Saturday, December 10, 2011

“Minorities” excluded, benefitting from Occupy Movement?

*This article was originally published by the Viễn Đông on 10 December 2011. It was reported by Vanessa White.

LOS ANGELES—A Huffington Post article recently questioned the role of Latinos in the Occupy Movement, suggesting that “minorities” might be receiving limited exposure and benefit.
Specifically, the article mentioned Occupy Los Angeles (LA) and addressed whether or not the LA county population of 50 percent Latino matched the population of Occupy LA protesters, or Occupiers.
“What time does a Latino have to go protest?" the Post quoted Mr. Julio Cesar Malone, a veteran journalist and columnist for Spanish-language media in New York. “Our people are working two jobs to survive. Many work 16 hours and have to commute for four more--they're drained.”
To some, participating in the Occupy Movement is seen as a privilege.
However, Occupy LA has made an effort to reach out to underprivileged groups, including the Latino community, providing a Spanish translator at its general assembly (GA) meetings and having incorporated Latino unions and groups since its inception.
Such efforts are combined with those of other Occupy groups in cities nationwide that have set up specific action committees to address the needs of “minorities.”
The Occupy Movement began in New York City (NYC) and San Francisco in September 2011, inspired by pro-democracy protests that spread throughout the Middle East and North Africa during the spring 2011.
Though their demands are broad and not “clear” and “articulate,” according to the mainstream media, the Occupiers nationwide are generally calling for changes to what they feel are global economic, social, and political injustices.
Along with “lacking coherent demands,” the media has portrayed Occupiers as being mostly White, with little attention given to “minorities.”
The movement has also taken the focus off “minorities,” boasting itself as being open to all people regardless of race, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, or various other “isms.”
By cloaking the “isms” with a large unity coat, are “minorities” being downplayed as important to the movement?
Occupy the Hood, “minorities” after the Occupy Movement
Specifically addressing the needs of ethnic minorities, or “people of color (POC),” Occupy the Hood (OTH) operates in cities nationwide where there are large concentrations of POC.
OTH acts in solidarity and involvement with the Occupy Movement, yet holds events explicitly for POC like food drives to POC in low-income neighborhoods, as well as consistently focusing on issues like mass incarceration, health and educational disparities, and racial profiling.
“Occupy the Hood is relying on methods of organization that have been going on prior to the origin of the Occupy Movement,” Occupy the Hood’s Facebook page reads. “We must craft a movement that uniquely and directly speaks to the issues of People of Color.”
OTH continues, mentioning that it looks forward to seeing what develops from the Occupy Movement.
Though, Orange County (OC) resident Mr. Howard Harrell, who has witnessed U.S. social justice movements in the past, told the Viễn Đông that “minorities” included in many movements, or even causes, are often excluded again in everyday life when the movement or cause is over.
For example, he said he remembers an increase in African Americans entering the military during the Vietnam War. The military had been integrated for over nearly two decades and African Americans were considered equal in battle.
However, when those same African American soldiers returned home, many of them were unemployed again or could not get admitted to universities.
They were, again, excluded from their citizen’s rights, which they thought they were fighting for abroad.
“There are institutions that run themselves in a way where only minorities are negatively affected,” Ms. Sara AbiBoutros, who lives in a working class, largely “minority” New York neighborhood and is involved in NYC’s Occupy Wall Street, told the Viễn Đông. “They don’t affect White people.”
She continued, saying that such institutions divide “minority” groups and attempt to keep Whites from being empathetic toward “minorities.”
“For minorities more than anyone there needs to be systematic change,” she added. “Our whole system is set up to keep minorities down.”  

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