Occupied!: I Was Lost
Occupy Wall Street. I wake up in the morning and hear about it on NPR on my way to work. Then I see it on the news on the train to work. I walk in the building and HLN gives me the latest update on the next occupied city while I wait in the elevator lobby. Then I walk into the office and I hear my coworkers talking about the movement at the water cooler.
And somehow, I still didn’t understand what Occupy Wall Street was by the time I got to my desk.
Everyone I ask about this Occupy Wall Street movement tells me that people are mad, people feel tricked and people feel like there is no hope. Foreclosures for Main Street and golden parachutes for our richest and most financially irresponsible executives. Tax cuts for the wealthiest people in the United States and proposed budget cuts on government aid. Yeah shit’s messed up.
I understood it all, and yet, didn’t understand a damn thing. It wasn’t the vague nature of occupiers’ demands or the number of Toyota Priuses I saw at occupy Atlanta that confused me, it was the passion. It was the relentless zeal that the occupiers expressed in regard to the unfair state of the economy and current political climate that confused the shit out of me. As I looked at the #OccupyMy40Acres posts, waiting for a moment of inspiration so I could write this damn thing, I turned in my chair and asked my girlfriend,
“Yo, what the fuck is Occupy Wall Street! Why don’t I understand?!”
She paused Real Housewives of Atlanta, looked at me and said, “Oh, because you’re Black hun”.
It was at that point that I realized that her reply, as perceptible as it may have been, was the answer I had been looking for.
When I was knee-high to a grasshopper, my mother used to tell me that I had to work twice as hard to attain anything that an average white man could. In, fact she told me that until I was 14 years old (I guess I got the point after 8 years). When I was 11, I walked into a grocery store to get some snacks while my mom waited in the parking lot. A security guard followed me through the store, creeping behind me in every aisle. This dude was so sure that I stole something, that he stopped me as I was leaving and started yelling,
“Where are the M&M’s!”
We argued for damn near ten minutes until my mom came into the store and shut shit down. When we got back to the car, no lie, I started crying. I was so angry and felt wronged. My mom told me that, even though it wasn’t fair, my Black ass was going to be followed by whole lot of security guards in my life because of the color of my skin (mocha w/ slightly redish undertone). And she was right. A brotha can’t even buy groceries in the land of the free without being treated unfairly. And as I grew up, it became clear that the odds were stacked against me. The African American community in the United States has had the odds stacked against them. I am constantly aware of the fact that a Black couple with a good credit score is less likely to be approved for a mortgage loan than a white couple with the same score. Numerous studies have suggested that names that appear “ethnic” on resumes have been less likely to get hired. The economic downturn has hit Black people the hardest, with spiking unemployment and foreclosure rates. I haven’t even mentioned things like, slavery or Jim Crow or Reagan yet.
I’m not throwing shade at OWS. I’m a supporter of free speech and equality, I’m Black and I write for a blog. The middle class is shrinking and our wealth disparity is now comparable to some third-world countries. But after I see OWS forums that post graphs like this:
All I can think of are graphs like this:
So, the sudden shock that many U.S. citizens are experiencing regarding any economic or social inequality has already been experienced 10-fold by an average Black person. That being said, I support Occupy Wall Street and I encourage those who can to contribute to the movement in whatever way they see fit. Just know who’s really been on the main street.