The Issue of Race in the Occupy Movement

The world is watching the #Occupy movement, what appears to be mostly white American young people, shake the foundations of their government and demand that their voice be heard and their grievances be addressed, but in and around the #Occupy movement are African Americans, Native Americans, Mexicans, Pacific Islanders and other groups of people who have been occupying America long before white people came and took everything, and they still have grievances they want met, and a lot of those grievances are tangled up with the fact that those white kids today who are getting all the attention protesting over there are mad that the things their ancestors stole are now being stolen from them.

This isn’t an easy dilemma to unravel, but if we’d untied that knot years ago we wouldn’t find it popping up getting in the way of progress today. I can’t think of any good reason to ignore the elephant in the room for the sake of being politically correct any longer. The #Occupy movement is coming together to find solutions to our problems. Well, we’re talking about race now because groups of people with grievances have been putting them on the table at the #Occupy camps. So bringing up the race issue at this critical time isn’t putting up a hurdle in the way of unity. It’s pointing out a hurdle in the way.

It would also benefit white people who have been shying away from the subject to let it all out and have this conversation now for their own reasons. White people are mad because they’re getting a taste of what it’s like to be a second class citizen. They get it. They’re not naive television characters from a 1950’s sitcom who have no idea how people from other races live. They’re capable of empathy and sympathy. They’ve been ready to listen for a long time.

We’ve also reached a period in history where it’s okay for other races to reassess their prejudices towards white people. It’s not for nothing that destitute white children grow up watching African American millionaire movie stars, politicians, sports legends and corporate executives make headline news every day. It’s time we acknowledge that there are millions of white people stuck in the lowest socio-economic levels because of bureaucratic glass ceilings, and there are millions of African Americans in the upper class who are less accountable to the law than white people from lower castes. How many more millions of white people have to grow up suffering the same injustices every other minority is complaining about before their pain is valid? And why do we have to compare the two? If we’d acted according to the maxim, “Acknowledge anyone who is in pain.” from the beginning we might not have these problems around today.

Having said all that, it still doesn’t change the fact that the ancestors of white people took away a bunch of people’s land, culture, history and choices. So there’s still something there that makes it awkward to ask all the other races to sympathize completely with white kids today.

And yet, blaming white kids today for the crimes of their ancestors is like blaming the Pokemon-playing German youth for the Holocaust. They weren’t there. They couldn’t have made any choices differently that would have changed the world they were born in. The fact that their skin is white and their parents are who they are is as much luck of the draw is it is to be born with any other skin in any other time to any other parents. The German Pokemon-playing youth enjoy a high quality of life as measured by the CIA World Fact Book, but do you doubt for a second it doesn’t suck to grow up being a German kid getting constantly hounded by the entire world for being the worst people who ever lived? You know it has to be traumatic for those kids to grow up watching Lazy Town and then flipping the channel to one of the millions of World War II movies gruesomely reminding them they’re monsters who owe the world a debt they can never possibly pay. That’s not logical. There’s no justice in that. Forcing children to carry the burden of guilt for things they’re innocent of is wrong. Period. But that’s the only solution we’ve come up with to right the wrongs of the past.

Across the pond, some white American kids live a high quality of life as measured by the CIA World Fact Book too, and like the Germans, they had nothing to do with anything that happened in history up until the year they were born. Even now, millions of white children haven’t graduated high school yet.  So they don’t have the authority or freedom to decide when they have lunch, much less affect the lives of millions of people. And yet they’re forced to grow up having it beat into their skulls that they’re responsible for slaughtering countless tribes of Native Americans, stealing Mexicans’ land, enslaving African Americans and aiding every other crime ever committed by any other person who was ever born with white skin. How could it not be traumatic for little white kids to grow up watching Muppet Babies and then flipping the channel to one of the millions of hours of programming telling them how worthless and empty the color of their skin makes them? Every month children’s classrooms at school get decorated to celebrate some other race’s heritage month, but the white kids don’t get one. It’s like being a Jehovah Witness at a Christmas party and watching all the other kids pass around gifts and having fun while you sit there in the corner like you’ve done something wrong. Beating up children doesn’t honor anybody’s ancestors, and it doesn’t help fix the problems we’ve been left with. The only thing mocking people for the color of their skin can accomplish is promoting racism.

We can’t make it a moral imperative that everyone or anyone should be born with the blood of their ancestors on their hands, and and if we did then we’d all be guilty. Pacific Islanders and Native Americans were warring and killing each other over land long before the white man came. When they white man came and gave them guns they killed even more of each other. If we’re going to make reparations then which moral imperative dictates who we give Texas back to? Do we finally recognize every single Mexican American as a Native American…because they are. They didn’t get their brown skin from Spain. And do we draw a line in history and say, “Every white person who emigrated to America after such-and-such year is held accountable for slavery.” Or do we just leave the door open and keep blaming the ancestors of every white immigrant from every country who came to America after the civil war?

We could fill books twisting logic to come to some kind of bureaucratic resolution to the crimes of having different family histories or we either forgive each other for the crimes of our arbitrary ancestors. Playing “let’s make a deal” defeats the purpose of forgiveness, which is ironic to begin with because everyone alive today is innocent.

I’m not saying let’s make any profound decisions this minute. I’m just saying, we all brought our race cards to the table. Why don’t we put our cards on the table and play a game where everybody wins?

However you felt about this post, you’ll probably feel the same way about these:

Police and the Law

Occupy Wall Street

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