Readers whose memories extend back to those days when Tea Party protests were springing up across the land can probably also remember the howls of accusatory rage that went up from the mainstream media about the relative paucity of African-American faces in Tea Party crowds.
Many a brow was furrowed in concern, many a chin was earnestly wagged on the subject of Tea Party racism. Did Blacks avoid Tea Party events, the press wondered, because racist Tea Partiers kept them away, or because Blacks were smart enough to realize that the Tea Party agenda was a racial hate and oppression agenda?
Here at Via Meadia we have been noting the relative plenitude of palefaces at the OWS protests and the protesters we personally know have tended to be of the upper middle class white liberal artsy type. We have waited for the wave of investigative journalism seeking the reasons for Black absenteeism — but so far we have been disappointed. Black failure to attend right wing demonstrations appears to be a mysterious matter demanding detailed investigation, but there is nothing to discuss when they shun left wing ones. Moreover, a relative absence of Black faces in right wing crowds clearly demonstrates the racism of both the protesters and their ideas, while an absence of Black faces in left wing crowds means — absolutely nothing.
An observer from Mars would find this confusing. Noting that the overwhelming majority of American Blacks vote for liberal and left wing candidates, the Man from Mars would expect exiguous Black turnout at right wing demonstrations and on the other hand predict substantial Black support for left wing events. More, the Martian would note that while many Tea Party protests took place in suburbs far from the homes of inner city Blacks, OWS protests are more conveniently located in urban areas with large Black populations. To a Martian, “Blacks Skip Remote Wingnut Shoutfest” is not news, while “Blacks Boycott Nearby Moonbat Hootenanny” is.
Evidently, that shows how little Martians know. The fearless, unbiased, super-intelligent and well credentialed people who make up our mainstream media investigated endlessly why Blacks did not attend inconveniently located rallies whose principles they generally do not support, and glossed blandly over their absence from close by rallies in support of principles that, at least in theory, they love. Via Meadia sometimes wonders how we would ever survive without the ceaseless labors of the genteel, bien pensent press. It isn’t easy to maintain an air of sophisticated wisdom while ignoring big honking obvious facts, but our journalistic establishment gets this done every day.
Now, buried on Thanksgiving weekend, the Washington Post is poking delicately at this unpleasant subject. (The ever-alert Glenn Reynolds spotted it at Instapundit.) African American memoirist and abuse survivor Stacey Patton writes that there are several reasons why Blacks, who make up roughly 12.6 percent of the population, make up only about 1.6 percent of OWS protesters.
The racism of OWS protesters seems to be one important factor.
“Occupy Wall Street was started by whites and is about their concern with their plight,” Nathalie Thandiwe, a radio host and producer for WBAI in New York, said in an interview. “Now that capitalism isn’t working for ‘everybody,’ some are protesting.”
Many Blacks are turned off by OWS events, writes Patton, because OWS protesters did nothing as long as only Blacks experienced high unemployment and economic marginalization. The American left’s deep seated and racist indifference to Black pain, in other words, permeates a protest movement the white left thinks is the most exciting American social movement in decades.
But there is more. Part of it, says Patton, is what she regards as the demonstrable corruption and incompetence of Black political leadership. She does not have much use for the Black establishment: the Congressional Black Caucus consists largely of cynical hacks in the pockets of big corporations, the Black church is in terminal decline and can no longer turn out the troops, and the civil rights establishment has tossed a whole race under the bus in order to grub for donations from the alcohol and tobacco companies who make money off the poverty and misery of the Black masses. Oh, and Black entertainers are also selfish and horrible.
But there is also the question of effectiveness. Many Blacks, Patton writes, don’t see the point. OWS seems futile and irrelevant to the struggles that shape their daily lives. Patton interviews a Black history professor on this point before shifting back to her own voice:
Is there a chance that the movement can become more diverse? Leslie Wilson, a professor of African American history at Montclair State University, is not optimistic.
“Occupy Wall Street cannot produce enough change to encourage certain types of black participation,” Wilson said in an interview. “The church cannot get enough blacks out on the streets. Some students will go, but not the masses. Black folks, particularly older ones, do not think that this is going to lead to change. . . . This generation has already been beaten down and is hurting. They are not willing to risk what little they have for change. Those who are wealthier are not willing to risk and lose.”
Black America’s fight for income equality is not on Wall Street, but is a matter of day-to-day survival. The more pressing battles are against tenant evictions, police brutality and street crime. This group doesn’t see a reason to join the amorphous Occupiers.
All told, it’s an interesting piece. Apparently we have a corrupt and incompetent civil rights leadership and the Congressional Black Caucus is just as bad. The white left is both racist and ineffectual, largely indifferent to the suffering of people of color and incapable of developing a coherent strategy for social change that speaks to the needs of the poor. All told, this does not look like a group we need running the country. I hope Michael Moore doesn’t read this piece; his head might explode.
So the left is corrupt, clueless and racist, then. But Ms. Patton clearly prefers them to the right, which suggests that her view of the human condition must be bleak indeed. It’s almost enough to make you wonder whether fighting for “social justice” and “equality” will ever lead to utopia, the human race being so selfish and flawed. The left is horrible, the right is worse, the Black establishment consists of corrupt and timeserving hacks who throw a whole race under the bus in exchange for donations from tobacco companies.
With these views, all Ms Patton needs is a conversion experience to make her a religious conservative more at home with Edmund Burke than with any of America’s modern political movements; regardless of that she succeeds in illuminating some of the fractures and tensions in the American left that seem likely to limit both the reach and the effectiveness of OWS.