A racial justice case for economic competency

There is a worthwhile open letter on racialicious about the whiteness of the Occupy Wall Street movement. The phenomenon of white men leading the movement is fairly predictable. The fact that the movement has a strong anarchist contingent makes it even more predictable: anarchist subcultures are almost entirely white and heavily male from what I have seen.

But that aside, the most interesting part of the letter comes at the end:

We believe the white people of #OccupyWallStreet need to understand something: the feelings of economic insecurity, political powerlessness, and lack of support that have brought so many of us to the protests at Liberty Park have been lived by many of the people of color in this country for centuries.

To me, this is the best case for individuals interested in racial justice to become passionate about or at least competent in economic issues. Most racial justice advocates certainly recognize that economic problems like poverty and other forms of inequality disproportionately affect members of oppressed races. The 9.1% unemployment rate that people have been screaming about is actually lower than the unemployment rate typical in the Black community.

Despite the overwhelming importance of economic issues to racial justice — as well as gender justice and GLBTQ justice — precious little time is devoted to those issues among radical or leftist communities. Sure, you have some fairly superficial capitalist critiques. Someone might talk about wage slavery or whatever. That is all well and good. But I am talking about diving into some of the more boring, but arguably more practically important, issues like the Federal Reserve’s inflation target or monetary stimulus.

I don’t know if economic and monetary policy is too boring or has been coded as too white and too male, but the neglect of those issues is a serious problem for radical communities. Most in the community can usually talk about financial institutions stealing from people, but precious few can really go into the technical details of how it is done.

That is not to say that all racial justice advocates need to be able to explain what the Fed’s Operation Twist was and the theory behind it — people specialize in different things. But, I do wonder if the time spent reading yet another article or book on problematic language that is racist or marginalizing (which invariably says almost nothing new) could sometimes be better spent on becoming more competent on economic issues. You know, for the sake of pursuing racial justice.