"It’s not so good to refer to what you’re going to do as a sit-in. That right there castrates you. Right there it brings you down. What goes with it? Think of the image of someone sitting. An old woman can sit. An old man can sit. A chump can sit. A coward can sit. Anything can sit. Well you and I been sitting long enough, and it’s time today for us to start doing some standing, and some fighting to back that up." - Malcolm X, The Ballot or the Bullet, 1964Though the Occupy movement is waning or regrouping, depending on who you ask, it is failing to deliver substantial change. While protesting has merit and can garner publicity to a cause, it is not a means to an end, but a means for someone else to act, and in the United States and in Canada no one is. For the Occupy movement to achieve change, it itself must change, and what better movement to emulate than the Civil Rights movement.
Occupy Wall Street and its subsidiaries cannot be compared to the Civil Rights movement that occurred in the United States however that movement led by Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and others certainly had methods that the group of Occupiers today should borrow if they truly want to end the great income disparity between the rich and poor, corporate subsidies, lobbying and corporate political campaign fundraising.
The Occupy movement has validity in its pursuit of ending corporate greed, especially as corporations are currently limiting investment while at the same time still benefitting from government funding and tax incentives, but the methods Occupiers are using are ultimately ineffectual.
The very term "Occupy" inspires the criticism Malcolm X levelled against the peaceful sit-in's that many African American church leaders promoted in the fifties and sixties. The remarks Malcolm X made calling for less sitting and more acting are perhaps even more valid today than they were then. Where before the issue was almost entirely political, today the problem is just as much political as it is economical, and in economics action ultimately determines everything.
The Civil Rights movement utilized methods that should be used by the protesters today, with which they can stop merely occupying a park and start making a difference.
Boycotting was an important and successful tool used repeatedly against policies of segregation, most notably with the Montgomery Bus Boycott after the arrest of Rosa Parks for her refusal to move to the back of the bus. Operation Breadbasket was as an organization to utlize strategic boycotts to improve the living conditions of African Americans. The creation of African American-owned banks was also instrumental in providing equality in financial services and in providing opportunity to alleviate poverty through loans and mortgages.
The Occupy movement should boycott corporations that practice unfair business practices or corporations that value only greed and ignore social and national welfare. The Occupy movement should create its own institutions, be they banks or otherwise, or support and strengthen those institutions they agree with. But no matter what lesson they learn from the Civil Rights movement, to paraphrase Malcolm X, Occupiers have been occupying long enough, it's time today to start doing some standing and fighting to back that up.