Understanding Christian Zionism: A Racist Theology Influencing US Policy on Palestine

Webinar description: The largest demographic pushing US support of Israel is not Jewish, but Christian. Claiming to have gained 3 million members in the last year, Christians United for Israel is the largest Israeli lobby in the U.S. Their support of Israel’s most militant policies is based off a theology called Christian Zionism. In this webinar we will expose the racist, anti-Muslim, and anti-Jewish underpinnings of this theology which is a key ideology of the religious right, and offer resources and opportunities for SURJ members to confront this ideology.

Panelists:
Jonathan Brenneman is a Palestinian American Christian serving as Communications Manager for Friends of Sabeel North America.
Rochelle Watson is a mother, member of the Catalyst Project Collective and National Organizer for Friends of Sabeel North America.

Recording

Understanding Christian Zionism: A Racist Theology Influencing US Policy on Palestine Read More »

Winning the Hamilton Co. Sheriff Race in Ohio

In the 2020 election cycle, Operation Change Cincy and SURJ Ohio helped elect progressive candidate Charmaine McGuffey as the new Hamilton County Sheriff beating Republican candidate Hoffbauer.

Hoffbauer had been found guilty of using excessive force to kill an unarmed Black man. If he had won, he would have been the first person in this country in 50 years to have been found guilty of this charge towards  an unarmed Black man and then be elected as Sheriff. 

Over 250 members committed to phone banking for the progressive challenger. SURJ Ohio’s voter phone banks targeted poor and working class voters— the types of folks who make up the majority of people in the criminal justice system— by engaging them around their mutual stake in electing a progressive sheriff. 

Not only did they help win the election, but SURJ Ohio cultivated successful phone banking scripts about mutual interest, developed dozens of new leaders in the program, and built up the membership base of SURJ Ohio. This is what we mean by “transformative electoral work.” We work to get progressive candidates elected by centering issues— the things people need to live with dignity— to build our base of support for the necessary long-haul work. 

Winning the Hamilton Co. Sheriff Race in Ohio Read More »

Members support members across 175 SURJ chapters!

We all saw the map at the end of the election. Despite the brilliant victories in Georgia, and finally ousting Trump from the White House, we know that millions of white people are living in communities dominated by right-wing politicians and culture. SURJ’s 175 chapters across the country offer hundreds of thousands of white people a way to take action as part of multi-racial coalitions and learn to bring more people from their communities into this work for the long haul.

Thanks to thousands of supporting and volunteer members, we have the capacity to help move the millions of white people who were mobilized into action last year to support long term Black-led movements for racial and economic justice. Can you make a gift today to grow this work?

Not only did SURJ add new chapters, our longtime chapters added tens of thousands of new members and expanded their training, education and organizing to reduce police budgets and shut down incarceration and detention centers. This is important, because white voters can too often block progressive legislation and candidates, and white communities all too often have disproportionate political power. Here are stories from a few of our established chapters about their growth and work over this past year.

In Kansas City, SURJ members have welcomed over 200 new members, organized thousands to successfully expand Medicaid in Missouri, created racial justice equity cohorts in 12 school districts, and more.

“Over the past year we have grown in our political engagement. We supported initiatives, which later passed, like Medicaid in Missouri. We also created voter guides for both Kansas and Missouri. We’ve deepened connections with BIPOC accountability partners through soliciting over 80 stimulus pledge donations to our BIPOC power team partners, extended our reach to support Black-led groups in the suburbs, marshaled a number of protests, and joined new Black-led coalitions. This year we have seen white supremacy lash out with more ferocity in Kansas City but, through our relationships with BIPOC-led organizations, have worked hard to rise to the moment and live into a future in which all Black lives matter.” — Michael, SURJ – Kansas City

In Buffalo, New York:

