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Systemic Racism and the Occupy Movement.

It is crystal clear that systemic racism exists.  It seeps through every pore in our society. It infects every social relationship.  It obviously affects Occupy Detroit.


Everyone knows the wealth divide, the incarceration numbers, gentrification, the education gap and more are part of the class and racial oppression of the United States.  All this is obvious.  More politically contentious matters are the social interactions, which are racialized in negative ways in society and specifically in Occupy Detroit.  It is always painful, because at best we hope movement spaces are places where people can finally engage with one another on universal-human terms.  However, it is not a surprise that even in movement spaces people experience systemic racism.  Our society is saturated with it, so to expect non-racialized human relations in the movement would be Utopian, and I’m not a Utopian I’m a Social Democrat. As a Social Democrat my wish for Occupy Detroit is to acknowledge and address systemic racism by


•holding government accountable to the needs and will of the people


•representing and advocating for the needs and will of ALL people, not just the wealthy and privileged, and not only those who agree with my politics.


•envisioning and enacting new social, economic, and educational models that serve the public’s real needs, according to the public’s own determination of our needs.


I would like to emphasize my stance that the system of American democracy is still my ideal governance. It is the corruption of this fundamentally good system that Occupy Detroit has the power and imperative to combat.

We have the power and imperative to combat the abuse and infection of unregulated capitalism and racism into the inner workings of the system, and the blatant disregard for the system in matters of resource distribution and policy enforcement.


Occupy Detroit has a more diverse membership than the city itself, which is 80% black. The diversity of our movement has the potential to, finally and profoundly, lift the walls between us, exercise and model real collaboration and exchange between races and economic classes. However, without conscious, compassionate, patient healing and planning, we head down the worn down, tear stained path of bringing all of our invisible ghosts with us into this movement.


It is my belief that without acknowledging that systemic racism also affects each of us personally in Occupy Detroit, in our world views, politics, and daily interactions, we cannot move forward as an effective movement. Whether we’ve learned to see ourselves as a victim, and speak in the passive voice of a victim, whether we stew and fester but remain silent, or whether we speak in the negating tones of white privilege and guilt, we are all in this same sinking ship. You cannot help a community if you do not take time to understand the problems and will of the community. I cannot speak for you if you are not forthright and direct in your beliefs. And the movement cannot have any spokesperson if there is not consensus among us about where we are heading.

In our disagreement and conflict, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we are all creative compassionate solutionaries with the same wish for justice, equality, health and peace.


Today I call on you to name your fears about racism and guilt, face the pain of this conversation, so that we can move forward toward one vision, one strategy, and one clear voice.

The combination of structural oppression based on race ,class and privilege, the history of white supremacy and capitalism, and how that affects people’s interactions with one another, has led to What we are experiencing here today in Occupy Detroit. Systemic Racism


Lee Gaddies Media Coordinator Occupy Detroit


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