SURJ Nashville, a chapter of the national Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) network, is a group of individuals organizing white people for racial justice in Middle Tennessee. Through education, outreach, and mobilization, SURJ Nashville’s mission and purpose are: (1) to call white people into the work of unlearning racism and white supremacy that operates in personal attitudes and relationships; (2) to call white people into the work of divesting from and dismantling racism and white supremacy that operates within systems and institutions; (3) to create spaces of learning, accountability, and transformation for people seeking to engage in the work outlined above; and (4) to support local, statewide, regional, and national people of color (POC) led movements for racial and social justice.
SURJ National is a national network of groups and individuals organizing white people for racial justice. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, SURJ moves white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability. We work to connect people across the country while supporting and collaborating with local and national racial justice organizing efforts. SURJ provides a space to build relationships, skills, and political analysis to act for change. We are showing up to act collectively and publicly to challenge the manipulation of racist fear by the ruling class and corporate elite.
Why We Organize
We live in a time of great hope and possibility, yet the potential for a just world for all of us is not possible when racism and oppression keep us divided. This can make us forget how closely connected we truly are. Racism is still present throughout all of our contemporary institutions and structures. Racism is devastating to people of color and is closely intertwined with all systems of oppression. It robs all of us – white people and people of color – of our humanity. We honor and learn from the long history of people of color and white people who have been unrelenting in their struggles for racial justice, and ending all systems of oppression. We are showing up to take our responsibility to act collectively and publicly to challenge the manipulation of racist fear by the ruling class and corporate elite. We know that to transform this country we must be part of building a powerful multi-racial majority to challenge racism in all its forms.
Shared Values (adapted from SURJ National)
1) 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.
2) Taking risks, learning and keep going
We know that we will have to take risks. Everyday, 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 everyday. We challenge ourselves and other white people to take risks as well, to stand up against a racist system, actions, and structures everyday. 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.
3) Tap into white 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. For Anne & Carl Braden, it was mutual 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.
4) Accountability through 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 leaders and organizations led by people of color. Though anyone is welcome to join this work, we believe that white people have a particular responsibility 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.
5) 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 co-create the world we want and need.
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
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.
We need you defecting from White supremacy and changing the narrative of White supremacy by breaking White silence.
– Alicia Garza
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
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