Mulligan

    That's what happens when you go off topic, like this article. The issue of Occupy Wall Street is income inequality, which effects everyone including black people. Going off topic like suggesting prison abolition, as this article does, is only going to fracture the message and open YOU up to criticism. Or you could go ahead and keep accusing Occupy Wall Street of racism, that's really going to help.

    Reply
  6. Selina

    The author of this article wants OWS to address issues concerning people of African descents in this country, which will never happen.

    The problem with Blacks is that we want others to have sympathy for our causes when it US (African) should adress those issues and work them out on our own.

    As for the OWS that's for the Causcasions and their fight against their "four" father's banking system

    Reply
  7. Brian

    I should preface my comment by stating that I am in fact a straight white middle class male, and I completely agree with the necessity of developing an intersectionalist approach as it relates to social movement development. Additionally, I agree that people with privilege must take active steps to attack the institutions and ideologies that reinforce that privilege. With that said, I felt I should contribute this response.

    "The rest of us can ill afford another Republican in the White House or a Supreme Court that moves even further to the right, undoing for generations the thin but hard won legal protections for people of color and women."

    While I generally agree with this sentiment, it begs the question: what has a democrat in office done for us? All I've seen is more racist war (Afghanistan/Libya), an expansion of the prison industrial complex /surveillance state, more people deported in 3 years than Bush's 8 years, blank checks for the richest, blank checks for big agro-business, a "health care bill" that is essentially a blank check for the insurance industry and big pharma, mass privatization of education, and worse.

    It's ironic that the author of this article used the quote “I ain’t about to go get arrested with some muhfuhkuhs who just figured out yesterday that this shit ain’t right.” to start off with, as you would think this also gets applied to electoral politics. Since when has getting out the vote improved the conditions of oppressed people in a substantial way? For me, the knowledge that "shit ain't right" implies that the fundamental structure of our society is twisted and broken, and one of those structures is the entire scheme of electoral voting.

    Furthermore, you say we shouldn't be "attempting to use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house. It will never happen." I hate to sound nit picky, but isn't the whole current voting system part of the master's tool box? Or am I wrong?

    Reply
    1. voting_antifa

      "to start off with, as you would think this also gets applied to electoral politics. "

      The cost of being arrested is submitting yourself to a system that beats, tortures, imprisons, and kills people every day. The cost of voting is half an hour of time. It seems very logical to me that people would be willing to vote for things that they thought might only marginally make things better, but it seems illogical to expect people to risk arrest and police brutality when the potential for return is just as marginal.

      I would've voted for Obama simply because it is usually not that hard to vote and I waste more time in most days than voting takes, but I wouldn't get arrested for him (no way!). The only reason I didn't vote for Obama is because I didn't vote at all – I was 300 miles away from my polling place, preparing for a trial as a subpoenaed defense witness for compañeros who had been arrested with me demonstrating against neonazis.

      Reply
  8. AuthorIsIgnorant

    It's ironic that the ignorant black-racist author doesn't realize that the reason there are so many more incarcerations is precisely BECAUSE of the black-panther movement and other black-racist organizations that promote violence, crime, and hate.

    You're complaining that more people are being locked up? You can't be serious. More people are locked up because more people are committing crime. Only the most vile, ignorant, piece of shit like this author would think the victim is the criminal.

    Reply
    1. Selina

      Well, what do you call your actions over in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan good ol' white-supremecy doing their best to bring "democracy" to these nations and the world

      Reply
      1. TiredOfTheIgnorant

        "Our" actions overseas are nothing more than following orders. You sit here and complain about the unfairness of it, criticize those of us who have been TOLD to serve over there regardless of how we feel about it, and I'm betting you don't even bother thanking anyone that's returned and will have to live with the trauma of what they went through (if they return at all). Are you also overlooking the fact that it's not just white people who are over there? And as for you views on our system of "democracy", well if you don't like how it is…move. There are plenty of places around the world for you to go if you don't like how it is.

