CALL PEOPLE IN, NOT 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.
TAKE RISKS, MAKE MISTAKES, 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 MUTUAL INTEREST
We use the term mutual interest to help us move from the idea of helping others, or just thinking about what is good for us, to understanding that our own liberation as white people, our own humanity, is inextricably linked to racial justice. Mutual interest means we cannot overcome the challenges we face unless we work for racial justice. It means our own freedom is bound up in the freedom of people of color.
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, in challenging structural racism, immigrant oppression and indigenous struggles. We maintain ongoing relationships, individually and organizationally with leaders and organizations led by people of color. We also know it is our work to organize other white people and we are committed to moving more white people for collective action. We can’t re-build the world we want alone; we must build powerful, loving movements of millions taking action for racial justice.
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 efforts led by people of color AND to engage more white people in racial justice. Together we can make the world we want and need.
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.
Text adapted from SURJ.