Most white folks aren’t ready to organize
Erynn Brook
943

Erynn,

Thanks for a thoughtful piece. I’m a 60 y/o white woman working with SURJ on education in and near DC. I believe there are a lot of good reasons for organizations like SURJ to exist. To your point about white people needing to get educated before “attempting” to show up, that is in no small part what SURJ does….at least in my experience.

I was doing racial justice work in the mid — late 80’s when I was “called out” in a particularly unskilled way. I then went into a shame spiral that lasted nearly 30 years, until I discovered that that shame spiral had a name “white fragility”. That was a little more than 2 years ago and since then I’ve been on fire to educate myself and (especially) older white people.

I believe there is a bit of a generation gap within the community of white people attempting to wake-up. I’ve seen this while working with people much younger than myself (35–40 years younger) they just don’t carry the same (historical?) baggage as those of us at the tail end of the boomer cohort.

By the way, did you know that SURJ has a project (pretty sure it is national, though not sure how robustly it is practiced that involves members hosting “reparation dinners” the outcome is quite similar to the safety pin box effort? They also train folks to go out and do “deep canvassing” with other white people to discuss issues like reparations. It’s quite interesting to encounter a fellow white person and engage in discussion with them around a topic that is perhaps the most toxic to white folks. One of the first reading we use for our SURJ reading group is about doing no harm as white people.

Finally, here in DC SURJ provides onsite training for (non-marginalized) people showing up to march with marginalized people. Essentially it is a how to behave properly in such a setting and how to dampen the urge to center themselves etc.

I’m looking forward to reading about your “Nice White Ladies” work. I also am involved with a SEED group that is a multiracial space and so I benefit from both types of environments. I think we’ve got many more years of encouraging Nice White Ladies to “get involved” even if their first attempts involve clumsy and misguided efforts to fix things. As time does on, we will have more and more effective strategies for going to “get our cousins” before they step in it and the general understanding of what is ours to do will also be elevated.

In solidarity,

LB