From:   Ryan Green <ryangreenish@gmail.com>
Sent time:   Saturday, October 08, 2011 12:54:48 PM
To:   september17@googlegroups.com
Subject:   Re: [september17discuss] Thoughts on increasing participation of People of Color
 

Great email.  Are you on the poc working group?

sent from my kikiPCS* phone

On Oct 8, 2011 1:38 PM, "Lycophidion" <lycophidion@gmail.com> wrote:
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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