Once again there is debate on the nature that mass rebellion should take as anger grows in the face of colonial, economic, racial and gendered violence. On three occasions in the last year—the first Oscar Grant uprising, the recent UC Berkeley protests and now the takeover of Hwy 880 in Oakland—the race, class and gender of those who participated in the rebellions has come under fire.
On all three occasions individuals have tried to denounce these rebellions as white, middle class outsiders “leading” the youth of color. Reports and analyses from the first two uprisings have already exposed these assumptions as completely false:
Regarding the UC Berkeley occupations (also relevant to the Oscar Grant uprisings):
The reality is that the rebellions are more nuanced and complex than the caricatures drawn by those who choose to censor them as “extremist” and “violent”, without questioning their very deployment of these terms. On what basis are these individuals concluding that all the people involved are white, heterosexual and male when footage and first-person accounts reveal otherwise? On what basis are they assuming the people involved are necessarily middle-class or strangers to Oakland?
Individuals who were not a part of the rebellions, and have accepted the police discourse of “outside agitators” predictably disseminated through the corporate media, make these so-called observations. In contrast, accounts from the protesters themselves speak to the heterogeneous character of the crowd, made up in part by poor, queer, women, of color. To erase their presence and agency only replicates an established tradition in History.
A recent article by Nico Dacumos stated, “At issue here is not so much the political ideology of mostly white black bloc anarchists, but the ways that their incitement of actions here in Oakland speaks to an entitlement and privilege that makes them think it is okay to encourage people of color, mostly African American and Latino males, to engage in ‘violent’ forms of protest when they are already groups targeted and abused by the police.”
All of the same empty criticisms we encountered in previous rebellions are re-articulated in this one sentence. Not only is it a problem to assume that the people of color in the protests are led blindly, but it is also ridiculous to suggest that street rebellions are the purview of the white and middle class.
Is it not true that poor black and brown people have led the largest and most influential street rebellions of the last 50 years? In a 1968 speech, Stokely Carmichael stated, “A lot of people in the bourgeoisie tell me they don’t like Rap Brown when he says, ‘I’m going to burn the country down.’ But every time Rap Brown says, ‘I’m going to burn the country down,’ they get a poverty program…[applause]…they get a poverty program…”
Frederick Douglas tells us that power concedes nothing without a demand: Street rebellions force the establishment to yield to the demands of the movement or be faced with an ungovernable, rebellious populace. In short, stopping highway traffic in protest of the dismantling of public education was a smart move and we support it with no caveats.
-The Raider Nation Collective