Occupy vs. Decolonize vs. Liberate Oakland - Random Thoughts on a Contentious Topic

by Christine G. Cordero on Monday, December 5, 2011 at 1:49am
Approximately 300 of us were freezing out in Ogawa-Grant Plaza this afternoon and into the evening to engage in the proposal discussion to change the name of "Occupy Oakland" to "Decolonize Oakland."  I wanted to just write out my thoughts and feelings from this discussion.  These thoughts are neither in any particular order or necessarily an accurate and comprehensive representation of tonight's discussion.  The  Decolonize Proposal can be found as "Emergency Proposal #3" at http://www.occupyoakland.org/generalassembly/ga-proposals/.

What's interesting is originally (weeks ago), while I was completely supportive of decolonizing our actual movement work, I was ambivalent about trying to get a name change passed through the GA.  To me, the work we did to cultivate decolonization was where we should put our energy.  But as I listened more to why this is such a huge issue for people, I am in complete support of a name change AND in doing the actions to continue to decolonize this movement.

My comments in support went something like this, or would've sounded like this if I had more than 30 seconds:

I am in support of this proposal because it will force us to push the envelope on the conversations around ths movement, as it alreay has today.  We will all have to begin dialogues with our famlies, neighbors, anyone we're discussing "Occupy" stuff with, about why the name is complicated, why this unjust economic and political system is so deeply rooted in colonialism.  The name change will force us to examine our own beliefs in the root problems we're trying to address.  I support this proposal because it has already pushed us past the comfortable boundaries of this conversation.  If you have felt discomfort today, welcome to my [bleepin] world - mine and many other POCs. It is in spaces of discomfort in which we grow, when we challenge what we have been told about who we are and what we stand for.

Some people have said that this is not a time-sensitive proposal.  But I would say that this proposal is about 500+ odd years overdue.  Indigenous people in this country (and many others) have had to deal with colonizers and immigrants language on this issue, perhaps it's time we flip that script.  Frankly, after 500+ years of rape, pillage, and decimation of whole tribes and peoples, a name change doesn't seem like too much to ask of a movement that has already expressed its interest in decolonizing itself.

It is also fascinating to me our emotional attachment to the capitalist concept of branding.  It is my belief that we have for too long been told that things are either this or that, you must choose between packaged choices a, b, or c.  We are a culture that wants fast answers, and clear winners and losers to cheer for or demonize.  The reality is, this shit is complex.  I think we (and our fellow masses) have the capacity to hold the comnplexity of Decolonize/Occupy/Liberate Oakland.  It's not as if there are so many other populist movements happening right now that they will confuse us with.

I have a deep respect and love for all of us who have been struggling for the 99% since before this "movement" even officially started and those of us who just started.  And we all continue to show up in many ways.  This movement does not make or break on the name change, but it can bring us steps closer to being radically inclusive, and ground our actions in a strong analysis around how colonialism, capitalism, and state power are interconnected.

I left the GA unsurprised by the 190/90 breakdown in a vote that did NOT pass the name change.  I also left satisfied knowing that conversation needed to happen, and needs to continue to happen, as we transform and grow ourselves and this movement.

And now, random stuff I heard tonight, and my personal talking points moving forward:

"We are distracting ourselves with semantics."

This is MORE than just semantics, it is more than words (if I can get 90s Extreme ballad on it).  We are talking about an intentional process that recognizes the long history of colonialism and its present impacts on indigenous communities in particular and communities of color generally: workshops, challenging our language and messaging, and reframing our relationships to each other.  The experiences and wisdom of those most impacted by the 1% is CENTRAL to our work, not some side distraction.

"We should be spending time actually doing stuff instead of talking about name changes."

We need to be doing direct action AND talking about all of this.  These things are not mutually exclusive.  Many of us have been, are, and will continue for years doing the direct actions and the work to keep fighting the 1%.  But we also need to have these critical conversations about the diversity within the 99, and those hit the hardest, for years, long before Adbusters came up with the OWS slogan.  It matters who we can pull in to actively engage with this movement.

"Decolonize is divisive."

Occupy is divisive already and not including whole swaths of people.  Decolonize and liberate are TRANSFORMATIVE.  Difference, diversity, and change aren't divisive.  They're necessary to keep growing this movement.

There's more, but now I'm tired.  Congrats if you made it to the end.  With all my heart, I hope we continue to struggle in unity and build together.  I believe too much in our potential to walk away.  But I need you to hear me, to see me, to know me, and walk with me.

from https://www.facebook.com/notes/christine-g-cordero/occupy-vs-decolonize-vs-liberate-oakland-random-thoughts-on-a-contentious-topic/10150432719618221

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