        Reply
  9. Jay-El

    I find it very interesting that Nancy A. Heitzeg, author of this article, with the level of respect she enjoys from her students, would not take the responsibility of being more compassionate and appreciative of the Occupy Movement more seriously than leveling an onslaught of generalization statements at the "male whiteness" of the participants. I totally agree with her that the history of this nation has largely been dominated by the white male colonialist mentality (as well as actions). I totally agree that people of color have historically, and to this day, been rendered as second or, as in the case of Natives, third class citizens, subject to all sorts of horrendous living conditions for the sole benefit of the intentions of the prevailing power structure or status quo. This does not diminish the fact that the issues of the Occupy Movement are not about the limited perspective of race. Race is only one small aspect of what is really going on, and what is going on is the all-out intention to introduce and expand upon modern class distinctions. The very rich want to be richer at all cost, and their goal is to make certain that everyone who is not extremely wealthy becomes increasingly poorer and poorer until the point where 99% of the world population is irreversibly destitute and poor, i.e. totally dependent upon the products and services of the extremely wealthy. The intention of the extremely wealthy is, I believe, to dismantle every conceivable aspect of what any of us has come to recognize as "civilized structure". I believe it would be much more beneficial for Ms. Heitzeg to consider it fortunate that so many "whites" are waking up to the reality of what now is rather than continuing to bury their head in the sand as what has been the tradition of the Euro-Caucasian Colonialist race and are no longer pretending that all is well. I would suggest embracing the Occupiers as comrades in peace and evolution… This is about creating a world different than what has existed, and we have learned well from the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Please allow us all (of all races) that much. Join in, contribute, and help to transform the Evolution of Culture rather than say it's a little too little, a little too late. There is to time other than Now. The past is past, and the future is up to us.

    Reply
  10. MoreJoy

    It is possible to critique something and support it at the same time. Critique (if people can hear to it without feeling upset) strengthens and deepens a cause. I urge us to try to listen in this context rather than become defensive. It never makes sense to me when people say LOOK! Infighting divides our party! I don't see FOX news reporting on this article. How is it dividing us? It seems like it only does so when we get angry at other in forums such as these. So lets not!

    It shouldn't matter, but the author of this article is a white woman who has devoted her life to these questions and feels passionately about the issues based on her research and experience. IMHO, it would be very unlikely for a black woman to speak publicly with this harsh a tone, for precisely this reason. She'd get written off as "another angry black woman."

    My interpretation of the long view of history in our country is that our wealth (and our belief in the moral rightness of our wealth) has always come at the expense of bodies of color – African slave labor jump-started the tobacco industry which funded the colonies and made possible the American Revolution, Chinese immigrants on the railroad facilitated western expansion, our current reliance on underpaid Mexican labor makes our agriculture industry run and lets not even get started on the Native American poverty issue. To me, wealth injustice and racial injustice are so linked that it seems not "immoral" but just "inaccurate" to think of them as unrelated.

    Which also means, to work on one IS ALREADY to work on the other! Lets celebrate than instead of fear "derailing" the movement. If one after another police attack doesn't derail it, I doubt a female academic from Minnesota will be able to. :)

    Reply
  11. felizmujer

    why the h__ll do they repeat everything that is said!!!! seems pretty cult like to me……who made that rule!

    let the woman speak and LISTEN!!! i agree with angela's view on the occupy movement. i am glad that the occupy movement started, but those that are occupying need to know that this is not new, but part of a historical movement. glad the young white students have gotten it and are willing to put themselves on the line for justice. based on experience don't think they thought much about inclusion of people of color. people of color don't need to get involved they HAVE BEEN involved in struggle for a long time…….
    the struggles world wide have been exciting and now the US is feeling the brunt on its own soil and reacting to it with violence. the outcome of the occupy movement is what is important and to make it significant and not just a student movement is that it become all inclusive with concrete demands that represent the 99.5%

    Reply
  12. Adrienne

    This is a new movement. Only two months old? Let's try to critique it constructively, rather than attack it for it's failings. Yes, there are many issues, including those of African Americans which occupiers need education about. There is a structure in the Occupy encampments I know for people to go in and do workshops and discussion groups. I love so much of what Nancy says in this article. Let's take it the next step. How can each of us bring this information and insight to Occupy? When the slogan is "We are the 99%" that is an invitation to each of us to step up and make this movement into one that reflects our best insights and understandings. If an individual is marginalized locally due to race or homelessness or mental illness or gender, that person needs to return with 3-4 more. Let's talk about the reality of bringing issues to the Occupy Movement– of the prison industrial complex, the criminal injustice system, detention of the undocumented and lack of useful mental health systems, etc

