What Does Occupy Oakland Mean for People of Color


October 15, 2011 @ 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
Revolutionary Cafe
1612 7th St
Oakland, CA 94607
Occupy Oakland started today. It was a beautiful gathering of people from all races and walks of life.  This has the potential to be an amazing shift in the power structures that run Oakland.  That said, we need to be sure that there is an agenda that includes our immediate and long term needs as historically oppressed people.  The question is … what is that agenda?  We are calling on people of color to come together at the Revolution Cafe and figure out what we would like to see out of and how we can/want to support the occupation of Oakland.

16 Responses to “What Does Occupy Oakland Mean for People of Color”

  1. Donna

    While we are trying to to have dialogue with as many of the 99% as possible, its also important to remember that we have also been conditioned in a culture which have valued white people over people of color, men over women, straight over all other sexual orientations, and loud talkers over the not-as-loud, etc…Even among people of color, there are diverse ways of communicating. I am glad some folks are mindful of this and that efforts are being made to make things accessible to all. Thank you.

  2. mendo4pln

    Race matters!
    I totally agree with Irina.
    Many people especially in the progressive community want to see cross racial collaboration to fight against the system that does not work for the 99%. I understand that and I know they mean well. But we must
    recognize that racism is lodged in the structure of society that it permeates the working of the economy, politics, legal constitutions AND even progress movements. In a white dominate society, color brings problems. And whenever people of color call attention to the way they’ve treated or try to change the distribution of advantage, the white society see them as asking for special privileges or “trying to divide us.” They want to deal with “the system” or “economical devastations created by greedy corporations” not the baggage of the civil rights movement. But the thing is racism is not a separated commodity of capitalism. Racial segregation is one of the effective ways to maintain the capitalism system. So yes, it’s ok to say “race matters” and we, people of ALL colors, can still stand in solidarity for creating a better world.

  3. oso

    i don’t see this as exclusionary, it can be viewed as an invitation to people who have not joined in previous aspects of the working class struggle. POC generally are poorer than the general populace. Plus human nature often leads us to be more willing to join groups or assist with issues where the others look like us. It might be best to see this call to POC as an addition if you will, to bring more people under the umbrella of the struggle for justice.

  4. here we go again

    the petty racial narcissism is yours, for refusing to recognize the ways in which people of color have been affected by these issues. and further refusing to acknowledge their efforts towards self determination, which yes, will include poc only working groups to meet the needs of their communities.

  5. danielle lopez green

    Decline of the state: clearly you are not aware of the disproportionate amount of people of color who are affected by these huge income inequalities, who are harassed by the police on a daily basis, who are not getting a proper education, who fill our fucking prisons, and who overall suffer from the system in which we live in. obviously you are white, and as the dominant race, have never had to think about how race dictates and determines ones life. race is extremely important and if you dont start waking up and realizing it you will cause serious damage to this “movement.” sadly, i dont think you are the only one that feels this way as i have heard comments about how this isnt about race or class, when race and class have ALWAYS mattered.

  6. Muriyah

    It is good to focus on common ground but it is also very important to recognize that we are all different and are all bringing something different to the table. For people of color I think that this movement could mean even bigger things than it does for white people. But the fact of the matter is that problems are never solved until they are acknowledged, and there is inherent racism in the current system, it’s been institutionalized as well as sensationalized by the corporate media. So these talks HAVE TO be had before we can ever move forward.

  7. Asantewaa AKA Sandra Blaque

    Ok, so i typically don’t engage in this type of egotistical behaviors but am finding my self compelled to respond. The Occupy Movement belongs to no one person or organization it belongs to the people and when i say people, this includes people of color. This movement means something different to everyone. A veteran who is injured, cant work and his benefits aren’t enough to feed his family it means food on the table. For unemployed grad students swimming in debt it means job security and MAYBE even retirement. For someone terminally ill with no health insurance it means life or death. For people of color it means access to better education and jobs which would decrease the crimes i of poverty in our communities. Which mean less police murder and terrorism on our blocks where our babies and elders sleep. It means less of our family members being incarcerated, better food, less diabetes and hypertension which is killing us quicker than the police, prisons and violence combined. It is easy to sit behind a keyboard and type insulting remarks and a whole harder to go and demand that your voice be heard, so as for me and mine we will be in Oscar Grant Plaza with our fist up making sure that our issues will not be ignored or minimized or overlooked, when the rest of the population realizes that they too have been fucked by the system.

