Calling people in, not calling out Our focus is on working with white people who are already in motion. While in many activist circles there can be a culture of shame and blame, we want to bring as many white people into taking action for racial justice as possible.
“The battle is and always has been a battle for the hearts and minds of white people in this country. The fight against racism is our issue. It’s not something that we’re called on to help people of color with. We need to become involved with it as if our lives depended on it because really, in truth, they do.” — Anne Braden
Take risks, learn and keep going We know that we will have to take risks. Every day, people of color take risks in living their lives with full dignity and right now we are in a moment where young Black people are taking risks every day. We challenge ourselves and other white people to take risks as well, to stand up against a racist system, actions and structures every day. We know that in that process, we will make mistakes. Our goal is to learn from those mistakes and keep showing up again and again for what is right and for racial justice.
Tap into white mutual interest We use the term mutual interest to expand on a term that is used a lot in organizing, self-interest. Mutual interest means tapping into something that is deeper than a narrow self-interest based on material or pocketbook needs and into a bigger understanding of justice and liberation for all of us. For Anne & Carl Braden, it wasn’t self-interest that caused them to de-segregate an all-white neighborhood in Louisville Kentucky in 1954. It was a belief in what was right and the idea of showing up again and again for justice.
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Accountability through collective action There can be an impulse for white people to try to get it right- to have the right analysis, language, friends, etc. What SURJ was called upon to do at our founding in 2009 was to take action– to show up when there are racist attacks, when the police attack and murder people of color in the street, their homes, our communities. We maintain ongoing relationships, individually and organizationally, with people of color leaders and organizations. We also know it is our work to organize other white people and we are committed to moving more white people to taking action in our local communities, regionally and nationally for racial justice.
“One more thing. You may not get the validation you hunger for. Stepping outside of the smoke and mirrors of racial privilege is hard, but so is living within the electrified fences of racial oppression – and no one gets cookies for that. The thing is that when you help put out a fire the people whose home was in flames may be too upset to thank and praise you – especially when you look a lot like the folks who set the fire. That’s OK. This is about something so much bigger than that.
There are things in life we don’t get to do right. But we do get to do them”. – Ricardo Levins Morales
Enough for everyone One of the things that dominant white culture teaches us is to feel isolation and scarcity in everything we do. SURJ believes that there is enough for all of us, but it is unequally distributed and structurally contained to keep resources scarce. We can fight the idea and the structures that limit and control global capital by creating a different world together. We believe that part of our role as white people is to raise resources to support people of color-led efforts AND to engage more white people in racial justice. Together we can make the world we want and need.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
– Marianne Williamson
Growing is good Sometimes we get afraid that if we bring in new people who do not talk our talk or “do it right” it will mess up what we are building. However, if we do not bring in new people, our work cannot grow. And if our work does not grow, we cannot bring the numbers of white people needed to undermine white supremacy and join People of Color led efforts for fundamental change. Longtime white southern civil rights activist Anne Braden once said that we have to stop believing that we are the only special ones who can be part of the work for racial justice. We must grow our groups and our movement, understanding that welcoming people in, even at the risk of it being messy, is deeply part of what we are being called to do.