“We know it’s a long haul to end white supremacy, and that it requires lots of different strategies. Since our chapter started in 2015, we’ve spent thousands of hours on the doors and phones with our neighbors, holding meetings, doing direct action, and changing the local narrative about racism and white supremacy through work with the press. Each fight, and each new strategy, and each new SURJ member builds on the last, and the next. In 2020, that growth happened in leaps and bounds, with hundreds of new white people contacting our chapter and looking for a way to show up. In response, we mobilized members to the streets, provided round-the-clock support for a Black led occupation of a public space, and launched a 1-1 program to have intentional conversations about the movement for racial justice, our stake as white people, and how we can build power together. In 2021, we’ll continue to move our growing base into action for abolition and dismantling white supremacy in our community. — Linnea and Josie, SURJ Buffalo

In Louisville, Kentucky, SURJ members trained over 100 people in non-violent direct action, held down three months of “Freedom Friday” actions to call for the end of cash bail and the release of all people in prison during Covid-19, called over 1,000 people across KY who had their voting rights restored in 2020, supported a campaign to end no-knock warrants in Metro Council and in the state legislature, and more!

“I had never gone canvassing before I did it with SURJ, and I got very good training. We train every time we canvass, and we invite people to join every time. I stepped into a leadership role very quickly, I’m super introverted but once I’d done the training a few times, I could train others. It’s about demystifying the process and providing the training for how to move through the challenging spots. What do you do when you’re white and you have a sense of your privilege and family history that’s not great — what do you do with your inheritance? Being part of Louisville SURJ has given me something positive to do with my inheritance. I have choices to make — I can’t control what I got but I can control what I do with it and what I leave behind.” — Jess, Louisville SURJ

SURJ National provides chapters with political education resources, connections to others across the country, action opportunities, organizing skills training and coaching, and communications infrastructure. Oren, we do this with just a small and lean organizing team. Can you make a gift today to help us grow this support and connection for chapters?

In solidarity,

Erin Heaney
SURJ National DirectorSURJ is a 501c4 organization, doing political, advocacy and lobbying work, therefore your gifts are not tax deductible. If you prefer to give to a 501c3 nonprofit organization, please visit our sister organization, SURJ Education Fund.

Members support members across 175 SURJ chapters! Read More »

White Backlash: why it happens and how we fight back with Dr. Robin DG Kelley

Webinar description: The far right mob storming the US Capitol building on January 6th caused outrage across the world, but this kind of event is part of a long history of white organized backlash to Black-led struggle and victories. As people committed to organizing white communities for racial justice, we must understand this situation in its historical context in order to be able to strategically build power to fight back. Join Showing Up for Racial Justice and leading activist scholar Robin DG Kelley to learn more about this historical trend and to join the work of fighting back.

Recording

White Backlash: why it happens and how we fight back with Dr. Robin DG Kelley Read More »

White Supremacy Characteristics: 20 year Anniversary

Webinar description:

“We are all swimming in the waters of white supremacy culture. And we are not all affected in the same way… The good news is that while white supremacy culture informs us, it does not define us… It is a construct, and anything constructed can be deconstructed and replaced.”
– Tema Okun

20 years ago, inspired by and collaborating with dozens of movement leaders, Tema Okun wrote the article, “White Supremacy Culture Characteristics.” Join Tema, SURJ and special guests from around the country to launch the new “white supremacy characteristics” website and share what we’ve been learning ​about white supremacy culture in these last two decades. We’ll hear from Scot Nakagawa from Change Lab, NC Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green, Skill in Action’s Michelle Johnson, Vivette Jeffries-Logan of Biwa Consulting, Kari Points from Finding Freedom, SURJ’s Misha Heij-Mariano, and Cristina Rivera Chapman and Justin Robinson from Earthseed Land Collective. Join us for a night of discussion, sharing, music, and more to deepen our understanding of white supremacy culture and commit to the work of dismantling it.

Recording

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White People’s Stake in Ending the White Republic

Photo by Sierra King, Survival Media Agency

In “The White Republic and The Struggle for Racial Justice,” published on Organizing Upgrade, Bob Wing contended that the U.S. state is racist to the core, and this has specific implications for our movements’ work going forward, especially the need to replace this racist state with an anti-racist state. Organizing Upgrade is publishing a series of commentaries on this piece, and we invite readers to respond as well. SURJ National Director, Erin Heaney responds in the piece below. Read the response on Organizing Upgrade.

