5 Ways White People Can Take Action in Response to White and State-Sanctioned Violence
On Monday evening, George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police. Video surfaced of a white police officer holding his knee to Floyd’s neck for eight minutes while Floyd pleaded with police saying “I can’t breathe.” Floyd became unresponsive and died shortly after at Hennepin County Medical Center. This brutal killing follows the death of Breonna Taylor in her bed at the hands of police in Louisville, Kentucky, the murder of Ahmaud Arbery in a Georgia suburb and centuries of police abuse and violence.
In this moment, we know there are thousands of white people who are looking for direction and a way to show up alongside Black communities and communities of color. Welcome. You are needed. Here are a few ways to start showing up — not just in words but in action.
1. Come out as anti-racist and invite others to join you. Be public and vocal about which side you are on, share details of the actions you are taking to make this commitment real, and invite others to join you. Join SURJ to build a mass base of people breaking white silence by signing up here and share this graphic on your Facebook and social media pages to invite others to sign up as well.
2. Join fights to defund the police. It’s local budget season and right now across the country towns and cities are deciding how your community will spend its resources. Join your local group already doing this work or plan an action to tell decision makers what your community really needs — like mental health services and affordable housing — instead of more funding for police. In Los Angeles, when the Mayor proposed giving 54% of the budget to the police, SURJ’s affiliate White People for Black Lives showed up alongside Black Lives Matter to push back and they’ve won the first round of the fight. Many local SURJ chapters are already engaged in these fights alongside their partners — click here to see if there is a chapter in your community.
Minneapolis based Black Visions is asking folks to call Minneapolis Mayor Frey and the City Council to “stop making statements on social media and start holding MPD accountable in the only language they speak: money. Call Mayor Frey and tell him: ‘Cut MPD’s budget. We need money to keep our communities healthy during the pandemic, not murder them in the streets.’” Make this call today and share their post on Facebook.
3. Make a commitment to “organize your own” for the long haul. White communities are used to uphold the power structure and business-as-usual. When we break away and join movements for justice, this can help tip the balance of power and win real change. For too long, those at the top have relied on the silence of white folks to keep things as they are — and then we all lose. Our work is to organize in our own communities to bring more white people into struggles for justice, and to support the efforts led by people of color.
Police departments and white supremacists have been emboldened under the Trump administration. The head of the Minneapolis Police Union has sold “Cops for Trump” t-shirts, has been applauded by the President on Twitter, and even spoke at a Trump rally. White voters elected Trump, which has led to an escalation in racist scapegoating of and violence against communities of color. We need to show up big this election year to ensure white voters don’t re-elect Trump. Sign the Collect Your Cousins Pledge to join us in calling white voters in critical battleground states. SURJ is calling white voters on June 4th at 6:00 EST. Click here to sign the Collect Your Cousins Pledge to join the phone bank and help us call in thousands more white people into the work.
4. Focus on building our numbers, not being right. To end police brutality, white supremacy, and to build a movement to get us all free, we need to move people with us — namely people who are conflicted or watching from the sidelines. This means calling in our folks — people in our families, faith communities, neighborhoods, and workplaces — inviting them to join a movement and be on the right side of history. It might feel good to just yell at other white people in the short run. But when we spend time with those who are awakening in this moment and are wanting to show up, as imperfect as they are, that helps us all. This is the work.
5. Help resource the work of Black-led groups that are fighting for police accountability and abolition. Find and support a local group in your community or move your money to the front lines in Minneapolis. Make sure folks most impacted have the resources to stay in the streets and dream up the most powerful, transformative pathways forward. Make a donation today to Reclaim the Block and Black Visions who are on the frontlines in response to the murder of George Floyd.
This writing was done collectively by members of the SURJ national leadership team and staff, as well as members from our base. Showing Up for Racial Justice works to bring more white communities and people into multi-racial, anti-racist movements for justice.