I couldn’t go to #OccupyMobile. I wanted to, very much, but I was in the hospital. While everyone was taking over parks, setting up tents and camping out in protest of income inequality, I was nearly wasted away in constant pain in a sanitized bed in a room where everything smelled sterile, drowned in antiseptic. Were I able to attend, anyway, it wouldn’t have been for very long – I am in a wheelchair and camping out in a park, getting out of my chair, sleeping on the ground in a cold and dirty tent, even if I could have gone I couldn’t have stayed – I couldn’t have been a part of this. The privilege of being able to forgo thinking about your health, where you might find a place to sleep or even some flat ground to wheel across is a privilege to which I’ve never had access. From the outset I was stuck “participating” in the movement – since I do believe in a lot of its underlying goals – by going online and reading or writing about it.
For a movement that rests on visibility at parks or other open areas, this isn’t much of a way to participate and to feel welcomed.
It’s bigger than ableism, though.
How many black Occupiers have there been? Not too many. We have a so-called justice system in this country that was formulated at the same time our forebears were beginning to dabble in slavery. This system has for centuries worked to arrest and detain blacks and keep them in prison throughout much of their lives. Three strikes laws and the “War on Drugs” have made it necessary for black people to consider every thing they do very carefully so that they don’t upset the ugly institutions the country was built upon and end up in jail one too many times, or under the batons of some angry white cops; even in so-called liberal cities police violence has always been rampant and extensive. Racial violence and fears run deep. Continue reading →
“This is the defining issue of our time.” He said. “This is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. Because what’s at stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, secure their retirement.”
He’s right. The spread between rich and poor has gotten wider over the decades. And the opportunities for the 99% have become harder to realize.
The President’s speech got me thinking. My kids are no smarter than similar kids their age from the inner city. My kids have it much easier than their counterparts from West Philadelphia. The world is not fair to those kids mainly because they had the misfortune of being born two miles away into a more difficult part of the world and with a skin color that makes realizing the opportunities that the President spoke about that much harder. This is a fact. In 2011.
I am not a poor black kid. I am a middle aged white guy who comes from a middle class white background. So life was easier for me. But that doesn’t mean that the prospects are impossible for those kids from the inner city. It doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities for them. Or that the 1% control the world and the rest of us have to fight over the scraps left behind. I don’t believe that. I believe that everyone in this country has a chance to succeed. Still. In 2011. Even a poor black kid in West Philadelphia. Continue reading →
Ford was the featured speaker at the event held in downtown Fort Smith at the Holiday Inn City Center. He shared his journey from Alltel, a company he was president of from 1996 to 2001, to Westrock Coffee and the Rwanda Trading Company.
“There’s a common denominator (with the Occupy Wall Street movement) that I understand. But what they could learn from Rwanda is this: if instead of being angry, they could figure out how the system works and have an economic impact within that system rather than just a political one, they could actually form the world they want to form,” Ford said.
Ford shared his journey at the event as well as similarities he sees in Rwanda of 1994 and the Occupy movement that has been the subject of national media attention. Continue reading →