Bob Wing’s piece The White Republic and the Struggle for Racial Justice lays out a critically important diagnosis of the challenge we are up against in this moment: the white republic and the cross-class alliance that holds it together through a strategy of what SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) calls white solidarity. We share Wing’s assessment that the fight for antiracist democracy is the central democratic and class struggle of our time, that the defeat of the white republic is a condition necessary to advance progress on every issue we care about, and that race is the pivot of U.S. politics. As Wing argues, we need a multiracial mass movement to defeat the white republic. This will necessarily require large numbers of white people to defect from white solidarity and instead choose multiracial solidarity.

ORGANIZING TO BREAK THE RIGHT’S BASE

Wing describes this multiracial base: “We need to build the independent strength of the most determined racial, social, climate, and economic justice constituencies – those that understand that inequality, war, and environmental destruction are rooted in capitalism and that the corporate class is an unstable opponent of racism and authoritarianism.”

Part of this work will require organizing a meaningful number of white people into our movement, and we believe our best bet is to organize white communities who have the most to gain from a change in the status quo: poor white people, and especially poor white people in the South.

The white privilege afforded by racial capitalism that Wing describes is of course real, and yet it is not meted out equally. The current system isn’t serving the needs of poor white communities. There were about 65 million poor and low-income white people in the United States before the pandemic. In the South, poverty rates among rural white people are much higher than they are among whites residing in cities, due to declines in jobs such as mining that once provided decent wages. Poor white people who live at or below the poverty level watch their loved ones struggle with hunger, low wages, no access to healthcare, and no access to quality housing because of disinvestment in their communities.

The Right heavily and strategically invests in making sure poor and working-class white people maintain allegiance to white solidarity – the commitment that white people have made to defending white supremacy both consciously and unconsciously, even when this solidarity has negative material consequences in their lives.

Linda Burnham raised this in the lead-up to the 2016 election in an article first posted on Organizing Upgrade in the context of Trump’s rise, but it is just as salient today: “The power of the right cannot be undercut unless a large segment of its base is broken off. Obviously this is a long-term proposition, but whatever tactical moves we and others make in this electoral cycle, we need to retain this lesson into the indefinite future: white rage is lethal to democracy and progress and if we’re not organizing white folks around their suffering, we can be sure that someone else is.”

Organizing poor white people into multiracial formations at scale without falling prey to the class reductionism that ignores race is enormously complex – something no one on the left has cracked yet.

Solidarity between poor whites and people of color has been seen as threatening to those in power since the beginnings of this country. Racial hierarchy was codified after Bacon’s Rebellion, when a wealthy and powerful elite realized that solidarity between enslaved Africans and white (mostly Irish) immigrants threatened the status quo system of its time. Michelle Alexander, Robin D.G. Kelley and others share in depth in the Facing History series about the early stages of the white cross-class solidarity focused on in Wing’s article. Anti-Blackness and white supremacy have been used as a strategy to divide and conquer organized groups of poor and working-class people since colonization and slavery, and have held us all back throughout the history of this country.

There is work needed on many fronts to successfully bring poor white communities into multiracial organizing at scale. But a failure to grapple with the complexity and contradictions of this work isn’t an option right now. The stakes are too high. If we succeed, we make a contribution to building power towards a liberatory agenda. If this organizing is not done, the Right will continue to do it, and poor and working white folks are likely to become the shock troops for fascism in a race war.

While we believe that an approach to ending racism based on saving our humanity as white people is critically important, this alone has not proven to be enough. Yes, we need middle class whites who are part of the current democratic majorities or who have been moved by a desire to end white privilege. But in order to undo and rebuild the state as Wing says, we need more white people joining our movement who will also benefit in deep material ways from these changes.

THE IMPORTANCE OF THE SOUTH

We also believe, as Wing has written about in the past, that the U.S. South is a critical geography of struggle and needs to be centered in all of our work. If we are not able to challenge these forces in the South where they are strongest, we will not be able to defeat them nationally. The Right has long known that the key to controlling the country lies in its ability to control the South and, more specifically, its ability to prevent working-class white people from forming powerful alliances with working-class people of color in this region

In March 2015 Wing wrote, “The South is the most polarized center of the fight between the rightwing cross-class white political forces and the multi-racial anti-racist forces. The political crux of the matter is still that white voters in the South vote about 75% Republican compared to the national white vote of about 60% Republican. And Southern Republicans tend to be further to the right than in most other regions. Race and racism are at the heart of the struggle for the South. To sustain their momentum, the far right has implemented a powerful campaign against voting rights and for voter suppression, and racial gerrymandering that must be met by a powerful democratic, antiracist response.”

