There are two parts of the article that need to be highlighted.
It seemed as though the protesters confidently marched into Harlem without taking into account the city’s tense race relations, particularly in Harlem, which has been undergoing a radical demographic shift for the past decade, or so, leaving black households sometimes in the minority.
But where the protesters stood, 6 in 10 residents are black, and many have long witnessed the president weather attacks, some valid, but others rooted in ugly, undeniable racism (see: Show Me Your Birth Certificate).
There was little room for nuanced debate at the Apollo protest, and to many Harlemites, it appeared as though a bunch of people, most of them white, had shown up simply to give the first black president a hard time. The Obama-as-Hitler banner seemed to seal the deal. After all, calling one’s political opponent “Hitler” doesn’t really leave much room for intelligent debate.
[…] whenever America congratulates itself on becoming post-racial, we should all enjoy a good, collective laugh. There are deep, profound racial injustices in this country, which ironically, OWS was hoping to discuss at the protest. Stop And Frisk, widespread unemployment in the black community, and the subprime disaster are all byproducts of institutional racism.
However, when a majority-white group plans to march into Harlem, site of arguably the most important black cultural renaissance in US history, and “educate” its citizens about the poor decisions of the first black president, there needs to be some community outreach done beforehand. Otherwise, there’s zero room for discussion, the whole thing dissolves into a screamfest, and if the LaRouchies show up, man, it’s over.
Side-note: Accusations of the white, male hijacking of Occupy have been prevalent for a while, and the issue is complicated. The media did a very poor job of highlighting a variety of OWS voices, particular those of women of color, leading many to believe there simply aren’t Occupiers of different races, which is patently false. However, as one long-time OWS supporter told me last night, white men do have a habit of deeming themselves facilitators at Occupy meet-ups, which gives the false impression that OWS is led by white men simply because, in that moment, a white man chose to seize power and lead. In his words, it’s “like witnessing the mindset behind colonialism.”
Second, there is a direct correlation between Occupy’s popularity and the timeline of Obama’s reelection bid. Everyone loves dissenters when they don’t threaten the system’s normal state, but as we near election time, Occupy’s presence at Obama events will be less a novelty and more a very real threat, especially in the minds of diehard Obama supporters (in Nov 2011, black voters gave Obama a 91 percent approval rating).
Last night seemed a failure of imagination: failure on the part of Occupy for underestimating tense race relations and Obama fervor leading up to the re-election, and failure on the part of some Harlem residents to imagine that maybe - just maybe - Obama hasn’t made stellar decisions at every turn.
I strongly suggest that you take the time to read the whole article. It brings up some good points.