Racial Justice Organizing: Community organizing using a racial justice lens that is accountable to POC-led organizations
1. Transformative Justice
“Individual justice and collective liberation are equally important, mutually supportive, and fundamentally intertwined—the achievement of one is impossible without the achievement of the other.” -Generation 5
We understand that community safety is not predicated on structures instituted by the state, such as police and prisons, but on community support and accountability. Community safety practices must address not only violence in its overt forms, but more generally a community’s ability to meet the needs of its members, to nourish and support one another in building structure and practice to uphold each other’s safety and humanity. We know that prison abolition, and the elimination of the criminal justice system is vital to our community’s safety and the work towards collective liberation.
2. Collective Liberation
“If you have come here to help me, then you are wasting your time…But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
–Lilla Watson, Murri (Australian indigenous) visual artist, activist, and academic
We do approach this work from a belief that none of us are free until all of us are free. We recognize that the same systems and institutions that uphold white supremacy also uphold and overlap with classism, misogyny, ablism, agism, heteronormativity, cissexism, sizism, xenophobia, and other forms of oppression. We understand that Black chattel slavery and settler colonialism–the historical foundation of white supremacy in Turtle Island/the United States–were created in ways intertwined with capitalism. As we struggle for racial justice, we work from the intersections of these systems of oppression. Specifically, this means we are committed to making our organizing work as accessible as possible to people of all (dis)abilities. We center the involvement and leadership of families, of poor and working class folks, and of women, queer, and trans people. Our political and strategic decisions are guided by feminist and anti-capitalist as well as anti-racist principles. In this way, we work for our collective liberation.
Praxis means learning while doing. We resist perfectionism, which is characteristic of white supremacist culture. We know that we will make mistakes, and that we cannot delay action until we feel 100% ready to be sure of getting it right. Instead we strive for action that is “good enough” – that has an overall positive impact, and in which the inevitable missteps that occur are ones we can correct and learn from to strengthen our work and the movement.
We embrace a diversity of tactics, knowing that all tools, tactics and styles have their pros and cons, and that different situations call for different creative responses. We learn from each experience and adapt to improve our ability to choose the best tactic for the next unique situation.
We continually educate ourselves and the community as part of our organizing. We see learning and action as intertwined, not competing for our attention but rather furthering and strengthening each other in every moment.
4. Organizational Accountability
We hold permeability (ease of members moving in and out of leadership positions) as an important element of our structure. This is to ensure that power is shared, it facilitates skill building, and invites fresh ideas. A dedication to transparency contributes to our own internal and external accountability. We utilize participatory decision making methods including consensus. This allows for a variety of perspectives and voices to be heard. In order to maintain the sustainability of our work we realistically look at capacity in setting goals. This sets us up a better ability to carry through. We know that organizational longevity is necessary for long term accountability. We prioritize an organizational structure which values different modes of participation and the variety perspectives that people bring. This also allows people with varied capacities to participate in ways that they are able.
5. Localism/ Rural- Centered
We understand the important role of white folks in educating ourselves and other white folks and taking action to end racism and work towards the liberation of all people. We prioritize local action and rural-based organizing. We are currently Brattleboro based, and support and hold ourselves accountable to Vermont statewide initiatives led by people of color such as Vermont Black Lives Matter, Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity and Migrant Justice. We also connect with SURJ chapters/affiliates in Vermont and Western Mass. We would like to be multi-county connecting with Cheshire County, New Hampshire and Franklin County, Mass, but for now we are not actively recruiting representation from there. We also are connected to the national SURJ Rural and Small Towns network.
6. Redistribution of Power
The power and resources accumulated and hoarded in white communities in the United States is directly related to the violence and harm brought onto indigenous peoples and people of color communities by way of genocide, slavery, stolen labor, land theft, redlining, the current-day prison system, and other institutionalized forms of violence. Power and resources take the form of land, wealth, capital, knowledge, skills, time, and physical and emotional labor. Because we know there is more than enough to go around, we work to move power and resources back into indigenous and people of color communities in order to support their self-determination and leadership.