When I first heard about Occupy Wall Street, I thought it had real potential. Wall Street is a target that a lot of people could get behind. I could see people rallying around a campaign against that Giant Vampire Squid, Goldman Sachs.
Of course “one demand” didn’t really materialize. Instead the occupation of Wall Street has spawned dozens of demands. And many of those demands have a distinctly, conventionally liberal bent to them. I was disappointed. Without a short-term, winnable goal that crossed the usual political divides, I couldn’t see the occupation going anywhere. Once you bring in a standard list of lefty demands, you alienate a whole lot of that 99%.
Regardless of my disappointment that one clear goal did not materialize, I’ve been happy to see the Occupy movement grow. But I have still been unable to get myself really exited by the whole thing. I just couldn’t see where it was going.
But after reading Holly’s post on Pervocracy and Manissa McCleave Maharawal’s post on Racialicious, I am beginning to see the potential again. If I see it as a conversation, rather than a campaign, then it begins to look a lot more promising.
So today I went down to McPherson to check out Occupy DC. I was expecting a sparse crowd of mostly scruffy, white kids and I wasn’t suprised. I don’t want to make any harsh judgement about that. I’m sure some people were down at Liberty Plaza supporting the October 2011 folks. But I kept wondering what the homeless dudes who occupy McPherson park every day of their lives think about the kids who started camping out there.
After McPherson I went down to Liberty Plaza and, as I feared, found the usual suspects. I don’t want that to sound disdainful. I know and like a lot of those usual suspects. But the crowd did not represent my community, not even a little. And I am not the only one feeling like that.
I have written many times before that the first step is to start having conversations across all our divides. If the occupy movement is turning into a public conversation, that is great. That is exactly what we need. But we don’t just need to be “inclusive,” we need to center the most marginalized people or we will get nowhere. We need to have those conversations with the people who won’t be likely to show up at an Occupy event.
So how are we going to do that?