Unfortunately, many white people on the Left have consistently underestimated the strategic value and importance of the South. This neglect and its consequences are central to a far-right take-over of institutions reflected in the election of Trump and the rise of white supremacist and fascist forces that Wing describes.

LEARNING FROM OUR ORGANIZING WORK

SURJ has been grappling with these complex questions since our founding over a decade ago by many white antiracist Southerners – who had themselves been wrestling with these questions for decades, working in the legacy of SNCC and other Southern movement organizations

SURJ works to develop, implement and hone strategies to break the Right’s hold on a cross-class white solidarity. We welcome and nurture white people who are already realizing that racial capitalism is serving very few. And we organize white communities who are suffering– those who have everything to gain from joining multiracial movements fighting for anti-racist democracy – poor white communities, especially in the South and in rural areas.

Our work stems from a recognition that capitalists have always used race/racism to justify the exploitation of and violence and terror against Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, and to obscure the mutual interest so many millions of white folks have in joining Black-led struggles for structural change. As Wing writes: “…no ruling class can gain the broad social base needed for stability without forming fairly durable but still changing alliances with other social forces.”

Alongside our movement partners and as part of a multiracial, Black-led coalition, SURJ realized the importance of moving white voters to show up as part of the efforts to flip Georgia in the 2020 Presidential and 2021 Senate runoffs. We joined the work led by groups like the New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter, Working Families Party, Southerners on New Ground and so many others who have been organizing for decades. We hit tens of thousands of doors and made over a million calls to white voters who were likely Democratic, regardless of their voting history. Knowing that the Democratic Party has largely abandoned rural and low income areas of the state, we sought to have in-person conversations with white people in rural Georgia about conditions in their communities and why we thought the elections would help us be able to organize for deeper change. We found white rural and working people hungry to be connected to groups changing the status quo. Many got to that place through the open conversations we had with them.

In the presidential race, Biden made gains in Georgia in majority white counties among whites without college degrees. Our collective work increased the voter turnout of the white Democratic voters who were the least likely to vote by 20%. In the runoff election for Senate, rural voters and white voters with less education turned out at higher rates for the Democrats than they did in the presidential election. Engaging in long-haul organizing in these areas that have been so abandoned is going to be essential to keep this momentum going.

Our organizing project in rural Tennessee is an example of the potential of long-haul organizing. In 2017, working people came together to combat Ku Klux Klan recruitment in their community. Since then, they’ve banded together to knock doors and survey people in the community, and found that access to safe and affordable housing was the issue most widely felt amongst residents. Over the next two years, they won major protections for renters in the region and connected with multiracial efforts across the state and country fighting for housing for all poor people. One of their leaders was recently elected to a city council in a district that Trump won by more than 70%.

If we are able to break up the cross-class alliance held together by whiteness by organizing a subset of poor white people into multiracial coalitions, we undercut a source of the white republic’s power. We share Wing’s assessment that we can only win the types of structural change needed for all communities to survive and thrive by building a cross-class anti-racist united front, led by those most directly impacted by white supremacy and capitalism. Organizing poor and working white people – who are not currently a part of our movement but who have everything to gain by joining multiracial formations, especially in the South – provides a major opportunity to break the power of a white republic.

This article is a collective product drawing on years of work and thought by SURJ members across the country, with some of the writing done by Carla Wallace, Julia Daniels, Evelyn Lynn and Grace Aheron in addition to Erin Heaney.

