About

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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

 

Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) believes in collective liberation -- and that none of us can be free until we end white supremacy.

SURJ’s role as part of a multi-racial movement is to undermine white support for white supremacy and to help build a racially just society.

That work cannot be done in isolation from or disconnected from the powerful leadership of communities of color. It is one part of a multi-racial, cross-class movement centering people of color leadership.

Therefore, SURJ believes in resourcing organizing led by people of color, and maintaining strong accountability relationships with organizers and communities of color as central part of our theory of change.

SURJ believes that we must ground our organizing in a framework of “mutual interest” -- white supremacy is integral to economic injustice, to maintaining patriarchy and other forms of oppression. Racism and white supremacy keep the many divided for the benefit of the few. We must have an inclusive, open-hearted approach to organizing, calling people into this work rather than creating barriers to participation while maintaining a clear political line. When those of us who are white realize that racial justice is core to our liberation as well, then masses of white people will withdraw support from white supremacy. Together, as part of a powerful multi-racial, cross-class movement for collective liberation we can force the system of white supremacy to crumble.

In order to activate this theory of change, we employ three core strategies:

  • Delegitimize racist institutions

  • Fight for a fair economy that refuses to pit communities against each other

  • Shift culture (meaning the underlying beliefs folks have about people and the world) in a way that undermines support for white supremacy

These strategies are dependent on multi-racial organizing and a specific focus on deepening, amplifying, and centering the leadership and organizing of poor and working-class folks, rural communities, and the U.S. South.

Within this framework, our network is using a number of tactics, including leading and participating in campaigns, base-building, direct action, relationship-building, communications work and more.

 

SURJ VALUES

Calling People In, Not Out
  • SURJ is trying to create a culture and community that people actually want to be a part of.
  • The left (especially middle-class and wealthy people in social movements) has a long history of shaming and blaming people who don’t have the "perfect" words or don't exactly agree with our analysis. That kind of behavior doesn't help us build a mass movement for change. We need people to want to join us!

  • Calling people in is how we want to be with one another as white people. That means:

    • Recognizing we all mess up, and speaking from this shared experience

    • Being specific and direct

    • Talking to people in times and places that support conversation and learning

  • Calling people in isn't:

    • How we want to be with people in power -- we organize to create tension and target people in power. Calling them in isn't how we think change happens.

    • Something we expect from people of color

    • A way to keep people in the mainstream comfortable. When people who are at the "margins" of a group (such as LGBTQ folks, people with disabilities, poor and working-class people) have feedback or choose to speak, they don’t need to be "polite" or avoid tension.
Accountability Through Collective Action
  • We believe change happens when we build with millions of other people to change culture, policies and practices. We need a mass movement to make change.

  • Many people, especially middle- and owning-class people, have been trained to think that if we as individuals transform or learn new things, then change will happen.

  • A focus on individual action will exclude the poor, working-class, rural, disabled, and multigenerational leaders we need.

  • Accountability means we are in relationship with and take direction from people of color.

  • We build accountability relationships with people of color who are doing racial justice work in the movement and who are accountable to a group of people.

  • Accountability doesn't mean waiting by the phone for a person of color to tell us exactly what to do. It means developing plans to organize in the white community and seeking feedback.

  • Sometimes people of color are too busy organizing in their own communities to provide us feedback. We should act in those cases and not wait for permission.
Take Risks, Make Mistakes, Learn, and Keep Going
  • As white people, we are going to make mistakes when doing racial justice work. It's inevitable. We don't know anyone who has been in the work and hasn't made a mistake. Not a single person.

  • People of color take risks every day by living and moving through the world. We commit to challenging ourselves to be outside our comfort zones when doing this work.

  • While we take on real risk, we know that the risk is always greater for people of color.

  • When we make mistakes, we want to take the time to reflect on them thoughtfully and keep moving in the work. We cannot let making mistakes prevent us from continuing our work. There's just too much at stake.

  • We need to support our friends and members of our group when they make mistakes to learn and stay in motion.
Organize Out of Mutual Interest
  • Racial justice isn;t something we help people of color with.

  • The system of white supremacy harms all of us -- including white people, though in very different ways than people of color.

  • If we are going to stay in the work for the long haul, we need to get clear with ourselves about what we have to gain through this fight.

  • White supremacy has hurt white people by cutting us off from powerful traditions and cultures that we come from. instead, we learn to celebrate money and power.

  • Every person has their own story about why they started to do this work. Maybe they saw violence as a queer person that connected them to violence people of color experience at the hands of police. They may have grown up poor and seen how racism and money are connected. These stories help us find our mutual interest.
There is Enough for All
  • There are enough resources in the world for everyone's basic needs to be met (decent housing, food, safety, etc).

  • The problem isn't that we don't have enough stuff -- it's that it's distributed unfairly.

    • The people at the top -- the 1% -- have most of the wealth. They use racism as a tool to keep us fighting amongst ourselves, instead of united and fighting against them for the things we need to live full lives.

    • We are trained to believe that there is a shortage of resources, so we need to hoard them, avoid sharing, and compete with others. In order to build a movement for justice, we need to share and support one another.

    • People will do this work in different ways, and that’s okay because we need everyone joining this work.

Growing is Good
  • We need millions of white people to join the movement for racial justice.
  • This means we need our groups to constantly grow.

  • Sometimes it feels easier to close our groups off and only spend time with people who are like us. In order to build a movement, we need to push ourselves to open up and work with anyone ready to take action.

  • It is important to make sure new people have a chance to become leaders. That means making a lot of opportunities for new people to do new things. Action is how we create commitment to our work!
Center Class
  • Our culture, media, and even sometimes movement leaders blame poor and working-class white people for racism, often without recognizing that middle- and owning-class white people disproportionately support policies and practices that uphold white supremacy.
  • We reject the harmful stereotypes and the analysis that poor and working-class white people are responsible for racism. The people who benefit most from racism and white supremacy are the very wealthy -- not poor or working-class white people.
  • Poor and working-class people of color and white people have been at the front lines of anti-racist struggle for generations.
  • SURJ is committed to supporting the leadership of and organizing in poor and working-class communities.
  • We need people of all class backgrounds in this work.

 

To start a SURJ chapter or to connect your group as an affiliate, please read our chapter and affiliate group building toolkit and fill out our affiliate contact form.

 

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