If we take President Obama at his word when he challenged the Congressional Black Caucus to press on for fairness, then the Occupy Wall Street protests taking place across the country are exactly what the president is asking for and needs, a mass movement against financial and political institutions that behave as self-imagined kings and emperors have always behaved- as rulers of the populace. The tens of thousands of people we saw marching tonight, all colors and all ages, truly represented the 99% who refuse to live only in service and indebted to the richest 1% and the systems they control.
What we saw marching and chanting down Broadway in lower Manhattan, represented yet another progressive movement standing against an exploitive economic system.
The abolitionist movement against slavery was a threat to the financial interests of everyone involved in that major economic engine and wealth creator of the time, a system that produced 60% of the entire nation’s exports, the capturing and enslaving of African people to work the land stolen from the Indigenous people.
To stand in opposition to that many-tentacled economic system which controlled laws and punishments, required a movement of heroism by whites and African-Americans, the story of which has not been told widely enough.
But today, the enslaving is much more subtle and certainly more diverse, causing a full spectrum of people to see their future being taken from them and controlled by others who mean them no good. People are seeing the sudden explosion of debt and interest as new kinds of shackles created by the banking system and requiring a new wave of abolitionists, transitioning from freeing Africans from the economic system of chattel slavery to freeing the 99% (themselves, us) from the financial slavery of a system that has destroyed the economy, left millions of families devastated and has not been held responsible for their actions.
But now the rulers have overreached with their successful faux populist Tea Party strategy, but that creation of the Koch brothers and Fox News could never mount the kind of mass demonstrations we’re seeing across the country, or anything like the solid blocks of people we saw chanting down Broadway. And now these tech-empowered citizen activists are intent on reworking and bringing into account a system that is recognized as enslaving everyone in support of a ruling elite.
The story of the abolitionists of old was not just of John Brown at Harper’s Ferry and Harriet Tubman camped in the woods. It was of hundreds of thousands of sympathizers and community activists, working and helping locally, defying laws and risking jail and fines that saved thousands of enslaved Africans and helped spur Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.
And now we have demands and pleas to an African-American president to save the general population from the economic slavers represented by Wall Street. To claw back the money they’ve taken from the system with a new tax code, and to save the nation from those addicted to an insatiable need for more, and redirect the nation from a warring, polluting, financially-driven path, one that is humanity-centered and sustainable direction.
The people are more powerful than money but they have to come out and be counted. That means the jobless, homeless, the poor and the middle class. Students, construction workers and those in office cubicles, have to heed President Obama’s call to the Congressional Black Caucus to remember the Civil Rights Movement where, “in the face of troopers and tear gas, folks stood unafraid… ..I expect all of you to march with me and press on. Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on.”
Frederick Douglass, an escaped African-American and abolitionist leader, famously said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never has and it never will.” President Obama is saying the time has come to make the demands. They people agree and they are making their voices heard.
The question remains what does this movement mean for African-Americans beyond the “rising tide lifts all boats” refrain. African-Americans have two and more times the unemployment of whites, a fraction of the wealth and none of the privileges from centuries of injustice.
It would not be uplifting for this battle to be won leaving whites even more empowered to come into African-American communities able to “gentrify”, because they still benefit from the economic legacy of chattel slavery, the history of racism in financial and criminal justice systems, and the current financial onslaught that has created home-buying opportunities.
African-Americans need to be a part of this economic abolitionist movement to ensure that it isn’t just some chains that are thrown off and that everybody gets free, by including debt abolishment and an economic justice strategy of jobs, business-building and the economic and social empowerment of communities of color.
If the Occupy Wall Street Movement continues to gain momentum and is targeted in its demands and voting, then in his second term, President Obama may find that he will be forced by popular sentiment to become known as the second Great Emancipator, freeing the population from the slavery of the banking system and the financial tyranny of the 1%.