Occupy Wall Street has now entered its twenty- seventh day and I must confess that except for an article that discussed the spiritual nature of the movement, I have not been following the demonstration that began on September 17, 2011 in New York City’s financial district. Said to have been inspired by the Egyptian Tahrir Square uprisings and the Spanish acampadas and called to action by he Canadian activist group Adbusters, Occupy Wall Street is described on the Adbuster’s website as “a people- powered movement for democracy in America.” Perhaps, my inattentiveness to their demands is due to the numerous occupations being held in my mind. All are calling for equal treatment and time. But, there is one that I don’t want to occur.
I don’t want race to occupy me. As I was searching a drawer for an unpaid speeding ticket, I came across a sheet of paper where I had scribbled these words. Despite the lack of attention I had given to the actions of those who have gathered in New York City and now Washington, D. C., I couldn’t help but think of the varied ways in which we have occupied spaces in the name of race, the ways in which race has occupied us and how race has been our occupation.
Jim Crow segregation is an example of the occupation of race in America. We held up its signs. We hung them in store windows and above water fountains. We placed them on doors and other pseudo- public places. Today, we hang those signs over our communities, attach them to job announcements and place them on our lives.
Race has been controlling our lives for so long that we have normalized it presence. America is a racialized society; consequently, we live our lives in protest. We don’t walk past each other; we march around each other. We don’t talk; instead, we make demands. We declare war on everything from poverty to drugs to terrorism. Our solution is always to fight about it.
Race is our work and we work at it. We create new stereotypes and prejudices. Each day, we sharpen our divisions and perfect our disagreements. We train the next generation on the traditions of separation and segregation. We pass down our knowledge of race by sharing our stories of its presence in our lives. But, what has been the benefit? What is the pay off for working for race or working at racial division?
I’m tired of the separation, tired of protesting, marching, demanding, segregating. I’m tired of the presence of race and I don’t want it to occupy me anymore.