In the heated moments of the last six months, we have witnessed both a chilling swell of support for Trumpism and the continuing rise of transformative leadership from people of color led movements such as the Standing Rock Resistance and the Movement for Black Lives. White folks around the country are becoming active and politicized to take bold action against white supremacy. These volatile moments often have us looking for easy answers, or a direction to point fingers so that we can be one of the “good guys.” One way this plays out is urban or city dwelling white folks putting blame on rural communities as the owners of racism in America.
Rural communities have long been abandoned by movements on the Left, academics, and liberal politicians. This has left rural communities without resources to navigate the painful impacts of economic downturn and extreme poverty. As the timber industry collapsed, coal mines and plants began to close, and manufacturing jobs left the US, rural and small town communities have largely had to fend for themselves. It has also allowed the Far Right, such as Patriot Militias, to build a base in these areas and prey on folks who are struggling to get by. Meanwhile, urban organizers have avoided taking accountability for their stake in ending systemic racism as cities gentrify, schools privatize, city jails fill up, and police budgets grow. Racism is alive and well in every square foot of America, and all white people have a part in ending it.
We also cannot forget that rural communities have been organizing for generations. Throughout the early 1900s Union members of the IWW held anti-racism trainings and pushed for policies that protected all workers, resisting both Jim Crow laws and the racism of larger unions like the AFL. Rural communities have anchored anti-Klan, White Nationalist, and Right Wing Militia resistance for decades. This work has been carried out with fewer resources, and many obstacles, yet it heavily influences organizing around the country. Our rural partners can teach us a great deal about how to call others in, work from mutual interest, build strong enduring relationships, look to the leadership of people across generations, mobilize in multiracial coalitions, and do the work when there isn’t a budget.
Falling into the blame game against rural communities actually helps our targets, because we focus on disparaging our rural neighbors instead of organizing to take on white supremacy. There may be some Trump supporters living in rural communities, but the political and corporate interests that have built power from the Trump campaign call major US cities their home. American racism has been fueled by economic violence against poor and working class people, particularly those in rural communities. Until we work together to address this intersection, we will not succeed. It is true that rural and urban organizers will use different tactics in our work, but we have to keep focused on shared targets. City folks must not turn on our rural partners.
We cannot undermine white supremacy and build the kind of world we all want to live in without a rural organizing strategy. Rural community leaders have shown bold leadership and critical perspective for the movement to end racism. It's long past time to pay attention.
Folks who live in cities can support rural organizers by:
Giving financially to rural organizing groups such as Rural Organizing Project
Listening to the leadership and wisdom of rural leaders, especially when it is different from your lived experience
Practice leaning into the values of mutual interest, calling-in and working class organizing
Call-in others who you see blaming rural white communities for racism
Holding teach-ins for your base on the history of rural resistance and on who the real beneficiaries of racism are..
- Do our own work organizing campaigns to undermine white supremacy in our communities.
By Zoë, Erin and Jeff
SURJ National #EndWhiteSilence: A Call To Action Against Police Murder Call Notes
The recording from the call is here.
Notetakers: Emily Pieper, Elise Dunham, Julia Daniels, Eleanor Hancock
Here are the actions we've been asked to do in the movement for black lives.
Five different actions-
1) Sign and share the MBL pledge: If you are online now and haven’t signed the pledge- sign and share
3) Putting out a call for actions across the country. Register your action here. There are going to be actions across the country next week. If there isn’t a black action that is happening, then organize a white led action.
Maurice Mitchell isn't able to join us on the call but in the agenda notes he wrote "Where there's black leadership, they should be supporting their work or doing complimentary actions. Where there's not, that not an excuse to not act. Do it anyhow. White people's silence and lack of action is why we are in this condition. "How can we take on moving into our stretch zone. How can we be public.
4) Join a SURJ chapter- across the country moving into action. Connect with these groups- over 100 on web, over 100 in formation. Form a group if there isn’t one! You don’t have to wait to take action. We will be supporting folks in formation, help keep the peace in the streets. Calm principled action.
5) If you are in an area where there isn’t a SURJ chapter will you commit to finding 3-5 friends and taking action in your area?
Apologies again that there were so many tech difficulties.Read more
SURJ Quick Guide to Planning Your Action
As we’ve heard from the Movement for Black Lives, #BlackLivesMatter chapters across the country, and our national accountability partners, the most important thing we can do right now is to show how outraged we are about anti-Black police brutality. Here’s a short list of steps you can take to plan an action at your local police station or Fraternal Order of Police office.Read more
Thousands of people have reached out over the past week to connect with SURJ and find ways to move into action against police violence and for racial justice. Below is a statement from SURJ’s leadership in light of the 136 murders of Black people by police this year and the shooting in Dallas last night.
SURJ condemns loss of life, no matter who is dead. As an organization committed to organizing white people to dismantle a criminal justice system brutalizing communities of color across the nation, SURJ condemns violence against the police and mourns the injuries and deaths of police officers killed in Dallas.Read more
Our Grief is not an Excuse for Racism
We are devastated with grief for the lives lost in the shooting at the Pulse Night Club’s Latin Night. In this moment of tremendous pain, we are outraged at the media fanning the flames of Islamophobia, and the whitewashing of the victims.
The same media outlets and talking heads that are pumping out anti-Muslim sentiment were using that same platform mere weeks ago to promote extreme anti-trans ideology and stereotypes of the queer community as "bathroom bills" and hate legislation were passing.
We call on the major news networks to join Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) to act against simplistic attacks on Arabs, Muslims,South Asians and other marginalized groups.
When there is a loss in queer communities, we feel it very deeply. SURJ was founded and is led by queer people, with a deep commitment to queer and trans liberation. LGBTQ lives are precious, and often on the line. Anti queer and trans violence is a frightening reality, and it is most likely to impact queer and trans people of color, including Muslim, immigrant, Black and Latinx LGBTQ people.
There is a lot happening in the SURJ network right now. Here's a round-up of resources and calls for activists and leaders. Whether you are new to SURJ or a long time chapter leader, these calls are for you. This post references work led by our partner organization, SURJ and SURJ Action, the political arm.Read more
Victory in Smoketown
SURJ organizers contributed to a major Black-led victory this week with the defeat of a proposed above-ground sewer runoff basin in Smoketown, a historically Black, low-income neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. Smoketown residents have been fighting the proposed facility, which was designed by the city’s Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) without regard for community input. This victory is the result of strong organizing by the impacted community, with support from Louisville SURJ and others, including Kentuckians for the Commonwealth*.Read more
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)
LOVE IS UNSTOPPABLE
May 14-15, 2016 Weekend of Action Toolkit
Compiled by many members of SURJ’s Faith Working Group. Contact Rev. Anne Dunlap if you wish to get involved with the Faith Working Group (email@example.com). Questions, Feedback, or want support with your action? Contact Rev. Cathy Rion Starr (firstname.lastname@example.org / 541-390-7553)
Join (mostly) white faith communities across the country to show up for deep, fierce and abiding love for our communities and against hate and fear.
Be sure to Register your action:
1) Click here to register your action - So we know you’re planning and can support you
2) Click here to list your action on SURJ’s action page so others can find it. Click “Host an action” and create a login)