The Message of Protests is Clear

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  • There’s a lot of unrest abroad, at home, dissention in the air.

    And, of course, over the past week, we’ve been rocked by a number of high profile deaths… civil rights activist and professor, Derrick Bell, civil rights activist and pastor, Fred Shuttlesworth, and technologist Steve Jobs.

    We’re living in pretty tumultuous times with so many things coming at us on a daily basis that can often leave us overwhelmed, unfocused or unclear. In fact, the protests that started a few weeks back in New York’s Liberty Plaza and that are growing around the country under the name ‘Occupy Wall Street’ have been criticized by a number of media outlets who claim the protestors are ‘taking on too much,’ or that they lack leadership, a clear vision and a singular focus.

    I actually think such criticism misses the point. While the protestors generally claim to represent the “99%” or the vast majority of Americans suffering from the inequitable policies of our financial and political institutions, at least one message is coming across very clear.

    People are fed up and things have got to change. And this message, if nothing else, is crystal clear.

    What is also clear is that these protests are starting to actually look more like 99% of America. More African Americans and Latinos have recently been joining in, as have a number of unions.

    A few days ago, a new group called Occupy the Hood joined in the mix after its organizers saw the lack of representation of people of color. The just-formed group already has close to 4,000 followers on Twitter, (@OccupyTheHood), which makes sense given that the group’s organizers have pointed out that inequitable policies on Wall Street and in the banking industry have had an especially tragic impact on communities of color in the form of foreclosures, defaulted loans, joblessness and depressed local economies.

    So the dissention is real and it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down any time soon, even if it takes on another form at some point. The energies and discontent brought about by years of economic neglect, political gridlock and corporate greed are upon us.

    As a lawyer, of course, I am pledged through my profession to support law and order. But you’ve heard me say before, Tom, that if you want the people to value law and order, then law and order has to value the people.

    The same goes for the major institutions in this country. Be they our banks, our political institutions, or our corporations. If they don’t respect the people, then the people won’t respect them.

    Given that America was founded on such a revolutionary ideal –can you say “no taxation without representation”—it should not come as a major surprise that people are now taking to the streets to protest social inequity and a financial system that is clearly profiting while most Americans are clearly suffering and if many of us don’t have jobs, well then, guess what? It means more of us have the time to protest as well.

    I’ll leave you with this 19th century Thomas Carlyle quote that still speaks to our modern condition:

    “A man willing to work, and unable to find work, is perhaps the saddest sight that fortune’s inequality exhibits under this sun.”

    Until next time, this is Stephanie in love and hope.

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