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Monday, December 12, 2011

#Occupy, you are not the 99%

UPDATE: A lively debate has emerged from this post. See 'An #Occupier Responds: Open Thread.'

The #Occupy movement has been active for three months now, calling for reform of social and economic injustice, and at the very least, changing the focus of national conversation. In general, I like what #Occupy is doing, but there are several thing we still need to keep in mind...

#OccupyColumbus maintains a steady presence at the Ohio Statehouse, which happens to be in front of the main downtown bus lineup. Every time I visit the site, there is a telling division between the Occupiers and the folks waiting for the bus. They are two completely different demographics across class, race, age, and education.

It seems to me, the Occupiers are not the 99%. The 25%-66% maybe, but that's not as catchy. An entitled middle class has begun to feel the struggle that existed long before they got involved. Suddenly, they have lost some of their privilege, and 'the American Dream' game isn't so fun any more. I don't deny that there are major issues that these folks are rightfully bringing to light. But to claim a stance for the 99% while blogging from your iPhone seems disingenuous. 

Many have also observed a lack of racial diversity within #Occupy that is deeper than census percentages ( reports that the movement is 81.2% White, 7.6% 'Other', 6.8% Hispanic, 2.8% Asian, and 1.6% Black). Suddenly the police brutality, unemployment, low income, government disenfranchisement, and high education costs have affected a large number of privileged white folk. But early in the movement, #Occupy failed to reach out to those that have historically been on the receiving end of such inequality. Elon James White notes that "the type of outrage that pops up now at what many of us have lived with on a regular basis for years feels insulting."

Nevertheless, #Occupy has been gaining traction with POC communities, especially as new movements spring up across the country. And the results have been compelling. But remember that all protesters are not treated equally. Given the history of racialized police bias and violence, the POCcupiers have a lot to risk when they protest, more so than do white Occupiers. We know that as bad as the media coverage of the movement is now, it would be a lot worse if the majority of the protesters were black.

Yet, even if folks that are typically marginalization in the USA were actively enfranchised with the #Occupy movement, our claim would still be limited. We still represent the 1% in the rest of the world's eyes. Let us be ever mindful of that privileged position. 

Finally, a word of caution about claiming whose organizations Jesus would join in such debates. I do believe in a God that consistently champions the cause of the poor, and who has been known to protest an exploitative free-market. But I am always wary when we proclaim that 'God is on our side.' Of course, we should always strive to be on God's side, and that may mean standing for one principle over another. But co-opting His name for a cause is a dangerous business. And it comes awfully close to Judging for ourselves who is, and is not, a Christian.

UPDATE: A lively debate has emerged from this post. See 'An #Occupier Responds: Open Thread.'

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1 comment:

  1. I went to visit the #OccupyColumbus site yesterday to meet @J_dorn and @dahafa (see post '#Occupier Responds': Ironically, they were not there because they were off buying a new computer. smh. My point exactly. 


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