  8. anonymous

    Oakland has a lot of diversity and that is something that needs to be embraced. I doubt the goal of the group is to fuel racial tension, but more about providing a safe place for people of color to express their opinions free of judgment. If you feel excluded and support the cause, I’m sure an alliance group would be much appreciated. If other cities are not having these conversations then maybe they should be. This occupation is about unity and having groups like this help to make it accessible to more people. Although some of the issues may be the same, people of color have been disproportionally affected by this recession and other events in history. “The median wealth of white U.S. households in 2009 was $113,149, compared with $6,325 for Hispanics and $5,677 for blacks,” according to the analysis by the Pew Research Center in July 2011. The wealth gap between whites and people of color is wider than we have seen in 25 years due to the recession. Not to mention the alarming disparities in educational status, incarceration rates, health outcomes, etc. All of which reflect a disproportionate burden on people of color. These differences can be valuable in helping people understand and moving towards a more culturally competent system that fosters the social justice of which we are all entitled.

  9. Irina Contreras

    To Declined To State,
    I find it sad and yet typical that you would write such things here. Your choice to remain anonymous speaks mountains to your ignorance.

    In almost all of the cities, especially the ones I have been following the most closely, there have been situations in which the nature of our racist and privileged-centered society maintain power in the Occupy Franchise. Occupy Wall Street in NYC, Occupy LA and Occupy Philly have all dealt with events and situations (this week in fact) because of the deep racism or as you put it, identity politic that exists.

    Declined to state, who do you think is able to participate to Occupy Oakland? Who is Occupy Oakland for? I guess as long as Lupe Fiasco can buy us all tents and cover our shift if we work, then all is fine?
    For you to suggest the organizers of this event are stirring up racial issues is itself divisive, your stereotypes have a history and rooted in oppression. Your stereotypes around what is inappropriate and counterproductive and “petty racial narcissism” are part of a legacy of racism, xenophobia and classism are as old as time. Is that your movement? Is that the movement you wish to claim?
    Feel free to introduce yourself if you hear my name at Occupy Oakland as I do not hide myself. I have no reason to.
    In the meantime, you can watch this video of my friend getting attacked at Occupy Wall Street in NYC. Perhaps you will think about whether or not it’s “identity politics” at play.


  10. michelle

    Oakland is the most linguistically diverse city in the entire nation.

    The entire.


    Oakland has had a long standing problem with economic depression, economic segregation, and police brutality against people of color.

    It would be foolhardy to ignore these details in trying to organize and galvanize the people of Oakland into joining this movement. The organizers are trying to reach the masses of Oakland.

    I don’t know if you were there on Monday night, but I was. While the faces were more diverse than the televised crowds in other Occupied cities, overall, a majority of those in attendance were white, perhaps lower to lower-middle class, perhaps not. Some of the attendees were not Oakland residents. There are a whole lot of people of color in Oakland, but the majority of people in this protest were NOT of color.

    I heard a few black women remarking in the crowd that it was good to see a few other black people getting politically involved. I heard the crowd cheering when a woman translated an English message into Spanish. They cheered again when she asked for more translators to come to the front and help out. I heard the crowd cheering strongly and giving hearty applause when the Ohlone were mentioned, and when a couple of people played and sang a song of the indigenous people. I think some of the organizers want to capitalize on this and make this movement stronger by involving and inviting those who haven’t yet used their voices. I see nothing wrong with that, and it isn’t divisive. It actually unites the city in this movement by encouraging others to join in.

    It has been said many times that this OWS movement has no leader and no decided upon tactics. So why SHOULD the Oakland folks follow in lockstep and copycat what other cities are doing, in failing to take the city’s people into account? Oakland (as it always, always does) is taking it and making it FOR OAKLAND, like it or leave it. That’s what I absolutely love about this underdog city.

  11. Lincoln Alpern

    *sighs at previous comment*

    I heartily applaud this initiative. I know, as a white person, that it’s vitally important for any liberation movement to confront unconscious racism within the movement. If we do not, the movement will splinter, and it will because white people like myself have failed to address our own racism and white privilege, not because of people of color.

    I hope some white people in Occupy Oakland will have the insight and the courage to organize a group on being more effective White Allies.

    Solidarity from Ohio,


  12. decline to state

    I don’t see any of the occupations in the other cities engaging in divisive identity politics like this. Instead of focusing on our racial differences, wouldn’t we be more effective in building solidarity by concentrating on our common interests and goals instead of those of any one particular race? What does Occupy Oakland mean to People of Color? Shouldn’t it mean the same thing it means to everybody else – a protest against the financial system and corporate greed? Capitalism is an abominable system, and it is detrimental to people of all races and colors. Trying to stir up racial issues around this movement is inappropriate and counterproductive and I think shows the organizers’ true intentions – to hijack this movement for their own petty racial narcissism.

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