SURJ Detroit members at an Election Protection event

SURJ Metro Detroit’s approach is a mix of education, outreach, and solidarity

by David Sands, Second Wave Media

SURJ Detroit member Erin Dwyer would be the first to acknowledge that people of color, especially Black people, have always been at the forefront of fighting for racial justice in the United States. Dwyer’s organization, SURJ, is distinct from many other local anti-racist groups because its membership is primarily composed of white individuals who organize within white communities.

It’s an approach that makes a lot of sense to Dwyer, who’s not shy about asking other white people to step up and take responsibility for deconstructing racism on both a personal and societal level.

“Anti-racist work can’t always be put on Black people, Indigenous people, and other people,” she says. “White supremacy is happening primarily [through the actions of white people,] … so it’s incumbent on white people to be challenging racism and to be doing that work among white people.”

Throughout its history, SURJ Metro Detroit has also held meetings in various locations, from local churches to the MOCAD Museum in Detroit… In addition to its meetings, SURJ Metro Detroit will also occasionally sponsor educational workshops where public members can learn about topics like the negative impacts of white privilege. While the network’s local chapter doesn’t have any formal relations with political parties, some members were engaged in “election defense” last year with the expressed goal of ensuring everyone’s right to vote.

..Beyond its meetings and newsletter, SURJ Metro Detroit has also committed to supporting various local people-of-color-led organizations. The intention behind these partnerships is to help redirect resources — like money and donated time — from white communities into efforts that are helpful to Black and other non-white communities. According to [SURJ Member] Jess Pasionek, Metro Detroit Surj defers decisions about the nature of that support looks like to their partner groups. 

“We’re not doing these things because it’s a thing to celebrate or because we think we’re doing something great,” she says. “As a white people who want to dismantle white supremacy actively, it’s our role to show up when we’re asked and do the work that is asked of us.” 

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