By the Showing Up for Racial Justice core team
Racial injustice has been a reality in this country since before its founding, but recent events have awakened more people to its continued existence and compelled them into action.
The #BlackLivesMatter movement began after the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and grew rapidly in 2014, during the protests in Ferguson, Missouri after Michael Brown was killed.
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) is a nationwide movement that seeks to engage white people in the fight for racial justice. While it may seem odd to have an organization that specifically focuses on reaching white people, it is white people who built and maintain the systems that still hurt people of color today. SURJ believes that the best thing that white people can do to work for racial justice is to follow the leadership of people of color; to resist racism in their own networks, families, and communities. Nationally, SURJ is accountable to and in support of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
The Buffalo chapter of SURJ was founded in 2015. Our actions (neighborhood canvasses, public actions, and educational events) are rooted in six core values.
“Calling in, not calling out.” This value focuses on SURJ’s commitment to welcoming people into the movement through loving invitations, personal connection, and questions that invite reflection, not shame. “Shaming a person who thinks differently than you rarely changes their mind,” said Whitney Yax, part of the SURJ core team.
“Take risks, make mistakes, keep learning.” This value keeps SURJ in motion. “Often, fear of mistakes leads to inaction, which protects the status quo,” said Yax. “In SURJ, we don’t wait to be perfect. We learn as we go.”
“Enough for everyone.” This speaks to a world of abundance, rather than scarcity. “When people believe in scarcity, they fight to protect their own interests,” said Caitlin Crowell, another core team member. “We believe that everybody can have what they need, without hurting or exploiting others.”
“Accountability through collective action.” This highlights the importance of following the leadership of people of color, and SURJ’s method of evaluating ourselves based on what we do, rather than intentions.
“Tap into mutual interest.” SURJ believes that fighting racial injustice is in our own best interest. SURJ seeks to motivate people with something more than “do this because it’s right.” Mutual interest motivates people for the long term.
Finally, “Growing is good” is SURJ’s value in building its movement. “Dismantling oppressive systems and creating a culture where black lives matter is going to take lots of people,” said Janice Tenant, another core team member. “So we’re going to reach as many as we can.” K
To connect with Buffalo SURJ, search “Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)—Buffalo” on Facebook or email BuffaloSURJ@gmail.com.