(for a limited time – opening up comments – ’cause this is getting a lot of views)
Today’s General Assembly in Oakland was one of the more powerful ones I’ve attended. The proposal to change the name to decolonize Oakland failed the modified consensus vote (68% for approx 32% against, requirement to pass is 90%). The points made by the proponents of the change revealed the depth of experience and social and cultural and political sense that lives amongst the people involves in this movement. It was a privilege to hear so many indigenous individuals express themselves, bringing and sharing their values, history, and traditions.
Why did the proposal then not garner the necessary votes? I addressed some of the issues in my previous post on this topic here. The arguments presented against the name change were basically the same, “occupy” is a brand name, “yes” we are for decolonization, but …, “now is not the time” … or, what does “decolonize” mean etc.
Those against this proposal were not only your usual white liberals, but also included a number of people of color, most notably a number of African American individuals. As such, this makes the actual process of decolonization of #occupyoakland more complex – but the underlying reasons, I think, are the same – way too many people, oppressed peoples, have bought into the notion that they have some sort of an ownership of this land, because they “built this nation.” Believing in such a concept does not lend towards a social-cultural-economic transformation, that so many in the “occupy” movement wish to move towards. One point brought up is that “we” want to “occupy” the seat of power… but while sounding nice, just “occupying” does not really mean anything, if there is no transformative process.
We don’t just want to replace individuals in the seat of power (many liberals/leftists etc. did that a few years back – didn’t do much did it?) What we want is a change that reflects our hopes, dreams, and aspirations. Such a change won’t come about by simplistically “occupying.” Decolonization, on the other hand, not only provides historical context, but it changes the power dynamics of the movement – with decolonization we are placed in a space where we must include a discourse about the process of colonization – in all its dimensions: social, religious-cultural, economic – and what that has meant for indigenous peoples, african-americans, latino/mestizos, asians, and working class whites. Decolonization has a built in process through which we can begin to understand our common history, in North America, and connect at a deeper level with the rest of the planet.