5 Anti-Racist Actions for White People to Take During COVID — 19

B&W image of people holding protest signs. Words across image: “Five anti-racist actions for white people during covid-19”

We should never forget: people in power are able to maintain the status quo when they keep white people and communities separated from multi racial movements for justice. They count on us to remain silent, or even in active opposition, to movements that are actually in our mutual interest like health care, homes for all, and decarceration.

These times are no different — and now more than ever, it’s critical that those of us who are white move into action. A clear set of solutions have been put forward from movement organizations in response to Covid-19 that will save lives and provide economic stability immediately. These solutions will also help restructure our society and economy for the long haul, to be more just for all of us.

Here’s a list of ways you can show up powerfully that will contribute to winning the things we all need in this moment:

  1. Join a group or deepen your commitment to one. Individualism is what got us into this situation, and only collective action will create the solutions we need. Now more than ever, we must take action together to force systemic change. Join your local SURJ chapter, or other groups in your community that push systems (like the local, state and federal government) to protect and care for the most vulnerable, especially in these times.
  2. Support efforts in your community to get people out of jails and detention centers, and to stop local police from issuing new citations, incarcerating people pre-trial, and re-incarcerating people for probation/parole violations. Sign up for SURJ’s action updates on how you can take action from your home on these issues. Follow organizations that are leading on this issue, and find the groups in your community such as Color of Change, Dignity and Power Now, Justice LA, and Women on the Rise. If you’re a member of a group that doesn’t usually focus on these issues, bring them to their attention and encourage them to make these actions a priority. Here’s just one take on why this is so important.
  3. Interrupt racist stories about who is to blame. Push back on people who use coded or racist language to talk about this moment. Specifically, when you hear people use the phrases “Chinese virus,” “Wuhan virus” and “Kung flu,” have a respectful and clear conversation about the racist and factually incorrect nature of this harmful scapegoating. Check out these stories about the increase in hate crimes against people of Asian descent here, here and here. Where we get our news is important. It shifts the frame of the issues. Pay attention to progressive-leaning news sources rather than only the corporate news media. Some examples include Democracy Now and the Irresistible Podcast. Seek out articles written by disabled & Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous and People of Color activists in your community.
  4. Fight to protect our elections. Events across the country are being cancelled or postponed, and in many locations, governments are implementing “shelter in place” recommendations or requirements. As a result, many states are taking measures to postpone elections rather than finding creative ways, like mail-in ballots, to ensure our democratic freedom while adhering to the public health guidance. Meanwhile, the upcoming election still needs our attention. We still need to mobilize millions of voters across the country to vote against Trump. You can help by getting involved in your local progressive campaigns and/or calling and texting white voters in Georgia and Pennsylvania with SURJ. A simple first step is to take the Collect Our Cousins Pledge. If you are part of a local SURJ chapter, encourage members of your chapter to sign on to the Commitment Form.
  5. Participate in a mutual aid project or fund. If you are able, donate money to a mutual-aid fund or initiate mutual aid with your immediate neighbors. Mutual-aid funds link people with resources to those who need resources during a crisis. This can help cover costs of rent, medication, food, and other needs for people who lack a safety net. If you have a surplus of food or hygiene supplies, donate to a mutual aid group, food pantry, or a community organization that is distributing goods to vulnerable people in your community. (Please be sure that they NEED what you have — don’t assume!). Practice mutual aid by reaching out to three people on your street. Give them your contact info and let them know you can call each other to ask for help with groceries, prescriptions, etc. Here’s a template if you need a starting point. Join with local grassroots POC-led organizing for mutual aid in your area or follow your local SURJ chapter for ideas.

It is more important than ever that white people join anti-racist efforts. Especially in this moment as we are required to practice “social distancing” we must not fall prey to isolating ourselves from the needs of our community. We must break our silence, move into action, and support people in our communities to do the same.

This public health crisis is highlighting all the ways our economic system has been set up to fail us and others, hoarding wealth and resources for a few at the expense of the many. People who never believed it before are waking up and taking note. We have an opportunity to join in a shared struggle for our own health and survival, and for that of the planet.

Join us.

“In every age, no matter how cruel the oppression carried on by those in power, there have been those who struggled for a different world. I believe this is the genius of humankind, the thing that makes us half divine: the fact that some human beings can envision a world that has never existed.”

— Anne Braden, Civil Rights leader from Louisville, Kentucky

This writing was done collectively by members of the SURJ national leadership team and staff, as well as members from our base.

SURJ is a national network that moves white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice.

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