What if the left had a revolution, and only whites came?

Answer: if it were today’s left, they would call the revolution off.

Here’s some comic relief for this dreary day on the East Coast. As shown in the below story from today’s New York Times (“Occupy Wall Street Struggles to Make ‘the 99%’ Look Like Everybody”), the left is all bent out of shape by the preponderance of middle class whites and the lack of nonwhites at Zuccotti Park. (Note: when I visited Zuccotti Park two weeks ago, there seemed to be plenty of nonwhites, and the whites didn’t seem middle class at all.)

In the opening paragraphs of the article, notice the cockeyed logic, a logic normally employed against Republicans and tea partiers, but now brought into play against the left itself. The absence of blacks and Hispanics at the Occupy Wall Street protest, at least in its earlier weeks, is presented in such a manner as to suggest that OWS was somehow keeping blacks and Hispanics away. In reality, of course, the reason blacks and Hispanics weren’t at Zuccotti Park was that blacks and Hispanics hadn’t gone to Zuccotti Park. How did the white people who were at Zuccotti Park get to Zuccotti Park? They went there. But because blacks and Hispanics didn’t go there, that is somehow seen as a reflection on the whites who did go there, rather than on the blacks and Hispanics who didn’t go there.

It’s the same with the left’s constant indictment of conservatives and Republicans for not having enough nonwhites in their ranks. The fact that so few blacks and Hispanics vote Republican is portrayed as evidence that Republicans are anti-black and anti-Hispanic (and thus presumptively racist), rather than as evidence that blacks and Hispanics are anti-Republican (as well as pro-Nanny State and, in the case of Hispanics, pro-illegal immigration).

Similarly, the fact that there are so few blacks in intellectual professions is seen as evidence that those professions are keeping blacks out, rather than as evidence that blacks lack the ability or desire to be in those professions.

Similarly, the fact that black pupils are disciplined vastly more than other groups is seen as proof that black pupils are being discriminated against, rather than as proof that black pupils misbehave vastly more than other groups.

And so on.

In any case, it’s enjoyable for once to see the left carving itself into pieces with the knives it normally uses on conservatives and on white society as a whole.

(Comments begin here.)

Occupy Wall Street Struggles to Make ‘the 99%’ Look Like Everybody

Two weeks into Occupy Wall Street’s takeover of Zuccotti Park, a group of Bronx community organizers and friends rode the subway down to Lower Manhattan to check out a movement they supported in principle.

When they got there, they recalled, they found what they had suspected: a largely white and middle-class crowd that claimed to represent “the 99 percent” but bore little resemblance to most of the people in the group’s own community. That community, the South Bronx, is one of the poorest areas of the country and home almost exclusively to blacks and Hispanics.

“Nobody looked like us,” said Rodrigo Venegas, 31, co-founder of Rebel Diaz Arts Collective, a center for political activism and hip-hop run out of a warehouse in Mott Haven. “It was white, liberal, young people who for the first time in their life are feeling a small percentage of what black and brown communities have been feeling for hundreds of years.”

Even as the Occupy Wall Street protests have spread and grown, many critics have pointed to the visible scarcity of blacks and other minorities in the protesters’ ranks, notwithstanding the occasional infusions of color, whether from black celebrities like Kanye West, or from union members who have rallied with the protesters, or from a Muslim prayer service at Zuccotti Park last week.

But that reality has begun to change, with minorities and people of color increasingly taking to the streets, as the movement responds to the criticism that a people’s movement should look more like the people.

A survey conducted at Zuccotti Park by Fordham University a month into the protests, from Oct. 14 to Oct. 18, found that 68 percent of the protesters were white, 10 percent were black, 10 percent were Hispanic, 7 percent were Asian and 5 percent were from other races.

And, many critics have noted, the black and Hispanic protesters participating in the protests have tended to come from the middle class, just as the white protesters have.

The reasons that minorities have tended to be leery of the protests are complex and deeply rooted.

Minority communities, said Gonzalo Venegas, 26, Rodrigo’s younger brother, “have a history of resistance but also a history of fear.” (Both brothers have remained involved in the protests.)

