I've been involved with Occupy Oakland over the last couple of months, primarily around discussions about decolonization and the term Occupy itself. There have been several teach-ins on Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples, particularly the Ohlone, that have furthered this discussion. Simultaneously, there has also been a movement to change the name of Occupy Oakland to Decolonize/Liberate Oakland to recognize not only solidarity with the Ohlone, but the vast ways that people of color have been colonized historically and, perhaps more importantly, in the present. As news of an upcoming proposal to change the name has spread, there have been several oppositional blogposts, twitter posts, and other discussions that are virulently in favor of keeping the name "Occupy."
With all due respect to Indigenous Peoples, of course.
At least that's how many of the posts start out. "Decolonize the Americas, but Occupy Oakland," one post declares. "Voting No to Decolonize Occupy" another states. After I posted on twitter the upcoming proposal date at the general assembly, I actually received a message that started out, "No offense, but..." Really? No offense? I don't think I've heard that expression since junior high. And, for the first time in a long time, I'm surprised.
By the phrase, not the sentiment.
A sentiment in defense of, to quote bell hooks, white male supremacist capitalist patriarchy.
See, here's the thing that I love about people of color and white women: we're hopeful every time a new protest or movement comes along that, like Occupy, speaks to us. We get involved. We organize. We take on leadership. We fight. We stick around, even when racism, sexism, and homophobia become explicit. In other words--when white male dominance is challenged and subsequently, (and staunchly) defended--we hang in there.
Because it always happens.
Whenever we organize with white men (or their comrades who protect white male dominance), there comes a time when they feel their status is threatened. And really, it can be from something as little as proposing a name change--mind you, this hasn't even went up before the GA yet and already there is a backlash, er, freedom of speech I mean. A name change that recognizes the experience of the majority of people living in Oakland. A city whose unemployment rate is 17%, twice that of the national rate. And you know what that means? That means that the people that experience the rapid collapse of capitalism, which you so vehemently defend (I was also told that recognizing how Blacks, Indigenous People, and Asians have been colonized in this country was a distraction) are people of color. And we've been feeling the effects of this collapse for decades, not since September or whenever the decline began to impede on your ability to get a piece of the pie.
Personally, I support the name change (as other cities have changed the name to Unsettle and (Un)Occupy with little resistance) and I won't be deterred if the change is blocked, but I am and will continue to be swayed by the ongoing fight against white male patriarchal dominance masquerading as "community." No offense.
So, here's a tip: What you need to do now is listen, not interrupt. Cause what you're doing is interrupting. Listen to the majority of people who live in this city. Listen to people whose land we occupy. People of color make up the majority of Oakland, physically and metaphorically, the very fabric, and our voice in this movement needs to be recognized. Not in a "caucus," or a "working group," as some have graciously offered and declared support for. But, as the majority of the city that you are representing. The majority of the 99% in this city. We are as much a part of this movement, involved fully or not. And, as some of you have stated, you need to reach us. And, reaching us does not mean being defensive, posting numerous blogs and posts about your movement to block the passage of a name change, and trotting out your friends of color to tell us what "occupy" means.
You need to find another path to build and maintain this movement.