For the past few months the Occupy Movement has been compelling attention for its daring protests across the country, but it has also been receiving notice for the comparative lack of participation from the African-American community. Why has there been such a disconnect? Some are saying it’s because wealth inequality for Blacks has been an issue for years.
On the West Coast, for African-Americans, the response to the Occupy movement is, “Where have you been all this time when we’ve been in crisis?” according to James Taylor, associate professor of political science at the University of San Francisco. Blacks have been feeling pain all along. The fact that a general movement that seeks an alliance with Blacks has only now sprung up undermines that movement’s sincerity and even legitimacy to many minorities.
This view is also shared by some Oakland, Calif., activists like Charlene Adams. Adams and other parents at her child’s school sympathize with the core premise of the Occupy Movement — that the American dream is disappearing because of the nation’s wealth inequality. But they feel that the problem has been a part of West Oakland residents’ lives for as long as they can remember. They believe that few of their Bay Area neighborhoods, who have come to set up temporary tents down the streets from their predominately Black neighborhood, next to the downtown skyscrapers, really feel the impact of the inequality.
"Why don't people come out here and Occupy about the violence in our neighborhood?" Adams told a local San Francisco paper. The 44-year-old mother is not only a project manager at a substance-abuse clinic, but every Saturday she stands on street corners with other members of her church to hold signs asking people to “Stop the Violence.”
Could there be a solution to bridge the gap?
Others believe that there could be less of a disconnect between Blacks and Occupiers if the movement addressed issues that affect a majority of Blacks.
"If they'd talk about" low-performing schools in black neighborhoods, said Phillip Jackson, who has been chronicling Occupy the Hood events in Chicago, Black people would say, "'Wow, now they're talking to us' ... But if you're saying, 'Wall Street hasn't been fair to us' — most African-American folks are going to say, 'What does that mean to us?'”
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(Photo: AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)