In a cheeky but ultimately serious Village Voice piece on blacks and Occupy Wall Street, the black essayist Greg Tate mused that a blacker protest movement would have drawn harsher treatment from the police. “Thanks to our overwhelming no-show of numbers,” he wrote, “49,000 shots haven’t been fired at OWS yet.”

Some critics have also accused the protesters of being reductive in their claim to represent the majority and oblivious to their own privilege, and argue that racism, rather than capitalism, continues to be the main problem for many minority Americans.

In recent weeks, though, minority leaders have begun to rally for wider participation of people of color, and groups like “Occupy the Hood,” started by a man in South Jamaica, Queens, have begun to boost their presence both online—Occupy the Hood’s Facebook page now counts more than 8,800 supporters—and on the street. A “People of Color Working Group” has been meeting regularly at Zuccotti Park.

Outside Manhattan, Occupy the Bronx has held rallies near Fordham University and Yankee Stadium, and Queens residents are planning a march in South Jamaica on Saturday, to “symbolically reclaim” foreclosed houses. Earlier this week the N.A.A.C.P put out a statement in support of Occupy Wall Street, which is planning a civil rights rally and an event with Harry Belafonte over the weekend.

Associated protests like recent ones in New York against the police’s stop-and-frisk policy, at one of which the the black author and activist Cornel West was arrested, have also drawn their energy from Occupy Wall Street and forged ties across color lines.

When race has come up at Zuccotti Park, it has sometimes been a fraught and delicate subject.

Sonny Singh, 31, a Sikh musician from Brooklyn who joined Occupy Wall Street early on, recounted the scene in Zuccotti Park the day the general assembly drafted its “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City”—the closest thing to a political manifesto the protesters have put out thus far.

Mr. Singh said that he and a few other “brown” people at the assembly were appalled by what was going to become the first paragraph of the declaration: “As one people, formerly divided by the color of our skin,” the document began, “we acknowledge the reality: that there is only one race, the human race.”

“That was obviously not written by a person of color,” Mr. Singh said, calling the statement na├»ve. “Race is a reality in the lives of people of color, you can’t put out a statement like that without alienating them.”

Mr. Singh and others pushed back, and eventually got the phrasing changed to be more sensitive to racial realities within the movement. They also kept returning to the protest, and started the People of Color Working Group, which states as one of its goals working toward “a racially conscious and inclusive movement.”

The group’s meetings have been “the most multiracial, people-of-color space I’ve worked in since I’ve lived in N.Y.C.,” Mr. Singh wrote in an e-mail. Between 50 and 100 people have consistently attended, he added, with 170 people at the largest meeting.

Patrick Bruner, a member of occupywallst.org’s press team, agreed with early criticism of the movement as not diverse enough, but said things had improved.

“I think that at the beginning this movement wasn’t as diverse as we would have liked it to be,” he said. “Everyone realized it was an issue and we all worked very hard to solve it. Our diversity has grown very steadily, at the same rate as the rest of the movement as a whole.”

Groups like the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective said they had noticed the change. “The energy this movement has been creating is going to spread,” Gonzalo Venegas said. “We are not playing a game of ‘we are suffering more than you.’ We want to build with them.”

Frank Diamond, a 26-year-old Haitian-American from Jamaica, Queens, who was holding an “Occupy the Hood” sign at a recent rally, said that many working-class blacks who had originally watched the protests from a distance, were starting to realize they should join.

“It takes a wave to realize that the boat you have been riding is too small,” he said. “We need to be represented here too. This is about us, too.”

- end of initial entry -

Kristor writes:

Sadly, also, women are no doubt woefully under-represented in the leadership ranks of the OWS organizations.

Ken Hechtman writes:

I don’t know, it looks to me like Occupy Wall Street walked head-first into this line of criticism.

They could have defined their movement by what they want. That’s the way it normally works. But they deliberately didn’t do that. Instead they decided to define themselves by who they say they represent and they decided to define that in the most ambitious way possible—“the 99%”.

The burden of proof is on them. Especially when they’ve given the world nothing else to engage them on except “Are they really who they say they are?”

To say “OWS was somehow keeping blacks and Hispanics away” is putting it stronger than necessary, and I suppose that’s your point. Obviously, there was never a gatekeeper standing at the entrance of Zuccotti Park telling blacks and Hispanics to go home. But that’s never what anybody means when they bring this question up.

