The following is a guest post from Michael Siegel, a National Lawyers Guild member, Occupy Oakland supporter, born-and-raised Oaklander, and would-be decolonizer. He’s twittering @OaktownMike.
This coming Sunday, at 2:00 p.m., the Occupy Oakland (OO) General Assembly will consider a name change, proposed by an OO caucus representing people of color and queer people of color. The suggestion is that we rename our movement “Decolonize Oakland.”
The proposal reflects an attempt to bridge the gap between the Occupy Oakland movement and various deeply rooted Oakland communities. This gap has been reflected in the use of the term “Occupy” itself, which carries heavy echoes of the legacies of imperialism and colonialism. The gap has also been reflected in the makeup of OO, which often skews towards a vocal white, male constituency. Unfortunately, some individuals have been unable to recognize the critical contradiction in their approach, in which they are claiming to be agents of social change but are failing to account for the heritage of white supremacy, patriarchy, and genocide in this country.
Critics of the “Decolonize” proposal have questioned the need for this conversation. Others have stated that the proposal is a distraction, and might be better deferred to a later time.
In response, I would say: what conversation is more important than building trust and camaraderie between people of color and white folks, in furtherance of the collective movement for economic justice?
And what better day to begin this conversation than December 4, 2011, forty-two years after Fred Hampton was assassinated by the FBI and Chicago police?
Fred Hampton was a shining star in one of the most important revolutionary social justice movements in this country’s history. Many of the activists in Occupy Oakland hope that they, too, are part of a revolutionary movement for social change.
We can’t hope to build a broad, powerful movement, however, unless we are able to engage and unite with the diverse communities that are impacted by the capitalist system here in the United States.
In making the “Decolonize Oakland” proposal, our brothers and sisters in struggle have created an opportunity for understanding, respect, and mutual support and aid. This is a tremendous moment, one that could facilitate a powerful and enduring movement for social change.
I look forward to the conversation we will have on Sunday, and to working together to decolonize and liberate Oakland and beyond.