    Reply
  13. Todd

    The author of the article glosses over her own institutional privilege rather too easily and when she claims that she's going to "occupy journals" I thought, well, OWS has done more to make economic inequality part of the American conversation in 2 months than the MLA, the APA, and AAUP have done in 30+ years of the neoliberalization of the academy. How's that occupying journals strategy worked to shift public perception since the unraveling of civil society became official policy with the Reagan Administration?

    I recognize also that civil society's benefits have never been equitably distributed and that police brutality and economic violence have long been weapons of suppression used in the interests of white supremacy.

    Yet, this article strikes me as being more about who owns the right to resist and not about how can we form stronger, more effective forms of cooperation and mutual understanding. This article is the typical academic form of pc posturing that assures that nothing actually gets accomplished.

    Either we make coalitions and resist corporate hegemony and the destruction of our nation, or we don't. Either we listen to each other with all of our horrifying flaws or we don't.

    Truth be told, the Koch brothers couldn't pay for this sort of crippling divisiveness coming from within the left.

    The good professor ought to do more than set up the typical left circular firing squad. Head down to OWS; engage the failure of the movement. At the very least, read their statements of purpose and see that indeed opposition to racism, classism, and "colonialism at home and abroad" are integral to their politics.

    Reply
  14. Todd

    Today, Elders from the Civil Right's Movement will be sharing the torch of social justice and equality with the Occupy movement, a symbolic act by which they recognize OWS as the transformative movement of the 21st Century.
    Schedule of Events:
    –3:30pm: Interfaith Service lead by the Elder Council at Liberty Square. They'll symbolically pass the torch of hope and social justice to OWS.
    –5:30pm: Conversation between the Elder Council members and OWS at Judson Memorial Church. Open to the general public – discussing space, liberation, and race.
    –7:00-7:30pm: Gathering at Washington Square Park for a candle light vigil march to Duarte Park. There will be donuts, coffee and other actions ;)

    Reply
  15. seedypoet

    About 50% of this article is inaccurate, and another 40% is just crap. I don't know about the other cities, but in New York, OWS protestors are about 60% women and 30% non-white. In the beginning, it was about 50% non-white. I seriously doubt this journalist has actually talked to Occupy.

    Reply
  16. Joseph From Berkeley

    I'm Black and I don't understand these people like JR Valrey and certain other Blacks *BELLYACHING* about the supposed "white male dominance" of the Occupy movement. So, either more Black people like the JR Valrey's and the Nancy Heitzeg's of the Black community can GET OUT FROM BEHIND THEIR COMPUTER KEYBOARDS typing all these 'diss whitey' commentaries and "GET INVOLVED" and *DO SOMETHING* in the Occupy movement — and CONTRIBUTE to CHANGING what you don't like — OR START YOUR OWN *BLACK* OCCUPY MOVEMENT — or whatever you want to call it — especially in *OAKLAND*, for goodness sakes where, in fact, there *is* an OCCUPY THE 'HOOD MOVEMENT.

    This is the laziest thing I can ever remember from certain members of the Black community.

    You don't find white women/feminists, or white queers, or white queer women, or white bi's, or Asians, or Arabs sittin' around BELLYACHING that the Occupy movement is "white male dominated": they went out, literally pitched their tents (there was even an "Intifada Tent" in Occupy Oakland), and GOT INVOLVED!

    (continued…)

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  17. Joseph From Berkeley

    (continued…)

    All of a sudden the JR Valrey's and the Nancy Heitzeg's of the Black community — those rough tough Black "revolutionaries" — want to look for *white males'/people's* approval, or explicit "welcome", instead of collectively doin' for self!

    The the SCLC, the Black Panthers, SNCC, the Deacons of Defense, Black anti-war groups, etc., or for that matter white feminists groups, didn't sit around lazily BELLYACHING that SDS was white male-dominated: those Black/other organizations organized for *Black*/other people as part of an overall progressive or leftist movement.

