Occupy Wall Street might seem like a movement that would resonate with black Americans. After all, unemployment among African Americans is at 15 percent, vs. almost 8 percent for whites. And between 2005 and 2009, black households lost just over half of their median net worth compared with white families, who lost 16 percent, according to the Pew Research Center.
However, these numbers have not translated into action. A few prominent African Americans, such as Cornel West, Russell Simmons, Kanye West and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), have made appearances at Occupy protests. “Occupy the Hood,” a recent offshoot, has tried to get more people of color involved. But the main movement remains overwhelmingly white: A Fast Company survey last month found that African Americans, who are 12.6 percent of the U.S. population, make up only 1.6 percent of Occupy Wall Street.
African Americans share white Americans’ anger about corporate greed and corruption, and blacks have a rich history of protesting injustice in United States. So why aren’t they Occupying? Why don’t black people give a damn about occupy Wall Street?
“Occupy Wall Street was started by whites and is about their concern with their plight,” Nathalie Thandiwe, a radio host and producer for WBAI in New York, said in an interview. “Now that capitalism isn’t working for ‘everybody,’ some are protesting.”
From America’s birthing pains to the civil rights protests of the 1960s, blacks have never been afraid to fight for economic or social justice. Crispus Attucks, a former slave and the first person killed by British soldiers in the Boston Massacre of 1770, is considered the first martyr of the American Revolution. So once again why don’t black people give a damn about occupy Wall Street?
Blacks have historically suffered the income inequality and job scarcity that the Wall Street protesters are now railing against. Perhaps black America’s absence is sending a message to the Occupiers: “We told you so! Nothing will change. We’ve been here for centuries. We’ve seen poverty and injustice for generations. This is not new to us. It’s hopeless.”
Black people do not see anything new for themselves in the movement. Why should they ally with whites who are just now experiencing the hardships that blacks have known for generations? Perhaps white Americans are now paying the psychic price for not answering the basic questions that blacks have long raised about income inequality.
Banks’ bad behavior “just gets lost in the sauce, so to speak,” “High joblessness and social disenfranchisement is new to most of the Wall Street protesters. It’s been a fact of life for African Americans since the beginning. I actually think black people are better served by staying out of the protests. Civil disobedience will only further the public perception that black people like to cause trouble”‘ Minus said.
Black America’s fight for income equality is not on Wall Street, but is a matter of day-to-day survival. The more pressing battles are against surviving from day to day. As a black man, my biggest concern is not getting shot while walking to the store to buy some candy and iced tea.
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