What they usually mean is “Is this yet another example of young, college-educated lifestyle activists designing an organization where everything is inside the comfort zone of other young college-educated lifestyle activists and nothing is inside the comfort zone of anybody else?” Just to list some of the obvious ones:

  • Do meetings run into the early hours of the morning, long past what anybody with a job and a family can sit through, because it takes five hours to make a five minute decision? Is the place full of mentally ill people who have nobody to listen to them at home? Is there some shared understanding of radical inclusiveness that means nobody’s allowed to shut them up no matter what?

  • Does everybody talk in an incomprehensible mix of activist and academic jargon? Do they all use goofy childish hand-gestures?

  • Is the campaign about what it’s about or do you also have to agree with every other activist cause under the sun from Palestine to gay marriage?

  • If you’re white, do they make you sit in an “oppressor caucus” and engage in Maoist self-criticism? If you’re black, do people fawn all over you in really embarrassing and self-conscious-making ways?

  • Is the campaign even promoted at all outside the activist internet echo chamber? How would somebody who’s not already in the right Facebook/Twitter/etc social circles find out about it? How would someone not on Facebook/Twitter/etc at all find out about it?

  • Is it possible that being at an event with these people will lead to getting arrested without warning, which will lead to spending two or three workdays in central booking, which will lead to getting fired?

If you let young college-educated lifestyle activists design a movement in their own image, a lot of people are going to be underrepresented, not just blacks and Hispanics, but certainly blacks and Hispanics among them.

LA replies:

But how did the young college-educated lifestyle activists (if that is what the predominant group were, which I’m not convinced of) set the tone at Zuccotti Park? Because when the Occupy Wall Street protest began, and got lots of news coverage, more people came and joined it and swelled its numbers. Evidently the people who joined it and swelled its numbers were white, and so, being white, they did things in a way that created a “comfort zone” that would be comfortable for people like themselves. If blacks and Hispanics had come down to Zuccotti Park in its early days, then they would have set the tone and created an environment that was more conducive to blacks and Hispanics. But they didn’t come down. And the fact that they didn’t come down is blamed on the people who did come down. Which is ridiculous and shows the absurdity of the left and makes me hopeful because it suggests that today’s left is incapable of doing anything effective.

Your more subtle charge of “comfort zone” bias, which you offer in place of the more extreme “OWS was keeping blacks and Hispanics away” charge which I suggested the left is using against OWS, is analogous to the “cultural bias” charge which liberals today offer in place of the old fashioned “crude racial discrimination” charge. But, as with the charge of “cultural bias,” the charge of “comfort zone bias” still comes down to blaming whites for something that is not their fault. But hey, I hope your side keeps doing it. Instead of using the false charge of racial discrimination to delegitimize and paralyze the West, the left is now using the false charge of racial discrimination to delegitimize and paralyze itself. I’m all for it.

Paul K. writes:

It seems to me that OWS is largely a protest by leftists dissatisfied with the Obama administration’s failure to implement a sufficiently left-wing agenda. Blacks, on the other hand, are still loyal to Obama because he is black and not a Republican, so they have no reason to join such a protest. Racial solidarity is more important to them than the fact that Obama has not improved their lot. As far as Hispanics, what motivates them to rally besides calls for increased immigration and ethnic festivities such as the Puerto Rican Day parade?

LA replies:

In other words, the motivating leftist impulse that got OWS started did not happen to appeal to blacks and Hispanics. So it wasn’t OWS that excluded or failed to be sufficiently inclusive of blacks and Hispanics; it was blacks and Hispanics who (drum roll) weren’t interested in what OWS stood for.

This is a simple manifestation of normal human differences. But the left cannot allow normal human differences to exist and express themselves. With regards to any given activity or organization, the left requires that all human groups (or at least all human groups on the left) be included and given an equal voice. Which makes any organic development of a human activity or institution impossible. And in this case, this leftist requirement is making the development of a viable leftist movement impossible. The left have been hamstringing the mainstream society for the last 40 years. Now they’re hamstringing themselves. I’m all for it.

