The progressive organizers of the Occupy Wall Street protest have spurred furious internal protest over the role of nonwhite protesters and women, and over the significance of non-economic political goals in the movement, a cache of internal emails released Monday shows.
The disputes are driven, in part, by organizers’ desire to boost “marginal voices,” marking a shift from older liberal movements which tried to reach their ideal of equal wealth without resorting to racial identity politics.
In New York City, protesters’ daily “General Assembly” meetings allow “marginalized voices” to skip past a line of other waiting speakers, organizer Jesse Myerson told The Daily Caller. When the attendees gather, those “marginalized voices are able to jump the stack (that is, if there are 10 men slated to speak and a woman wishes to join the queue, she is granted a position toward the front of the line, for example),” he wrote to TheDC. (RELATED: OccuList leader excludes white ally to gain union support)
This deliberate promotion of people in one ethnic group or gender over other people reflects the progressives’ criticism of mainstream U.S. society, and their strategy of attracting disparate ethnic, sexual, racial and religious groups to their movement.
“We live day to day in the dismissive culture of american chauvinism, we face insidious forms of outright and silenced discrimination, we are struggling to participate in this occupation so that issues of race, immigration, gender are not sidelined but part of the center core practice of decolonizing wall street,” said a Oct. 5 mailing list message from one of the most vocal organizers, Shaista Husain, a woman who has repeatedly pushed the group to address racial issues and the U.S. war against Islamists.
But there’s pushback from some organizers who want Occupy Wall Street to reach out to non-white demographic groups while also keeping their political focus on banks and other economic drivers.
One organizer who calls herself “Mae” scorned the group’s insistence on enforced diversity and group representation. “I am a nonwhite person (Puerto Rican) who never fills out surveys that ask me to specify my ethnicity,” she wrote on Oct. 8. “There are people in the world who could give a crap abt reporting their race/ethnicity, or who deem it something to pay attention to. I am here to make a change for everyone.”
The group’s insistence on diversity has also caused some organizers to complain that the growing movement will lose focus as its goals are broadened.
“I have argued that we could make the one demand – get corporate money out of politics – and many of the other issues would, and should, be resolved in a real democracy according to what the majority of the people want v. what will profit the plutocracy greatest,” said a Oct. 4 e-mail from organizer Gail Zawacki. “However there is quite a bit of resistance to boiling it all down to one demand on the part of some of the most active and passionate occupiers,” she added.