Is ‘Occupy Wall Street’ Too White?

Are people of color too busy making ends meet to join the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement, or is there a disconnect between progressives and people of color?

With the recession bearing down so heavily on African Americans and Latinos, one would think that the “Occupy Wall Street” protest movement that has spread across the country might appeal to people of color, but they are under-represented, Janell Ross reports at The Huffington Post.

Progressives, again, Fail to Reach Out

“I think that what we see in this movement is really not much different than what you see in a lot of progressive causes,” Julianne Malveaux, president of historically black Bennett College, told Ross. “Progressives frequently are so convinced of their cause and its merits that they don’t do enough to reach out. The problem is if we aren’t there, everybody’s concerns ultimately won’t be addressed.”

People of Color Feel Excluded

Iqua Ukpong, an unemployed visual artist who lives in Brooklyn, told The Grio that she is disappointed, but not surprised that more “brothas and sistas” aren’t represented. “Even though this is a protest for the marginalized … black and brown people feel excluded.”

Ignoring the Link between Poverty and Race

“While the racial dimension of the criminal justice system is obvious to many people, the movement to reform Wall Street may be less so,” said Colorlines publisher Rinku Sen. “In economic justice, it is particularly tempting to ignore the links between race and poverty.”

Too Busy Trying to Get through the Week

“Millions are neither lobbying Congress nor marching across the Brooklyn Bridge; they’re trying to make it through the week without another crisis,” Kai Wright wrote earlier at Colorlines. “They are also overwhelmingly and not in the least bit coincidentally black people. And I suspect that until we build our politics around their participation, we will continue to miss the point.”

Progressive Answer to the Tea Party?

“Occupy Wall Street may be a momentary political side-show, but it has the potential of becoming the Left’s answer to the tea party,” Tobin Grant wrote at Christianity Today. “Both are protest movements aimed at changing who holds power in American politics. The tea party took aim at government overreach; Occupy Wall Street points to the power of corporations.” But does an alternative to the mostly white Tea Party that doesn’t better represent people of color really count as a legitimate democratic alternative?

Stealth Leaders, Spiritual Analysis, No Black Voices

Meanwhile, Cathy Grossman considered the spiritual side of the Occupy Wall Street movement at USA Today, but didn’t include black voices, and Neil Ungerleider traced its “stealth leadership” to the Adbusters collective’s “media savy culture of art student resistance” and the Anonymous collective’s “hacker libertarianism” at Fast Company. Neither group is immediately identified with economic justice for people of color.

What do you think?

Does this movement represent you and your interests or does it seem like a protest for people with little to lose?

About the author, Christine A. Scheller

Christine A. Scheller is UrbanFaith's News & Religion editor. In past articles, she has explored her personal journeys in urban ministry and racial diversity. Email her at cascheller@explorationsmedia.com if you have news tips or story ideas.