LA adds:

At the same time, I acknowledge Ken Hechtman’s point that by saying that what it stood for was the “99 percent,” OWS did open itself to the charge of being non-inclusive. But this just adds to the fun. What is “the 99 percent” but a hyper version of the usual leftist song to inclusiveness? And, as I’ve been saying, the more inclusive the left claims or seeks to be, the more hamstrung it will be by the requirement to include everyone equally. Mr. Hechtman doesn’t like silly egalitarian gestures that slow up meetings and make decision making impossible. But the more inclusive you are, the more you will have to have those silly egalitarian gestures. And no one is more in favor of inclusiveness than Mr. Hechtman, whose aim is a borderless Brotherhood of Man in which sharia following Muslims and homosexuals and transgendered married couples and old-time leftists and people of every race, creed and color all walk together hand in hand.

D. Edwards writes:

You write:

“the left is now using the false charge of racial discrimination to delegitimize and paralyze itself. I’m all for it. “

Have you heard of Blair’s law?

Blair’s Law

Coined by Australian journalist, Tim Blair, as “the ongoing process by which the world’s multiple idiocies are becoming one giant, useless force.”

1. The alliance between the radical Left and extremist Islamists is an example of Blair’s Law.

2. The fact that white supremicists like David Duke supported ‘Mother’ Sheehan’s sit-in at Crawford, Texas is an example of Blair’s law.”

Ken Hechtman writes:

You wrote:

But how did the young college-educated lifestyle activists (if that is what the predominant group were, which I’m not convinced of) set the tone at Zuccotti Park? Because when the Occupy Wall Street protest began, and got lots of news coverage, more people came and joined it and swelled its numbers

I have a slightly different understanding of the timeline.

July 13: Adbusters magazine makes the initial call-out and launches the initial organizing website. Have you ever seen “Adbusters”? They’re the people who do “Buy Nothing Day” and “TV Turnoff Week.” They have this very hipper-than-thou, more-postmodern-than-thou, Stuff-White-People-Like sort of aesthetic. So if Adbusters only puts out the call in the pages of their own magazine it’s only it’s going to get answered by the kind of people who read Adbusters. It’s not going to work out any other way.

August 2: The first organizing meetings are held through “New Yorkers Against Budget Cuts.” Now who are they? They were an ad-hoc group built around the August 2 debt ceiling deadline. The best that I can tell is they were mostly a student group with some union support and some Trotskyite camp followers.

August 23: Anonymous (the guys in the “V for Vendetta” masks) pick up the call and publicize it through their channels. Again, that reaches a very specific kind of person (radical anarchist politics and exceptional technical skills) and nobody else.

Sept 17: First event on Wall Street draws 1000 people. Up to this point there’s been no news coverage because nothing has happened yet.

Sept 17-24: First week of occupation. Numbers are 200-300 people staying in the park all night every night, rising to 1000-2000 for publicized events. Press coverage is minimal. Not a “blackout,” not a feeding frenzy either, but about what an event that size deserves. It’s only at this point that you can even ask the question “Why aren’t blacks (or whoever) not coming down and joining the group on their own?”

Sept 24: A senior police commander is recorded pepper-spraying four pretty white girls. The video gets posted and linked to and talked about. Press coverage begins to ramp up.

Oct 1: Police arrest 700 protesters on the Brooklyn Bridge. Press coverage is now wall-to-wall.

Oct 1—Oct 29: The numbers haven’t swelled. This is an important data point. I want to draw attention to it. Even after four weeks of wall-to-wall press coverage, most of it favorable, there are still 200-300 people sleeping in the park overnight and 1000-2000 at advance-publicized daytime events. The campaign has become something people (white and black) watch on television. It hasn’t become something people join.

LA replies:

This is an interesting and useful account, but I don’t think it affects my point. In order for this protest to come into existence, it had to come into existence as something. It couldn’t be everything. It had to be something. And that something happened to be this combination of Trotskyites and radical anarchists. And that’s not something that would appeal to blacks and Hispanics. If the idea had been from the beginning, “We’re going to start a protest that will include all groups equally,” nothing would have happened. The principle of inclusiveness is contrary to the principle of existence.

Ken Hechtman continues:
I should probably be more clear on the last point.

