From:   Lycophidion <lycophidion@gmail.com>
Sent time:   Saturday, October 08, 2011 11:38:34 AM
To:   september17 <september17@googlegroups.com>
Subject:   SPAM-MED: [september17discuss] Thoughts on increasing participation of People of Color
 

This came out of a discussion under the heading "OWS Analytics":

 

I don't think the issue can be addressed technologically. There are

several reasons for this. Mobile technology, in particular, tends to

atomize and depersonalize individuals and individual communication. In

a way, it pretends there is an even playing field, which socially

doesn't exist. Moreover, if you are a white person, most of those with

whom you engage will tend to be white, so in the aggregate, you won't

really be increasing diversity. Having said that, yes, technology is

an important tool and complement for building the movement, generally

speaking.

 

The conditions for overcoming this problem (the demographics of OWS)

are created, in part, by the very growth of the movement, and its

resonance with the aspirations and grievances of the most oppressed

communities.

 

But, only in part.

 

As others have pointed out, the history of racism and white privilege

in this country puts up enormous barriers to the diversification of

the movement. There are real, deeply ingrained and socially

institutionalized power relations viz white people and people of

color, men and women, etc., in the most progressive of groups (even in

personal relationships, friendships, marriages). Any approach that

focuses simply on individual participation will not remedy this

situation. People are empowered collectively. OWS itself is living

testimony to that. So, I would argue that the only way we are going to

diversify is through some sort of collective affirmative action,

involving face-to-face community organizing and organizational

outreach, led by People of Color. That, of course, is a crucial piece

for the PoC Working Group.

 

Let me be concrete and point to a good example. I teach intro biology

at Medgar Evers College. My students are predominantly African

American, Afro-Caribbean and South Asian, mostly women, mostly older

working people. During my last two classes, I initiated discussion of

OWS. A large number had never even heard of OWS... but, most students

generally approved and identified with our goals. During break, a

number of students returned to class with copies of the OWS Journal,

which someone or ones had been distributing at the Franklin Ave.

station. That led to further discussion. And, it turns out that a good

number of these same students are DC 1707 and DC 37 members, which

creates openings for outreach efforts by the Labor group.

 

This is a piece of the puzzle. Another piece is proactive efforts by

ALL working groups to actively recruit (rather than passively

accepting) People of Color into their fold. At the same time, groups

and OWS as a whole should proactively engage in what we used to call

"leadership development," which involves creating comfort zones within

each group, norms of operation that recognize existing power

relations, purposefully promoting leadership skills and knowledge,

standing back and encouraging initiatives, etc. All guided by the PoC

committee.

 

To its great credit, OWS has taken a number of steps along these

lines. Much more needs to be done. Much is at stake.

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