New line: Occupy Wall Streeters all about “enforcing diversity”

posted at 2:45 pm on October 18, 2011 by Tina Korbe

These Occupy Wall Streeters really don’t know what they want. That’s been the criticism from Day One — but, recently, their message seemed to be a pretty clearly-intoned redistributive one. That’s still true as far as it goes — but, for some protesters, it’s just not enough.

According to a cache of e-mails released Monday (what some are dubbing “OccuList”), at least a few prominent organizers want to push identity politics along with (or at the expense of?) the group’s purported main message. The movement in New York City has even adopted its own little affirmative action system. The Daily Caller reports:

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. …

“Diversity advocates” within the movement have also formed a “people of color” subcommittee to brainstorm ways to ensure that the popular image that emerges of the protesters is a diverse one. (Never mind that, with spokesmen like Edward T. Hall III, the image of the protesters was already quite colorful.) Check out the oh-so-creative ideas of one such diversity advocate, Shaista Husain:

On Oct. 7 Husain railed against a promotional poster showing a powerful, tall woman striding across New York City. “Can you put some dreadlocks on her, does every female the represents this movement have to be visibly white?” she demanded. “PERHAPS and now im [sic] begging you comrades, its so real it f***ing hurts, can we get some people of color visibility.. AT LEAST ONE poster that reflects this? I bet you it will be so celebrated!!! Perhaps an indigenous woman? PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE> [sic] folks.. Thanks!!!”

Setting aside Husain’s evident eloquence and precise punctuation, can we celebrate the originality of her thinking for a second? Dreadlocks? An indigenous woman? Those aren’t stock images at all.

Funny — just when I thought I couldn’t disagree with the premise of the protests any more, I find I can. To me, identity politics are the very antithesis of equality before the law — an equality that properly is based in the personalistic norm, the idea that a person is a person is a person, that a person must never be used as a means to an end. How is it not use to slap stereotypical images over a protest movement to make the protest appear to be something it’s not?

Some of the OWS protesters see that and have fought to retain control of the group’s messaging.

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.”

I choked a bit when I read “give a crap” — with these protesters, I can’t help but take that literally – but, otherwise, well said, Mae. I disagree with the change you’re trying to make, but at least you’re not into discriminating (excuse me, “enforcing diversity”).


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