What you describe is how it’s supposed to work. A campaign starts, it gets press coverage, all kinds of people see the press coverage equally. Some of those people decide on their own to join the campaign. And they’re going to self-select, so you can’t do all that much to affect which ones they are. A single issue group, say, one focused on the narrow issue of student debt, can probably leave it at that. A coalition that claims to represent everyone in the country who isn’t a Wall Street banker really can’t just leave it at that.

But Occupy Wall Street’s real problem is something bigger. The process you describe didn’t work for them at all. It didn’t just fail with blacks. It failed across the board. Their numbers haven’t gone up at all as a result of the news coverage. Right away, that’s a red flag. Right away, you have to ask why that is. Is it the case that besides having the same numbers as day one, they also have exactly the same make-up as day one? I don’t know the answer but I’m glad someone is asking the question.

LA replies:

Are you saying that the 200-300 staying overnight in Zuccotti Park remain Trotsykites and radical anarchists?

Ken Hechtman replies:

I’ll guess most of the Trotskys pack up their literature tables at night and go sleep on clean sheets. That’s more their style. But the people in the park all night every night, those are most likely going to be anarchists, multi-issue activists and student radicals (some overlap between the three).

They’re most likely not going to be people with jobs and families who who saw this thing on the news two weeks ago and had never thought of going to a protest before that. I can’t prove that but I’d bet a reasonable amount of money on it.

Compare Wall Street with Tahrir Square. The Egyptian movement was designed to grow. It had one clear, specific, lowest common denominator demand (Mubarak must resign). Everybody knew what it was and everybody could sign onto it and everything else was set aside to maintain unity. As a result, you could watch the Egyptian movement grow from a thousand people in the street to a million in 18 days. You could see it grow in scope too, starting with the students, then the far-left, then the unions, then the Muslim Brotherhood joined in, then the middle-aged middle class who had never been to a protest before and finally the army came down on their side, all in less than three weeks.

It’s not working that way in New York. I’m not saying Occupy Wall Street was deliberately designed to stagnate. But the outcome wouldn’t be any different if it was. There are 15 million people in the New York media market. Almost all of them can get to lower Manhattan by public transport, almost all of them must have seen at least one favorable news story in the last four weeks. If this thing was going to grow it would have happened by now. The copycat events in other cities don’t count. All those prove is that there’s a few hundred punks and hippies and anarchists in every city in America and they all have internet access. They don’t prove that the idea and the commitment to do something about it is spreading outside the circle of punks and hippies and anarchists.

Ken Hechtman continues:

You wrote:

Mr. Hechtman doesn’t like silly egalitarian gestures that slow up meetings and make decision making impossible. But the more inclusive you are, the more you will have to have those silly egalitarian gestures.

My experience is exactly the opposite. I even stated it for my activist friends as Hechtman’s Law: Diversity times Democracy equals a constant. In other words, even if you hold both diversity and democracy as values, in practice they trade off against each other.

Quaker consensus works best in a group, well, kind of like the Quakers. One shared culture. One shared ideology. Lots of shared experiences and lots of shared unspoken assumptions.Everybody knows and trusts everybody else. Most of them are related by blood. Turnover is minimal to zero. Everybody has has a long term commitment to the group as a whole. The cost of an individual leaving the group is painfully high. Same way, the cost of the group keeping an individual member permanently unhappy is also painfully high.

A small group of anarchists that all have the same background and all work on one thing over a period of years can operate this way, with or without the silly hand gestures. The editorial collective of a magazine is the example that springs to mind. But every time you relax one of the assumptions listed above, every time you grow the group in scale or scope, your direct democracy is going to work less well. Relax all the assumptions, throw different languages and races and religions into the mix and there’s no way I’d want to use anything but a very streamlined form of representative democracy.

James N. writes:

How’s the weather in Zucotti Park tonight?

October 30

Mark Jaws writes:

As for all the talk about inclusiveness, the fact is that if non-whites had been included in the OWS Movement from its infancy in numbers that would have reflected the population of lower Manhattan, there would have been far more rapes, robberies, and all sorts of mayhem causing these perturbed people of pallor to beat feet out of there. Because for all of their chest pounding about “inclusion” and “diversity,” young white leftists everywhere normally choose to live in the lilly fields rather than put down stakes in the the Hood or El Barrio. Here in the DC area, young white liberals NEVER opt to live in black DC or black Prince George’s County. Oh no. White liberals live in surrounding white areas such as Arlington, Fairfax, or Loudon Counties.

