Strength in Numbers: Similarities Between Social Movements

The iconic Gandhi statue near the entrance to #Occupy Boston at Dewey Square. Photo by Jeffrey S. Juris.

Since the founding of our country hundreds of years ago, strikes and protests have been taking place with various social or economic objectives. Typically spurred by some sort of injustice, these movements have mobilized the masses to fight for the change they so desperately want to see. Ever since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, immigrants and minority groups have seen increased hate, discrimination, and injustice. This lead to the rise of many immigrant organizations who join people together to march, rally, strike, and protest in an attempt to achieve the equality they deserve (Zlutnick, Sen, Liu). The objectives of these immigrant rights movements are quite similar to those of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which targets Wall Street and the role of the 1% in creating inequality and leading to some of the ills of the 99%. Michael Novick believes that the immigrant movements go far beyond just rights for immigrants and said “it’s for labor rights, for economic and social justice, for economic equity, and for peace” (Zlutnick, Sen, Liu).

While it may be easy to put each movement into specific buckets, like Occupy Wall Street being about income inequality and immigrant movements being about ethnic discrimination, in reality they are much more similar than different. Both movements are about justice and equality for all. While this connection has been made in many places (the two groups joined efforts in New York), it has unfortunately not been made everywhere. For example, the two movements held separate events on the same day in Los Angeles.

While the specific mechanisms that cause suffering differ from community to community, I believe that the same mechanism more often than not leads to a wide variety of ills. In my opinion, it is rather juvenile to believe that economic inequality is completely detached from ethnic inequality and thus treat them as separate issues. The key word here is inequality. Both groups, both causes are fighting for the same basic human right of equality. If only more movements could see how interconnected they are with other causes, they could join forces, and with more numbers and more strength, significant change like we’ve never seen before could take place.

Works Cited:

Zlutnick, David, Rinku Sen, Yvonne Yen Liu. “Where’s the Color in the Occupy Movement? Wherever We Put It.” Colorlines, May 1, 2012.