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Open Letter to Occupy Wall Street On Police Brutality
By: Black Canseco
Dear Occupy Wall Street:
Police brutality in America did not begin with you. It’s older than you, older than your encampments and older than your sudden awareness of it.
As one of the 99% you claim to champion, I for example, have seen police brutality firsthand throughout my childhood and my adult life right on to this day. As an African American male I have seen what happens when you occupy black skin in the presence of a police officer. I’ve buried friends who were shot by police despite having broken no laws. I’ve seen police batons and fists, backs of squad cars and squad car hoods used as weapons—not because I or my fellow African Americans were protesting or making any public statements, but simply because we were breathing and existing outside our homes.
As one of the 99% you claim to champion it’s my belief that Occupy Wall Street’s best hope of addressing police brutality is to first understand that police brutality did not begin with any occupation movement nor has it ever been limited to the parks, college campuses and gatherings where you are.
For every OWS encampment there have been hundreds of unarmed Black men have been shot by police—sometimes in the back for occupying little more than their own skin. For every OWS participant that has been pepper-sprayed there have been hundreds upon hundreds of African American who have been beaten by police often within their own neighborhoods. For every OWS participant that’s been zip-tied and carted off to jail legions of African Americans and Latinos have been unfairly prosecuted and excessively sentenced by local, state and even federal courts.
But until OWS protestors were exposed to police mistreatment it was a complete and total non-issue for the Occupy Movement. There was no outrage from current OWS supporters when even the most famous of police injustices occurred. Unfortunately it has taken the faces of victims of police brutality to become Whiter, seemingly more educated, seemingly more “mainstream” for police brutality and injustice to even register as blips on OWS’s radar. (And don’t think that this obvious and observable fact has been lost on the millions of people of color who have yet to join the occupy movement.)
In the days and weeks since many of the police vs. OWS confrontations I’m not surprised by the lack of calls to “#OccupyTheCops”, “#OccupyTheCourts” or “#OccupyThePrisons” as policing issues most OWS participants must deal with in their communities or daily lives beyond their OWS protest activities.
But let’s be clear: There’s no greater injustice than being so selfishly blind as to selectively claim suffering or fight suffering only when doing so benefits your agenda while willfully ignoring that very same suffering as it festers elsewhere around you. Police injustice is not something any one or any community should be subjected to. But there's something distateful and alienating about seeing folk scream about something that we normally have to beg them to even passingly acknowledge.
To that end, I strongly encourage those in the Occupy Movement to take a long hard look at the issues of Police brutality not just as it relates to OWS, but as it continues to impact the 99% you so proudly fight for.
UPDATE: In previous a version I claimed that 1 million out of 312 million was .0032, Many I've noted that it's actually .32%. The piece has been updated accordingly.
You Are Not The 99 Percent, but You Could Be.
by: Black Canseco
Dear Occupy Wall Street,
For 45 days and counting most of you have braved weather, media scrutiny, and lately, police opposition to boldly proclaim yourselves “The 99%” and stand up to the 1%. Just one problem: You are not the 99%. Not even close. You don’t speak for the masses of America.
Now as part of America's 99%, allow me to explain:
According to the US Census Bureau, as of November 1, 2011 there are an estimated 312,540,000 people in America.
Now given the perceived bias of corporate media and other forces possibly at play towards OWS, let’s go only by #OWS numbers for discussion. Based on info and estimates directly from #OWS participants that I’ve regularly spoken with from #OWS encampments in LA, Oakland, NYC, Chi, ATL, there are, at best, about 5,000 participants at any given time at any given #OWS encampment. But also for discussion's sake, let’s assume that even these first-person anecdotal estimates are low—by half; let’s say that there’s actually about 10,000 OWS folk encamped/publically protesting in each of our 50 states. Or better yet, let’s again double the estimate and assume there’s 20,000 people in each state marching, sitting, camping out in the name of all movements, “Occupy”.
So 20,000 folk x 50 states is roughly 1 million people. That’s 1 million out of America’s population of 312 million-plus citizens. Folks, that’s not 99%. That’s not 9%. That’s not even 0.9%. In fact, 1 million out of 312 million is exactly .32% of America’s current population as of this November. So yea… Zero Point Three Two... Percent. That’s what Occupy Wall Street really comes down to: Thirty-two tenths of a single percent of American people. But then again, “We’re the 32tenthsOfAPercent!” doesn’t look as good as a URL or twitter handle. Definitely doesn't look as sexy as "We Are The 99%" does on a t-shirt, either.
Now to be fair, maybe my math is faulty. Maybe Occupy Wall Street’s participant numbers are bigger than anything I’ve seen online, bigger than anything being reported by the co-opted press, and bigger than anything I’ve seen live. But even if you doubled the most generous of accepted calculations a couple more times, one thing’s empirically certain:
A good 99% of the country isn’t out occupying anything beyond their own daily lives. And one big reason for this may well be the fact that OWS hasn’t really engaged the actual 99% much at all.
