According to BET, the black unemployment rate has dropped from 16% in September to 15.1% last month. While this is an improvement, 15.1% is still staggeringly high, especially when compared to overall unemployment rate of 9%.
Given these numbers, one would expect African Americans and other people of color to be well represented at OccupyMN — which is, after all, supposed to be a protest on the part of the 99% against the increasing concentration of power and money at the very top. As it turns out, the Occupy movement is, for the time being at least, dominated by whites. Dwight Hobbes at the Spokesman-Recorder explains that
Though author-activist Cornel West has twice been arrested while taking part in Occupy Wall Street activity, there is not what one would call a notable presence of color. Similarly, thus far, Black participation in Occupy Minneapolis has been less than overwhelming.
To their credit, the occupiers seem aware of the problem and have taken steps to address it. Moreover, the decision on the part of occupiers to camp out in the foreclosed home of North Minneapolis resident Monique White may help make the movement “more diverse, and more relevant,” as an article in the Uptake put it. The Uptake article continues:
The largely white and college-educated demonstrators now stand with White and north-side African American activists, who have been hit harder by the home foreclosure crisis than other Twin Cities neighborhoods. In the eyes of north-side activist Anthony Newby, Occupy MN’s movement just gained more credibility.
What are the likely effects of greater inclusivity? Mahmoud El-Kati, the Macalester professor who was recently a panelist for the SPIN dialogue series hosted here at HQB, takes somewhat of a dim view, remarking in the Spokesman-Recorder that
“We’ve got a pattern of race relations in this country, [from] a caste system background, that Black people don’t readily, in the area of politics and so forth, respond to White-initiated things, basically, outside of the formal political structure [of] being Democrats and Republicans.
“It’s a White domain. [Blacks] are reluctant by history and the conditioning of non-participation. Nobody says that, but there it is.” El-Kati notes that including Blacks in this protest amounts to more than merely adding numbers or a social demographic.
“Let’s say this rhetoric code was transgressed in some way by Black people and they could join the Whites. The whole dynamic would change because of the presence of Black people. There would be a new chemistry, and the tension would rise.
“The established order would respond differently,” El-Kati continues. “Remember, we’re inherently in a White supremacist society.”
He’s certain that, for one, arrests would dramatically increase. “Probably people would go to jail. There would be more issues from within the Black community… Black critics would be drawn into the fray.”
Another source quoted in the article lends credence to El-Kati by pointing out that protests in more racially diverse cities like Oakland and Atlanta have “been met with tear gas and clubs.” Of course, the use of force on the part of police in these cities could be due to other factors, but it does make one wonder.
What do you think?