This tendency to avoid people of color is the reason the leftist “Revolution” will never take place. Because as much as even white liberals pretend otherwise, deep down inside “race matters.”

Furthermore, today’s blacks and Puerto Ricans do not particularly enjoy camping out and sleeping in a tent. Black comedians talk about this all the time. Sleeping in a tent when the temperature falls below 60 degrees is definitely something that only white people dig.

Bill Carpenter writes:

You should make Ken Hechtman an honorary traditionalist. Hechtman’s Law, Democracy x Diversity = Constant, can also be stated as Diversity = Tyranny, because the lack of common values and common culture makes cooperation, mutual trust, and compromise impossible, necessitating authoritarian government and the end of ordered liberty under self-government.

October 31

Mark Jaws writes:

This was a great thread, Don Lorenzo. But could you please ask Our Most Esteemed Mr. Hechtman just what exactly did he mean by “streamlined form of representative democracy” when he wrote the following?

A small group of anarchists that all have the same background and all work on one thing over a period of years can operate this way, with or without the silly hand gestures. The editorial collective of a magazine is the example that springs to mind. But every time you relax one of the assumptions listed above, every time you grow the group in scale or scope, your direct democracy is going to work less well. Relax all the assumptions, throw different languages and races and religions into the mix and there’s no way I’d want to use anything but a very streamlined form of representative democracy.

Ken Hechtman replies:

Some streamlining techniques I’ve seen over the years:

1. Simultaneous whisper translation. Same low-tech idea as the “people’s microphone.” If you have to conduct a meeting in more than one language, you don’t stop and translate everything from the stage. You get everyone who needs translation into a particular language to sit in a huddle around an interpreter who translates in real-time. Everyone who wants to address the group does it in the language they’re most fluent in, not in a language they have to struggle with. Used by: Quebec anarchists, immigration/refugee activists.

2. “Does anyone require the vote?” Any non-controversial housekeeping resolution gets dispensed with by the chair announcing what it is, asking “Does anybody require the vote?” waiting two seconds and then pronouncing it passed. You can also do this for a substantive resolution that nobody was willing to argue against, on the assumption it’ll pass unanimously. Used by: Quebec unions and older-generation activists, Quebec Solidaire.

3. “Everything needs to be said. Not everyone needs to say it.” Once three people each have spoken for and against a motion, the debate is automatically closed. It takes a majority vote to extend debate at that point. It should go without saying that the motion to extend debate is not itself debatable. Used by: Project Montreal.

4. A motion to call the question is always in order and may be made at any time, by anyone in the room, whether they have the floor or not. A motion to call the question will almost always pass. This is because there’s always a majority in favor of dispensing with the motion on the floor and getting that much closer to their own pet issue. The NDP uses this at policy conventions. It’s not one of my favorites because the potential for abuse is high.

5. “The matter is delegated to so-and-so, to report.” Once it becomes clear that the group does not have the information it needs to make a decision and is arguing in circles because of it, the motion is tabled and a single person is given the job of looking up the relevant facts and figures and reporting them at the next meeting. In the age of laptops and smartphones, this one is less necessary than it used to be.

6. “The matter is delegated to so-and-so, with power to act.” Instead of debating every possible contingency of a delegated task in advance, this is a way for the group to tell one member “You volunteered to do this, we’re giving it to you, we trust your judgment.” No one uses this anymore. I discovered it in a set of hundred year old hospital archives.

7. Put time estimates next to each agenda item. That way you know early on if you’re on track to finish on time. And always announce in advance that the meeting must end on time. Tell “em a wrecking crew is coming to demolish the building and everyone has to be outside by 9:00 sharp. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. Student groups use this one because they book campus rooms and it’s always plausible to say “The University needs us out of here by X o’clock.”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at October 29, 2011 04:36 PM | Send

Email entry

Email this entry to:

Your email address:

Message (optional):