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Sun Feb 19, 2012, 09:24 PM

Whiteness and the 99%

This piece was written by Joel Olson, a member of BtR-Arizona, as a contribution to ongoing debates about the occupations taking place in the U.S.

http://www.bringtheruckus.org/?q=node/146

Whiteness and the 99%
By Joel Olson

Occupy Wall Street and the hundreds of occupations it has sparked nationwide are among the most inspiring events in the U.S. in the 21st century. The occupations have brought together people to talk, occupy, and organize in new and exciting ways. The convergence of so many people with so many concerns has naturally created tensions within the occupation movement. One of the most significant tensions has been over race. This is not unusual, given the racial history of the United States. But this tension is particularly dangerous, for unless it is confronted, we cannot build the 99%. The key obstacle to building the 99% is left colorblindness, and the key to overcoming it is to put the struggles of communities of color at the center of this movement. It is the difference between a free world and the continued dominance of the 1%.

Left colorblindess is the enemy

Left colorblindness is the belief that race is a “divisive” issue among the 99%, so we should instead focus on problems that “everyone” shares. According to this argument, the movement is for everyone, and people of color should join it rather than attack it.

Left colorblindness claims to be inclusive, but it is actually just another way to keep whites’ interests at the forefront. It tells people of color to join “our” struggle (who makes up this “our,” anyway?) but warns them not to bring their “special” concerns into it. It enables white people to decide which issues are for the 99% and which ones are “too narrow.” It’s another way for whites to expect and insist on favored treatment, even in a democratic movement.
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I know nothing about Joel Olson, except I believe he's a college professor. I also know nothing about the Bring the Ruckus website. However, it's an interesting read. The comments are almost as interesting as the article.

It could make for an interesting discussion.

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Reply Whiteness and the 99% (Original post)
onpatrol98 Feb 2012 OP
applegrove Feb 2012 #1
jaysunb Feb 2012 #2
lumberjack_jeff Feb 2012 #3
beyurslf Feb 2012 #4
nofurylike Feb 2012 #5

Response to onpatrol98 (Original post)

Sun Feb 19, 2012, 09:34 PM

1. The 99% are about multiple realities. In this last year they made cocaine laws equivalent

Last edited Mon Feb 20, 2012, 11:44 PM - Edit history (1)

to crack laws where incarceration is concered. That could be considered a race issue and a 99% issue. Though I think it was fought and won before OWS came into existance. The point is this: at some point OWS will promote some issue that doesn't affect you but is about fighting inequality. Small business people may want credit card laws eased (as they are often more dependant on credit cards for loans, than bank loans, and thus - are more vulnerable to the draconian bankruptcy laws that were instituted a few years ago). The point of OWS is that we are all different and have a variety of needs in the 99% but we share that we want fair laws, not laws that favour only the richest. And that everyone needs to have a voice. That we can handle this mixture of realities in one movement because we are not writing down laws or policies. The movement is fluid and any issue can find itself at the top for a bit as people fight for equality.

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Response to applegrove (Reply #1)

Sun Feb 19, 2012, 09:42 PM

2. Good post

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Response to onpatrol98 (Original post)

Mon Feb 20, 2012, 01:04 AM

3. So wealth and income inequality is a "whites interest"?

Banks aren't robbing from people of color?

Sorry Joel. That's bullshit.

You don't buy into the OWS message? Fine. But don't blame your inaction on race.

Left colorblindness? Maybe in this issue race/gender/orientation are irrelevant.

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Response to onpatrol98 (Original post)

Mon Feb 20, 2012, 01:35 AM

4. We need to get past the notion of "colorblindness."

We are not a colorblind society. Race means something in our culture and we can't ignore it. The idea of being "colorblind" is at the essence of "whiteness."

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Response to onpatrol98 (Original post)

Mon Feb 20, 2012, 05:22 AM

5. thank you for posting this excellent article, onpatrol98!

again, back to comment asap (came by to read, without enough time, and so many important threads here!).

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