    And what has Bill Fletcher done except to have been a major promoter — especially during Obama's election campaign — and a major apologist for Obama as 'The Mulatto Savior'. Fletcher, who never understood, or forgot, that *MOVEMENTS* ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN PRESIDENTS! Counter this to what Larry Pinkney (and Black people like I) had been saying about Obama all along — well before Obama's election.

    (continued…)

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  18. Joseph From Berkeley

    (continued…)

    Damn, I'd almost be embarrassed at reading these 'diss whitey' commentaries (including JR on the radio) except that there *ARE* Black people — and *Black-run* working groups with white/other allies — who *have* gotten involved in the Occupy Movement — especially in Oakland.

    .

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  19. Joseph From Berkeley

    Maybe Nancy Heitzeg's (and JR Valrey) should read THIS article IN THE SF BAYVIEW!:

    "Occupy Wall Street protesters occupy Harlem boiler room, get tenants heat and hot water"

    .

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  20. Joseph From Berkeley

    And then these intellectually lazy 'diss whitey' commentaries bring out the *real* white, arrogant closet/evident racists (the ones who *usually* start out in public verbally by saying, "I'm not a racist, but…") :

    AuthorIsIgnorant: " the reason there are so many more incarcerations is precisely BECAUSE of the black-panther movement and other black-racist organizations that promote violence, crime, and hate. …More people are locked up because more people are committing crime."

    I'd suggest Michelle Alexander's book, as well as other studies showing that this is not true — and that Black people are no more overall prone to commit crimes than white people, but *everything* in the criminal INjustice system *diverges*, from detainment, to arrest, to indictment, to sentencing, to imprisonment, from the time Black people are stopped by cops VS. when white people are stopped, if even ever *approached*, by cops — except that Alexander's books, as well as those written by *white* authors too would undoubtedly be well over these white racists' mentalities.

    (continued…)

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  21. Joseph From Berkeley

    (continued…)

    And,

    John Mulligan: "Ever notice that you don't hear too much "Asian on Asian crime?" "

    And not only, as the commenter Salina pointed out, there are "Asian grangs thru out CA and I'm sure they are violently attacking one another", but some of the worst exortion rackets, undocumented immigrant slave/semislave sex and labor trafficking, and shootings have occured in Chinatowns (and even Asian suburbs) across the country.

    But we don't hear about this in America's mainstream news because it's too busy referencing "the model minority" at American universities to bash Black people.

    Reply
  22. Joseph From Berkeley

    RE:

    Brian: "While I generally agree with this sentiment [ that, "The rest of us can ill afford another Republican in the White House...undoing for generations the thin but hard won legal protections for people of color and women]", it begs the question: what has a democrat in office done for us? All I've seen is more racist war (Afghanistan/Libya), an expansion of the prison industrial complex /surveillance state, more people deported in 3 years than Bush's 8 years, blank checks for the richest, blank checks for big agro-business, a "health care bill" that is essentially a blank check for the insurance industry and big pharma, mass privatization of education, and worse."

    (continued…)

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  23. Joseph From Berkeley

    (continued…)

    …RE:

    Brian: …"For me, the knowledge that "shit ain't right" implies that the fundamental structure of our society is twisted and broken, and one of those structures is the entire scheme of electoral voting. …Furthermore, you say we shouldn't be "attempting to use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house. It will never happen." I hate to sound nit picky, but isn't the whole current voting system part of the master's tool box?"

    You're exactly right, Brian.

    Furthermore, PEOPLE LIKE THE ARTICLE AUTHOR, Nancy Heitzeg, HAVEN'T EVEN YET FIGURED OUT WHAT SOME OF US HAVE LONG REALIZED — THAT __PEOPLE LIKE CLINTON (Bill *&* Hillary) AND OBAMA __*ARE* REPUBLICANS__; __*REPUBLICRATS*__.

    .

