If the goal of Occupy Wall Street (OWS) is to take back the nation by getting Wall Street out of Washington, including the voices of those Americans most affected by the recession is imperative. Janelle Ross observes that the crowd currently assembled at Zuccotti Park is “overwhelmingly white,” as is virtual and face-to-face participation nationwide. Yet African American and Latinos represent nearly 40 percent of the nation’s unemployed.
Core organizers are aware of this racial imbalance and have set up a working group focused on recruitment, strategy and action plans for “Communities of Color.” But the motivation behind and method of this outreach will be a key determinant in the overall success of the “revolution,” as I see it.
The disproportionate racial demographics of the #Occupy(ers), Ross hypothesizes, might be linked to issues of economy, access, or despondency. So building consensus among the most historically disenfranchised people in our nation and those (white) middle class Americans who, due to the recent economic downturn, are slowly but surely joining their ranks needs to be pursued for the right reasons and with sensitivity.
Ross describes a sympathetic profile of an unemployed white man recently featured in the New York Times. His plight after losing his $100,000 a year salary — of having to settle on a job at the Gap and being asked by his wife to sleep on the couch — would not be “news” in the black community, where, an interviewee points out, such stories are more commonplace.
If OWS is to look like something other than caterwauling about the erosion of the (historically white) middle class (which I do believe its most visionary participants believe it is), organizers would be wise to begin by picking up where the Civil Rights movement left off. To be truly successful, the revolution will need to be about changing a system which has always relied upon the suffering of one portion of the population at the expense of another.