Occupy Whatever

At the very start of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement I expressed my concerns* about the inclusivity of such a protest. I shared the concerns of many others: that the “occupation” is a tactic not yet attached to a fully realized campaign, that Wall Street itself is not being “occupied” and that even those of us who organize on consensus-based models recognize the absolute need of affinity groups for the (legal) protection of the whole.

However, as a woman of colour my primary concern is the mirroring of what many a ‘popular’ movements of this nature (anti-war and labor, for instance) always struggle through in their beginnings – an ambivalence regarding the structural inequalities that feed into capitalism, the military-industrial complex and imperialism. While the protesters near Wall Street have not explicitly stated an anti-capitalist agenda (because no consensus has been reached in an effort to respect the so-called 99%), it is quite clear that those in Manhattan and the countless other cities in which these “occupations” are taking place have no interest in anti-colonial and anti-racist organizing. There is little analysis, besides from a few brave people of colour on the ground, about the long history of conquest, genocide and racial inequity that have built the very capitalist structure these “occupiers” are protesting. Many chants and signs are explicitly nationalist and celebrate settler colonialism – “Let’s take back our country!” “This is our land!” “We are the 99%!”

Who is the 99%? The white women who were unjustly attacked by the illustrious NYPD? The mostly white onlookers who recorded video of these attacks and uploaded them onto youtube.com, prompting the still-sluggish mainstream media to address the “occupation”? Or are they the undocumented workers who cannot be photographed or videotaped for fear of immediate reprisals? The indigenous peoples whose land is doubly occupied? Women and queer people of colour who are daily harassed, beaten, raped and killed at home and in the street by cop and citizen alike? Refugees from the hundreds of nations the United States occupies militarily or economically? Immigrants who fled countries controlled by multinational corporations and U.S.-backed dictators only to realize they’re in the belly of the beast (and are the sole recipients of “random searches”) ? Troy Davis? (And no – white people with “I Am Troy Davis” signs – you are NOT, nor ever will be, Troy Davis.)

At the “Occupy Los Angeles” protest, I did not feel like I was the 99%. Every time I or another person of colour opened our mouths, a white face would pop up to scold us for being ‘divisive’ or ‘missing the point.’ When a young white man said, “We can’t let the LAPD run this, we need to get out there and push back!” he was informed that his white, male body gave him privileges with the police that many of didn’t have. He responded, “WELL in EGYPT…” and continued to condescend to us that getting arrested was for the ‘greater good.’ [“I’m from Egypt and let me tell you somethin…”] When an older white man was told not to take photos of our contingent, he grew angry and yelled, “I can do what I want! This is our country and it’s free!”

The privileges of citizenship and maleness are not only limited to white men, however. I informed a group discussing tactics that I was deeply uncomfortable with the language of “occupation,” given that non-indigenous settlers occupy all these lands. It was three black men who took offense with that. They informed me, “WE know what oppression is. WE are black. What are YOU?” [Questioning the identity of mixed-race dissenters as a tactic of solidarity? Good one.] Oh Lord, and even the white woman who told a Muslimah wearing a hijab, “We SO want more people [read: people of colour] to join us! You should bring more people with you!” [As usual, people of colour are supposed to report dutifully to white organizers. God forbid white folks ever join our movements.]

The 99% in Los Angeles sung “This land is our land” together as those of us who are or are allied with indigenous peoples turned to leave. You see, women and queer people of colour who spoke out are not supposed to be part of the 99%. We are not nationalistic enough to pretend these imagined borders are real. We are not silent enough to let ‘the people’ organize ‘in solidarity.’ We are not middle-class enough to keep quiet about the millions of workers who remain non-union and taken advantage of in this country and outside of it. We are not white enough to ignore the nearly 500-year long spread of capital through the barrel of the many guns. And for myself? I’m sorry to disappoint those calling for “critiques with love,” but I sure as shit want no part of the “occupation” at this point.*** After all – what has history taught us about the aftermath of occupation?**


**See the United States of America, Canada, every country in the Caribbean, Palestine, etc.

***I do have much love and respect for people of colour and white allies who continue to speak up about these issues in their respective cities. I myself can no longer bear the burden of explaining the privilege bound up in these “occupations” to people who don’t want to listen. It is exhausting. For those of you with energy left - thank you.

Who is the terrorist?

In preparation for the start of my drive West tomorrow, I sought out music recommendations from my people on the interwebs. This came my way.

p.s. The route, in settler colonial terms: From New York to Chicago, Omaha, Denver, Albuquerque, Flagstaff, Las Vegas, Los Angeles.

p.p.s. The route to my brothers and sisters: Iroquois, Erie, Miami, Kaskaskia, Oto, Pawnee, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Pueblo, Apache, Zuni, Navajo, Acoma, Hopi, Ute, Walapai, Salinan, Yuma.

Felasteeni, ana ismee Falasteeni!

Palestine, Palestine, Palestine!

What we are sick of. 63 years of Nakba.