In the wake of the domestic terrorist attack and white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, it is important that we take a critical look at our role in dismantling systems of oppression. This document includes initial things to do in your groups and your community, but is just a start. We’ll have more resources coming out in upcoming weeks and you can see at the end a list of suggested reading.
The first place to start is within ourselves and within our groups. This is a moment for us to support groups that have been doing racial justice work and center those who are most impacted.
- Recognize privilege. This is a particularly important principle for those of us within the Indivisible family who have more social or economic advantages due to our race, class, or gender, for instance, because—whatever our personal beliefs and convictions—we are the ones who have benefited from historic systems of oppression. It’s important to acknowledge that if you are white, male, able-bodied, straight, middle class or wealthy, went to college, or are a U.S. citizen, you have advantages that many others do not. We need to recognize that systems that oppress others were designed to be that way to benefit those with privilege. Owning your privilege is a necessary first step is working towards the liberation of others.
- De-center yourself. Take time to consider those who are most impacted by white supremacy and center those voices. This will vary based on the situation, but generally it is historically marginalized groups like black or indigenous people, religious minorities, gender nonconforming people, people of color, etc. Once you’ve recognized those who are more impacted by oppression, move yourself out of the center of things as a way to make space for their input and voice in your shared work. Sometimes this requires gently encouraging others to make space as well.
- Learn to listen actively. Give space to people of color and spend time listening. The job of an advocate is not to speak for a marginalized group, but rather to make sure when they’re speaking, others are listening.
- Think about historical legacies of oppression. Our country has a long history of oppression and white supremacy, which plays out in a bunch of ways today. Work to increase your awareness of these legacies, in our housing, education, criminal justice systems and many others. For example, one way that some organizers do this, is by acknowledging that they live and work on land that was stolen from indigenous people, naming those people at the beginning of events.
- Educate yourself. It’s your own responsibility to educate yourself about oppression and our country’s history of white supremacy. Do not rely on marginalized communities to teach you, as that puts the burden of explaining on them, as well as experiencing oppression. These communities are often the same ones that have been doing the hard work of organizing for many years… adding the labor of your political education to their workload is unfair.
- Think about your media consumption. How are your television, movie and other entertainment choices influencing your view? Not all symbols of white supremacy are as obvious as a confederate monument or flag—consider how things in your day to day like the media feed into cycles of oppression.
Take a look at our How to Be Inclusive Introduction for a broad look and see the conclusion of this document for further suggested reading. It’s also important to not let this paralyze you and cause inaction, but be cognizant of the support you’re giving to other groups and the space your group is occupying.
There are hundreds of confederate monuments still standing across the country. These statues are nothing more than a symbol of hate and our nation’s deep history of white supremacy. Though some of these monuments were dedicated after the Civil War, the majority went up in the early 1900s, during the Jim Crow Era, and in the 1950s and 1960s, during the modern Civil Rights Movement. It is well beyond time that these symbols of oppression and white supremacy come down.
- Follow the Lead of Groups that Have Been Doing This. We stand with Color of Change in their effort to take down all the Confederate monuments across the country. Support local groups in your communities that have already been leading the fight. (More below on being a good partner).
- Use Your Constituent Power. Over the last few weeks, Confederate statues have been coming down across the country—from New Orleans to Florida to Baltimore. Use the tactics you’re accustomed to and push for the removal of these statues in your communities.
- You can see a working list of confederate monuments and the campaigns around them here.
- Many communities already have extensive campaigns to take down these monuments—find the existing efforts in your area or start a new one if none exist yet.
- Use the tactics that Indivisible groups have become accustomed to as a way to put pressure on your city council, state legislature, mayor, etc—show up at town halls/open forums, plan protests and flood offices with calls.
We’ll have more information coming soon on the effort to take them all down.
Across the country, there are organizations and leaders that advocate for the rights of, and provide support for, historically marginalized communities on the local, state, and national level. If you’re seeking to engage a community regarding issues that directly affect them, you should start by reaching out to organizations and leaders that have organized themselves to create positive change for their community, or that have an established track record serving them, and who therefore may have the trust of that community. If you find these organizations and engage with them thoughtfully and respectfully, new partnership and membership opportunities can emerge.
Building these relationships takes time and respect. You can see additional guidance on how to develop these relationships in our How to Build Inclusive Partnerships Guide.
During this fight against white supremacy, it’s critical that we’re centering the voices that are most impacted and respecting the groups that have been leading and on the forefront of this work for years. Don’t lean on these groups or look to them to do the work, but follow their lead. Developing these relationships is a long term process, but in the short term, here are a few things to consider in your outreach:
- Make showing up a conscious effort. Don’t wait for groups to come to you—make an intentional effort to reach out and open up communication. Oftentimes we think of good allyship through the lens of “inclusion.” While it’s important to be inclusive, it’s also important that privileged groups show up for the groups that are doing the work, rather than expecting them to join new organizations.
- Carefully consider who you should reach out to. Give priority to local groups committed to progressive politics who have an analysis of systems of oppression, and who are working to shift power. Focus on local groups or local chapters rather than national organizations.
- Be humble. Approach your first conversation as an opportunity to learn about the work that is already happening. Ask questions, listen and be respectful of their time. Do your research in advance and come with a solid background in the group’s history and work
- Offer support. Ask about upcoming events and how your group can be supportive. Recognize that in many cases these groups have been doing work in these spaces for years or decades.
- Follow through. Be clear about what is possible and follow through on your commitments. If you said you can hold two events or turn out 20 people to one of their events, do it.
- Follow Up. After you work on an event with a group, follow up. Ask how they thought it went, share your experience and if appropriate discuss opportunities to collaborate in the future.
- Tools for White Anti-Racist Organizing and From a Place of Love - Catalyst Project
- Tools for White Guys who are Working for Social Change - Chris Crass
- Dismantling Racism: a Resource Book for Social Change Groups - Western States Center
- White Supremacy Culture - Tema Okun - Dismantling Racism Works
Understanding White privilege
- On Racism and White Privilege - Teaching Tolerance
- The Case for Reparations - Ta-Nehisi Coates
- The Roots of the Widening Racial Wealth Gap - Institute for Assets and Social Policy
- On white fragility (video), by Robin DiAngelo, a teacher, writer, and trainer on white studies
- Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism, by Robin DiAngelo
- How the Government Betrayed A Landmark Civil Rights Law - Nikole Hannah-Jones - ProPublica
- What I Said When My White Friend Asked for My Black Opinion on White Privilege - Lori Lakin Hutcherson