There are 311 million people out here. WE are the real 99% and OWS has largely ignored us in favor of coalescing with each other and yelling at three comparably smaller albeit exponentially more influential groups—i.e. the Obama Admin (roughly 100 members deep) & The US Congress (about 538 deep) and “Wall Street” (a few thousand folks at best) about how you’ve finally had enough of all of them. It’s like the old 300 movie—a few noble souls vs. the savage gluttonous hordes backed by their foul masters. But lest we forget: The Spartans didn’t actually win it themselves. In fact—all other historical conflations aside—it wasn’t until an additional army of reinforcements joined the fight that the Spartans won.
So instead of camping outside of office buildings—where OWS' presence has not altered, delayed or impeded one single business transaction—why not focus on the actual 99% out here? Why doesn't hit up neighborhoods, churches, schools, townhalls, etc. and physically recruit the average American? Why not knock on your neighbor’s door and ask them to join OWS; and when they say “why?” make your case as to why they should.
You’ll find that many of us agree with OWS. We want corruption out of politics. We want to feel like we’ve got a fair chance at a good job, a good living and a home. We want affordable healthcare along with an affordable comprehensive education. We want all these things and more. But most of us simply don’t know enough specifically what Occupy Wall Street is all about and want to learn more before we act. And of course some of us don’t support OWS and won’t no matter what you say or do.
But again OWS needs to make the case to us of how taking to the streets, camping in parks and outside of random businesses that don’t have traditional retail models that would be threatened by mass demonstration will actually help accomplish anything?
Explain to those of us with jobs, who could get fired for participating in an Occupy Wall Street encampment why we should risk our livelihoods for OWS in its current incarnation.
And please: Don’t fall back on attacking those of us who aren’t cheerleading OWS movement or packing up our sleeping bags and drums. Stop accusing us of being conservative plants, TeaParty sympathizers, delusional Obamabots or too scared-lazy-to-act. Don’t play the George W. Bush trope of “You’re either with us or you’re against us”. Instead, see us for the intelligent, reasoned, equally human, and equally deserving citizens that you see yourselves as and make your case for gaining our support.
Personally, I just want some answers worthy of action. And again, OWS: at this point you are exponentially less than 1% of the US population. You need our support. But if you don't value us enough to speak to us and engage us, then you are not us and will never be us. WE are the 99%. Not you, but US. So while you, the .32% are claiming us, know that you don’t own us anymore that the 1% does.
So OWS, come talk to us. We, the 99%, are waiting.
Last August Glenn Beck rallied between 200,000 and 500,000 people (depending on whose estimates you trust) in Washington DC and stood up and claim MLK, Jr's famed "I have a dream" moment in history as nothing more than a foundation for his own.
It's been a year since he did this:
A long, grinding, aggitating, divisive, delusion-filled, combative year since Glenn Beck decided that he and his over-whelmingly white brood of crazed Tea Party drones and spoiled elitist white conservatives were the rightful heirs to a movement about providing equal rights to African Americans and marginalized people of color in America.
A year since this a**hole stood up and said no, no you black and brown people... you got it all wrong. Lemme tell you what America's really all about. Lemme tell you what Martin Luther King really meant. Lemme tell you what Civil Rights and just and equality are truly about. Because you don't know. You've been fooled. But God sent me here to tell you the REAL truth.
This effin' guy.
Take a quick reminder of just some of this differences between King and Beck:
Look at what Beck and his ilk have done in the last year and you tell me how much honor has been restored in America and to the idea of a land that works for everybody.
On this day in 2003, America the longest serving congressmen in US history in Strom Thurmond. Thurmond was 100 years old when he died--in congress.County his time as Governor of South Carolina (1947-1956 followed by his time in the US Congress (until 2003), Thurmond served over 50 years in elected office. That's the good news.
The bad news? Well, ummm...
In case you missed that, lemme repeat it:
“ I wanna tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that there's not enough troops in the army to force the Southern people to break down segregation and admit the niggra race into our theaters, into our swimming pools, into our homes, and into our churches."
Strom wasn't the most open-minded guy in the world.
And by "everyone" I mean, tens of thousands of people that you'll never meet in places you couldn't quite honestly care less about. Today was no different. Depending on your age and interests, you probably didn't know that Liz Claiborne, famed fashionista passed away on this day back in 2007. Or that one of baseball's greatest who went by the name of Roy Campanella died on this day back in 1993. Or that Strom Thurmond kicked in 2003...
Those names probably mean little to nothing to most of us.
But chances are, someone that at least one of you out there cared about passed away on this day. And for you, no matter how few you are or where you are, I leave you with this jewel courtesy of another soul who moved on on this day back in 1997—Mr. Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwoʻole...
Michael Jackson would've been 53 years old today. And we may or may not still be laughing at his plastic nose, pet monkeys, weird house, massive debts and any adult dumb enough to leave their kids with him for more than 5 minutes at a time...