White People’s Stake in Ending the White Republic Read More »

GAining Ground: winning the Georgia Senate Run-off

In the 2021 GA Senate Run-off, SURJ’s GAining Ground campaign joined a multi-racial coalition of movement organizations to do our part to defeat Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue and elect Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. SURJ ran door-knocking and phone bank programs in majority-white counties with more than 1,400 SURJ  members taking action to accomplish:

  • 651,000 phone calls
  • 30,100 conversations on the phones with voters
  • 9,576 commitments to vote on the phones
  • 30,000 doors knocked
  • 7,000 conversations with voters on the doors

We engaged white voters in Georgia, many of them in rural, conservative counties, in extended conversations that got people to vote and asked them to join us in our work for the long-haul. GAining Ground helped bring new white people into a powerful multiracial movement in Georgia— one that has been grounded by Black women and people of color-led organizing for decades— groups like New Georgia Project Action Fund, SONG Power, Mijente, GLAHR, Working Families Party and so many others.

Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue ran a textbook divide and conquer campaign, using racist strategies to try to convince white Georgians they have more in common with them and the billionaires than with working class communities of color.

That’s why we were on the ground to help win the runoff elections for the Senate by combatting this narrative with the truth: that we win the things we all need to live with dignity when we show up in solidarity as part of multiracial coalitions fighting for all of us.

GAining Ground: winning the Georgia Senate Run-off Read More »

Building a Culture of Resistance to State Repression

Webinar description: Because our movement has been organizing so effectively to defund the police under the call from Black leadership, and mass numbers of folks are taking to the streets in multiracial formation, the Trump administration is responding in ways similar to fascist responses designed to break movements and dismantle our already weak democratic processes. He’s experimenting with tactics that he began trying in anti-Muslim efforts, and anti-immigrant efforts at the border, and in ways that communities of color are all too familiar with across the country and the globe. This escalation, however, is unprecedented and dangerous.  We can’t allow this to happen. The repression in Portland is spreading quickly to Black and Brown communities in cities across the country under the guise of fighting crime but meant to disrupt our powerful movement and criminalize communities of color and poor white communities.  

Join us Tuesday August 4th at 8 ET for a rich webinar program on Resisting State Repression – Portland and Beyond. We will hear from Nelini Stamp of Working Families Party, Rahula Janowski and Donna Willmott of Catalyst Project, Portland organizers on the ground, the National Lawyers Guild, and activists from Charlottesville.

Recording

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Mass Meeting for White People: recommitting to racial justice one year after the uprisings

Webinar description: Were you one of the millions of white people who took to the streets in protest of police murders of Black people last year? We can’t go back to sleep! Now is the time for us to recommit to racial justice and to find community to support us in this work for the long haul. At SURJ, we organize white people. And we promise to put you to work for justice.Join us as we mark the one-year anniversary of the Black-led global uprisings that followed the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many others. We’ll share stories about how white people have committed to racial justice in the last year and how you can get involved!

Recording

Mass Meeting for White People: recommitting to racial justice one year after the uprisings Read More »

Swing GA Left- defeating Trump in Georgia

The people of this country – led by communities of color – voted out Donald Trump. And SURJ was proud to do our part to contribute towards that defeat.

Swing GA Left members on one of our many phone banks.

We engaged in the work in Georgia – a place the Democratic Party had written off and where Black women organizers have been leading the way for decades. We joined partners on the ground, including the New Georgia Project, Black Voters Matter, Fair Fight, Working Families Party, and so many other groups that had already laid the foundation to flip Georgia because of their tremendous ongoing work to expand the electorate with more people of color voters, while keeping real solutions to working people’s problems front and center.

SURJ made over a million calls to white voters who we knew were suffering under this administration and who are infrequent voters. Over 3,800 SURJ members had 36,000 conversations with voters and secured 21,200 commitments to vote.

And it worked. The New York Times reported that Biden made major gains in majority-white counties among white people who didn’t attend college. That’s who we called! This is what it looks like to organize our own – and to do it at scale and in service of a vision set by Black movement leaders. When we build multi-racial coalitions and invest in long-haul organizing, we win. 

We know the road ahead will not be easy. Our movement is going to have to fight hard against a Biden administration – and we’re up against an emboldened Right. More white people voted for Trump in 2020 than in 2016 and the Right will continue to work to build their base of supporters. We’ve got our work to do to continue to organize more of our people away from white supremacy and towards justice.  

Swing GA Left- defeating Trump in Georgia Read More »

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