Filed under: Occupy Wall Street, Uncategorized | Tags: Occupy wall street, OWS, Spokes Council
Dear Occupy Wall Street,
This is Thanksgiving Eve. And despite a nasty cold, I came out to take minutes and participate in Spokes Council. I could have been in bed, or curled up watching a movie, or going out, or doing the things other girls my age are doing. But I chose to volunteer my time for the cause because it means something to me. It means a lot, actually. I have been involved with OWS since October 10. I came down to Zuccotti and saw a community of people passionately engaged in trying to change the world. But who were also beginning by building a community based on love, respect, and cooperation. I was stunned by this spirit of togetherness. I had never seen anything like it and I immediately felt embraced like never before.
Since then, I’ve thrown myself into OWS, participating in countless marches and giving 4 or 5 nights a week to attending GAs and Spokes Councils. No, I was never an occupier. Yes, I have a day job. But I’ve also spent many hours of each working day researching, reading about, and tweeting about OWS and editing minutes. It has become my life. I have been an activist in other causes (marriage equality, animal rights, food policy) but I’ve never “joined up” with such an all-encompassing, once-in-a-lifetime revolution.
Tonight, as at many GAs and Spokes Councils, things got contentious. Mostly because of the same few agitators who always cause problems and refuse to respect our agreed-upon process. It’s disconcerting because there are SO MANY crucial issues that the movement as a whole needs to focus on. I thought we were all here for the same reason: “Shit is fucked up and bullshit.” Right? The corporations have completely overtaken the political process and therefore every aspect of our lives. They have turned the country into a place where the common man’s concerns are not looked after and in fact he is overtly screwed by the politicians he puts in place because those people don’t answer to him but to corporate interests. There’s a lot more to our “platform,” but that’s the core, as I understand it.
One thing I have loved about OWS is that I’ve met people I might not have normally. We, at our best, have had fresh, open conversations about our differences, and the consensus process forces us to resolve them. In theory, everyone has a voice. We all win. We all come together.
What I experienced tonight was a culmination of many of the Spokes Councils I’ve been to, where a few vocal people take control by shouting (against our principles) and we have no effective way to deal with them. But tonight (a night I thought would be warmer, being that it is almost Thanksgiving), things turned even darker. Once again, the race issue was raised by the historically marginalized among us. And I respect what they have to say. I really do. I wish they could state it in keeping with the process we agreed upon, but they don’t. Instead, a few of them tend to shout over everyone. And tonight, they chose to express their ire at “white people” again and again, very disrespectfully. Which is fine … to a point. But they started accusing Finance of being corrupt because it happens to have a lot a white males involved in it. Same thing with Facilitation. I was called a bitch for being the girl taking the notes who happens to have an (old-ass, janky, given-to-me) laptop. There were repeated calls of “white people, step back!”
The thing is, this is a (painfully, sometimes) open movement. If you want to join Finance, you could do so. Same with Facilitation. Same with Minutes. It’s easy to sit back and shout epithets. It’s harder to be really engaged. The people I’ve seen at Spokes Council are, yes, probably majority white or Latino. But when you assume things about us because of the color of our skin, you are denying the very accepting principles of our movement.
So, to the unendingly shouting guy sitting behind me who assumed I am privileged because I am white:
I was raised by a single mother making $15,000 a year. I’m pretty sure we were below the poverty line at many times. Yes, I have a graduate degree. That came on loans and via jobs and at the expense of my financial well-being for basically the rest of my life. I declared bankruptcy last year because I had $75,000 in credit card debt, due to the nefarious schemes of the credit card companies, to give me a card at 18 on my college campus and continue to reward me for overspending by raising my limits, and then charging me 25% APR for years when I couldn’t make minimums. What did I put on my credit cards? My rent. My groceries. Cheap clothes. This went on for years, as I had to explain to the bankruptcy judge. I still have $50,000 in student debt. Tonight, when you were assuming I’m a privileged white girl and questioning my involvement in this movement, I have $40 in my bank account. Many people my age have homes and cars, things I can never possibly fathom.
So I fight. Not for me, although I am demonstrably part of the 99%. But for people even worse off than me. For all of us. For you. For me. But when you call me out, when you disrespect all of us who are here fighting so hard on behalf of people who aren’t among the 75 people at Spokes Council, when you lose sight of the larger goal because you’re so focused on your own prejudices and bullshit. … you make me want to leave. And that’s sad. Because, as another fed-up white woman said tonight, she didn’t come here for this. She came here to make things better. And when we’re infighting and name-calling, there’s no way for us to focus on making things better. I love you, OWS. I just don’t know how we can move forward when we allow such unfounded, irresponsible division. Tonight, I feel defeated. I feel disappointed. I don’t know how to move forward. I am sad.
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