Occupy Memphis: The Embodiment of a “Memphis Mentality”

Posted on December 11, 2011 by


Occupy Memphis Marchers at the National Civil Rights Museum

Is it true that the best way to learn something is to break it apart? A little boy’s curiosity grows as he plays with his new toy but he inevitably and suddenly breaks the toy apart so that he can see how it works. He does this, knowing deep inside that he might never be able to put that toy back together again. If the toy has a spirit, then it was consumed by the little boy. It was left broken, without a soul.

Could this analogy be applied to the community’s faith in Occupy Memphis? After over two months of occupation, has the toll of time made its mark on this local movement?

From the fresh days of excitement to today’s tough questions of moral fortitude, Occupy Memphis is now hovering far too close to decline. In the beginning were the ideas of organizing, learning, connecting with the broader movement, and absorbing the meaning of the Occupy movement. Those who considered themselves occupiers found a sense of belonging and felt the nostalgic breath of the civil rights era. The working groups, caucuses, teach-ins, actions, marches, tents, and the infamous General Assemblies (GAs) all gave this 21st century movement a sense of purpose as occupiers around the country railed against inequality, the love affair between politicians and corporations, and a great divide between the 1% (richest and most powerful Americans) and remaining 99% of the American population.

Occupy Memphis and Mid-South Peace and Justice at the Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Mountain Top Monument”.

Occupy Memphis now isn’t a micro-cosmos of Memphis but, it is a mirror of what is known to many as the “Memphis Mentality”. The demographic make-up of Occupy Memphis is just the opposite of Memphis’ true demographics. The male/female ratio is in proportion, but that’s all.

 Then, there’s another matter: homelessness. Over 70% of those who are known as physical occupiers are also homeless. These occupiers spend nearly 100% of their time at the occupation on Civic Center Plaza, a dynamic that draws sometimes unwanted hidden elements.

What is the “Memphis Mentality”? It is a mindset that goes back centuries. Here it is: The best way to judge, if one is in a judging situation, is by flesh. One flesh is better than another. The rich are better than all others. If one is down on his/her luck it’s his/her fault. Education is a sign of intelligence. The world is flat and viewed from one’s residential block. Collectively, stop anyone who’s aggressive and is about advancement.

The junction where Occupy Memphis and Occupy Wall Street clash is the “Memphis Mentality”.  Race is everything in Occupy Memphis, from its occupation on CCP to its website and forum.  Racism means “right” versus “wrong” flesh and “wrong” flesh would be everything about one’s physical self. Whatever “wrong” flesh does creates a heightened sense of concern and alertness from “right” flesh. This heightened concern is new to Occupy Memphis but the impact is the same as that for hundreds of years.   “Right” flesh actually feels as if it must have something to do about any goals, dreams, and aspirations of “wrong” flesh, and that “right” flesh must direct “wrong” flesh in all quarters of life, acting as if, left alone, “wrong” flesh would destroy itself.  This freakiest of relationships is another legacy of American slavery.

Teach-In Poster about racism

The “Memphis” way of doing things affects everyone. In most situations these ways directly affect those who are of the “right” flesh by their refusal to accept the behavior of their sisters and brothers who despise those who perpetrate right and wrong based on flesh.

How to turn Occupy Memphis around and save its valuable contributions to the Occupation movement?

Several steps would be needed to complete the reform. First, all decision-making must include opinions and views of everyone. Second, when s/he who are of the “wrong” flesh makes his/her claim, everyone must listen. Third, everyone must uphold those original fundamental principles of fairness and equality created and established by Occupy Memphis and Occupy Wall Street. Fourth, stop the online censorship.Fifth, give-up the “I am in charge attitude”. Lastly, everyone must routinely visit OWS website so that all are abreast of changes and things that would make for a national occupation “common sense”.