By Chris Crass (November 9, 2016)
1. The need for Left liberation organizing in white communities, of all kinds, screams out with each stat from the exit polls. The need for tens of thousands of white anti-racists to dedicate themselves to not only active solidarity with people of color-led struggles, but also to rising up with anti-racist/collective liberation leadership in white communities, is profound.
When our focus is solidarity with people of color led struggles, white communities are often flattened into just being white with white privilege in a white supremacist society who need to work for racial justice and align with people of color leadership. This is critical, but to really be in solidarity with people of color and to really build anti-racist/racial justice work in white communities, leadership is needed.
Anti-racist/collective liberation leadership calls on us to see the nuances, the complexities, the many different kinds of people racialized as white and asks us “how has white supremacy devastated these communities politically, economically, spiritually, emotionally, and/or culturally” alongside an understanding of differentiated access to institutional white privilege as part of the larger structure of white supremacy. Leadership asks us to see the pain, the heartbreak, the struggles, the tenderness, the brokenness, the ugliness of white America and pushes us to develop and express Left vision, values, and strategy that meets the genuine needs of our white communities, while actively aligning our people to racial justice and multiracial movements as central to all living in a better world. Leadership calls on us to see and try to act on the possibilities and opportunities to support our white people to come alive for racial justice, rather then just seeing the failings of white people and the barriers to this work. To see the heartbreaking realities of white supremacy in white communities, while knowing that our work isn’t driven by hating white people, but hating white supremacy and wanting to organize it out of our people and communities.
2. For far too long the white Left has too often either ignored or mocked rural America and white working class and poor America, while the Right has recruited, cultivated, and resourced leadership and organization in these/our communities.
For those of us who are white anti-racists, we much not only reject the narrative of blaming rural and poor and working class white people, and do more to lift up and support the existing organizing led by rural and working class and poor white people, while also doing the emotional/spiritual/political work of building up our understanding of the liberatory potential of white America, so that rather then it always being about “what’s wrong with them”, we can ask questions that lead to pro-active efforts to win: “what can we learn from the people doing this work already”, “how can the work already happening be supported and resourced”, “what can we do better to build movement that recruits, cultivates and resources anti-racist/collective liberation rural and white working class and poor leadership and organization that works simultaneously on issues relevant to their/our communities and racial justice”.
The work is happening and people like Zoë Williams, Rahula S. Janowski, Rebecca Frederick, Jessica Campbell, James Tracy, Amy Sonnie, Jardana Peacock, Justin Stein, Allyn Maxfield-Steele, Meredith Martin-Moats, and Anne Phillips are bringing public leadership to this crucial work.
3. If you aren’t already involved with or connected with the national network SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice), which is organizing in white communities, do so. Here is just a sampling of the resources that SURJ provides. They do national phone calls to help people develop as anti-racist activists and leaders, to build their local organizations and efforts, and be more effective. Here are the calls coming up for the rest of Nov. If you are interested, go to the SURJ Facebook page, get connected, and get involved (which might mean joining or starting SURJ chapters, or utilizing their resources for the work you’re already doing):
November SURJ Calls:
These calls are designed to meet the wide range of needs and diverse interests within the SURJ network.
November 15th: Poor and Working Class Call: Support for Organizers. This is a call for folks who identify as poor and working class to explore challenges in their organizing work and chapter and hear from others who are organizing in working class and poor white communities.
November 16th: The Elections is Over: Now What? Join Mab Segrest, Suzanne Pharr and Tarso Ramos us for a discussion on how our organizing will be impacted by the election and learn how to continue to grow your group given the new political landscape.
November 17th: Indigenous Solidarity and White Settler Responsibility. Registration is here and Facebook Event is here. This is a political ed call – join us to discuss the work of non-Native white people in decolonialization work and receive resources to bring this back to your chapter.
November 21: Fail Fest – Next Accountability Call. Facebook event here and registration is here. Real talk from white racial justice organizer about the mistakes we’ve made, how to be accountable and how to love ourselves/each other through it.
November 28th: Urban Solidarity with Rural Communities. This call is designed for urban chapters to join and learn more about why rural organizing is essential to our strategy for undermining white supremacy, what we can learn from rural organizing and how we can act in solidarity with rural leadership.
November 30th: Class Privilege Call: Support for building a cross-class movement. This call will be for people who identify as middle and owning class who are wanting to explore how to build cross-class organizations and movements that center and support the leadership of poor and working class folks.
4. Even with this election, I believe in us and our ability to win. I close my eyes and think about all the white people, all over this country, in every kind of community, that support a wide range of justice struggles, that voted for Bernie Sanders, who have come into consciousness during these Black Lives Matter times, as well as the white anti-racist veterans of decades of doing this work, I think of the thousands of white anti-racist leaders I’ve met over the years, and I think about all the leaders of color who have done so much to provide leadership, mentorship, encouragement, and love to white anti-racist efforts and their commitment to collective liberation.
I’m still struggling to believe that Trump really won the election, but I’m clear in believing in what we can do.