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  24. michaelchasebranch

    I'm considered black. I've come across this sort of rant quite often around berkeley, often from students who have taken ethnic studies classes forgetting that no one else has. These diatribes about African American incarcerations rates, blurted out as if the conclusions of the speaker will necessarily follow for the listener, despite the fact that the context which, for the speaker, explains the statistics, is not shared by the audience, have, in a sense, the effect of reinforcing the very assumptions that fuel race issues. Although, this tendency to overlook potential differences of information among stakeholders and then being mystified when others come to different conclusions is not exclusive to ethnic studies majors, it is particularly inconvenient for me because, as someone who is believed to 'be Black' I have the disproportional luxury of being judged for things done by people that aren't me.

    Perhaps even more unforgivable, the author pretty much gives a big "f*ck you!" to people who, regardless of whether or not they remember and champion issues the author studied, are acting in essentially Everyone's best interest. If the dominant critique of OWS doesn't go into all the admittedly significant nooks and crannies, I can't imagine a worse way to bring that to light then how it was done here. We need as many people as we can get to stand up to the corporate buy out of our democracy. Its not surprising that people considered to be black, and their struggles aren't represented; their marginalization, as well as the ignorance of the general public about their specific struggles, is more a factor of the priorities of our sinking education system than it is about some white agenda among protestors. Perhaps this is one of the details the author could elaborate on the next time she begins to explain how likely it is for a Black man to be on his way to prison, leaving her audience to start wondering whether the klu klux klan has been right all along.

    context context context.. if you're not going to pay attention to how your message is reaching listeners, and, moreover, if you're going to drive deeper divisions into an already tragically divided population in the midst of efforts to unify and find a way out, do us all a favor and don't.

    There are a lot of quite intelligent comments that, in relation to the statements about the prison industrial complex, positively compensate for the author's carelessness, and there are a lot of other comments that reflect the backlash that inevitably follows such didactic identity-mongering. Knowledge should be a bridge.

    Reply
  25. Think I'm white?

    The angry, uninviting tone in this article is beyond digestion. As a crime reporter of five years, I'm well aware of the data discussed in this article and am enraged by it as well and want OWS to focus more time on prison issues. However, letting the rage against the status quo turn into rage and distrust of white OWS people is just cruel, inappropriate, counter productive, and, frankly, kinda Ivory Tower dressed up as street cred'. This woman does not have the interests of the revolution in her heart; overcoming traditional class, race and other boundaries is step 1 to a successful revolution and an article like this tosses salt on wounds while wearing the pretense of healing. This author is going to go back to occupy her classroom at a private college; it's too bad, because if she could just direct her anger in the proper direction then I'd say that more than just the privileged few who can afford her class should hear her perspective.

    Reply
  26. Mel

    This lengthy bitch session made me as an immigrant white woman ashamed. So, because these "privileged white males" didn't mobilize sooner, the black folks that obviously have been in the streets fighting all this time (facetious there, yup), they should just dismiss the movement outright? Even better, they should criticize it, and shun it? Are you out of your mind? The author of this article spews hatred, and asks for compassion in return. Pure and simple, no race need mention at all. Just say the word resentment, and use your anger to beat up the folks who are out there protesting, leaving jobs, living homeless, leaving families, living in the cold streets to make a god damned difference. If I saw you in person, I'd be inclined to shun you. However, this movement has taught me to call you out, and to remind you about the only way any of us can ever succeed, COMPASSIONATELY EDUCATING each other. Don't be one of the haters who live in the past and contribute to the bank of resentment Nancy A. Heitzeg.

    Reply
  27. Jeannie Dean

    I'm hoping Nancy will join us for our OCCUPY THE HOOD SKID ROW GENERAL ASSEMBLY in LA on Feb. 25th: https://www.facebook.com/events/335265359841332/

    The event will be live-streamed, thanks to my OccupyLA media team-members, here: http://www.ustream.tv/occupyfreedomla
    and here:

    Hoping she will tune-in, and consider writing about this as a follow up piece to this article: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/crossxbones

    …adding – we DO have demands / solutions. Occupy Wall Street NYC, Occupy Denver, and Occupy Madison have them posted on their respective websites. All other occupies have demands / solutions committees working on prioritizing our most important initiatives around the clock. The author is just plain wrong about this perceived "lack".

    Reply

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