Why is Occupy Wall Street 'overwhelmingly white'?

Occupiers claim to represent the "99 percent" — but the movement's demographic makeup isn't exactly a reflection of our multicultural nation

UC Davis Occupiers
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Occupy Wall Street seems "like a movement that would resonate with black Americans," says Stacey Patton at The Washington Post. The unemployment rate for blacks is nearly twice that of white Americans — 15 percent versus 8 — "and blacks have a rich history of protesting injustice in the United States." And yet a recent survey suggests that African Americans, who make up 12.6 percent of the nation's population, represent just 1.6 percent of Occupy Wall Streeters. Why aren't blacks joining the anti-bank movement?

Black leaders deserve some blame: Black churches, which helped "end segregation through meetings, marches, demonstrations, boycotts, and sit-ins," have largely been silent on Occupy, says Patton at The Washington Post. Plus, civil rights organizations like the NAACP and the United Negro College Fund "appear to be selling out black America for corporate money," worrying more about wooing major donors than sticking up for ordinary black Americans. "We can't expect our civil rights organizations and political leaders to help blacks rage against the corporate machine when they are part of it."

"Why African Americans aren't embracing Occupy Wall Street"

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Occupy has failed to reach out to blacks: "The faces of stark economic injustice are not downtown in Zuccotti Park, but uptown, stranded on Harlem's street corners," says Hanqing Chen at Policy Mic. Zuccotti, which had a "kitchen, phone-charging station, and comfort station," was home to "pampered middle-class workers play-acting poverty." Let's quit "fetishizing Zuccotti Park" and start actively spreading Occupy's principles to lower-income, minority communities, "the bottom half of the 99 percent."

"Occupy the hood: Why OWS needs to focus on communities like Harlem"

Plus, Occupiers' sense of martyrdom insults many blacks: "Police brutality in America did not begin" with Occupy, says BlackCanseco at Angry Black Lady. "I have seen what happens when you occupy black skin in the presence of a police officer." For every Occupier howling about pepper spray, there are "hundreds of unarmed black men" who've been unjustly shot by the cops. It's "selfishly blind" that such incidents don't "even register as blips on OWS's radar." And don't think this glaring fact "has been lost on the millions of people of color who have yet to join the Occupy movement."

"Open Letter to #OWS: 'Oh, so NOW Police Brutality matters?!'"

Why are we assuming blacks even want to join Occupy? Patton suggests that blacks have somehow missed the boat by failing to join Occupy, says Ann Althouse at her blog. But it borders on offensive to assume that an Occupy movement sparked by "left-wing economic ideology" would beckon to blacks the same way the civil rights protests of the 1960s did.

"Occupy Wall Street is 'overwhelmingly white'"

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