#EndWhiteSilence Week of Action Toolkit

In this moment, white silence is being used to justify the unjustifiable, and we need as many people in action as possible This is about George Floyd, and it’s alsoabout Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and the centuries of violence against Black people and communities of color by the police.  It is about what happened in Central Park and a throughline to Trump and white supremacy.  This is an opportunity for us to change the conversation.  We are asking for something simple that everyone can do, show up at your police headquarters or city hall with a sign that says #endwhitesilence.  One person can do this or hundreds can.

Table of contents:

  • What is this about?
  • Inoculating Ourselves Against Inaction - common limiting statements
  • Why do we need to  do it?
  • The Action plan
  • Before the action
  • While you are there
  • After you leave
  • Some What-ifs
  • Message and Media

What is this about?  It is about police impunity, and deeper seeded systems of white supremacy which include: COVID deaths, mass incarceration, deportations, theft of indigenous lands and other systemic oppression in POC communities.  It is about showing that struggling white folks have more in common with POC movements for change, than with those at the top.  Our work is to break white silence, expose the lie, undermine the hold on white folks.

Inoculating Ourselves Against Inaction - common limiting statements:

  1.  Who are we as white folks to take action? In fact, POC have been asking us to focus on getting our people for over 50 years-out of SNCC, Black Liberation Movement and they are asking now:  “what are the white folks doing while we die?” Our part is to engage and move more white folks to break white silence and be visible.  As white people, our liberation from economic, gender, and disability oppression is at stake here as well.
  2. It’s dangerous right now because of covid.  Why go out to protest and potentially get more people sick?  There are ways to protest visibly and safely.  In some SURJ cities people are doing car caravans, bike caravans, socially distanced vigils, protests, phone zaps and more.  In Louisville this past Friday, folks stood six feet apart on the mayor’s office steps to protest the brutal murder of Breonna Taylor by police there.  They wore masks, and stayed apart.  In the rural west, caravans are one big way folks are showing up and demonstrating.  People in Oregon are going to the Tyson plant in Wallula that is hiding a COVID outbreak despite multiple workers dying,  and there are protests demanding the Oregon State Prison release everyone.  
  3.  We need time to organize something good, and this week is way too soon. This is NOT about the perfect event.  This is NOT about hours of planning meetings.  This is about finding the thing you and your friends are going to do next week, and inviting others to join you.  Make your sign, let others know where to meet you.  Do it.  Show Up. End white silence.
  4. I do not want to be part of something where people are so angry and some are destroying property.  That is not for me.  The system of profit for the few honors property above all else.  We are not encouraging destruction of property, AND we believe the lives of Ahmaud, Breonna, George and countless others who have died at hands of police or white supremacists are more important than property.  Their lives are more important than the fear of the anger that might keep us home.  You can leave any situation if you do not feel right being there.  But be there.


Why do we need to do it?.

White silence creates the space in which the killing of Black and Brown and Indigenous people is acceptable.  We know that what happened to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor is what has happened to thousands of other black folks over the last few years; extrajudicial murders by the police.  This is not about the Minneapolis Police Department or the Louisville Police Department, it is about the institution of policing in general and those who wear the badge. It is about the relationship of policing to maintaining the profits over people economic system--keeping white folks from joining people of color for a better world for all of us.

1)      Our job is to use this moment to bring more white folks into the movement for racial justice in ways that are accessible to them, welcomes them, and engages them now and for the longer haul.

2)      We are being called by communities of color, and our own stake in this moment, to “do something”concrete and that is about action.  Study groups, meetings, a ‘good heart’ and tweets are deeply insufficient for the time we are in.

3)      If you are in an accountability relationship with an organization led by folks of color who are showing up in public like in Memphis or Los Angeles, support that leadership and follow the requests for support Whether this is the case or not, we encourage you to consider an #EndWhiteSilence event to bring more white folks into visible action.  

The Action Plan

Our goal is to propose something simple enough that anyone can do, and visible enough that this could catch on in a huge way, and safe enough that we all feel able to do it..

The proposed action is simple.  Show up at your local police station with a sign that says #EndWhiteSilence.  

Before The Action:

  1. Turn out others to come:  Call and text your friends and neighbors, email and post on your local SURJ group or any other groups you are part of.  Remember, people who have not previously been active might show up in this moment, so do not shy away from reaching out to people who might not previously have come out. Indeed, that is the work.
  2. Create a Facebook Event:  We are seeing people come out because they want to take action, so use all the social media tools to make it easy for them to do so.
  3. Do a press advisory:  Lots of reporters are looking for a local way to cover this story.  The fact that there is someone trying to organize white folks to take action might be newsworthy.  See tips and a sample press release below.

While You Are There:

  1. Stay as long as you can.  Don’t make this merely a photo-op, but be there and bear witness.  It might be uncomfortable and intimidating to be at the police station.  It might be isolated.  Remember, this is what folks of color face when dealing with police every single day.
  2. Do simple chants, like End White Silence, and bring signs that say End White Silence (big thick dark letters on white paper work best.
  3. Tweet out a picture of you and your crew with the signs, #EndWhiteSilence.  Share and tag others in your life.. Use hashtags of local or national people who have been killed by the police like #justice4Breonna, #justice4George and #justice4Ahmaud  Tag SURJ on facebook @showingupforracialjustice Tag us on IG @showingupforracialjustice Tag us on twitter @showup4rj

After You Leave:

  1. Sometimes it takes sustained action over time before people really sit up and take notice. So do not be discouraged if your event does not immediately have 25 people or even hundreds attending. You might want to try again. Did folks sound interested but couldn’t make it?  Reach out to them or even schedule a zoom call to talk about trying it again or organizing a regular vigil at the Police Station.
  2. Check out the hashtag and keep posting.  Even if your event was not hugely attended, you are part of a larger movement.  As other folks where you live see what’s happening across the country they may want to be involved.  You are planting the seeds to build a movement.
  3. Share photos and updates with SURJ nationally so we can help promote and inspire others.   z@showup4rj.org
  4. If you had some folks show up, schedule a debrief and next steps call. You can talk more about what it felt like to take action, plan additional actions, and use the action as a way to build your SURJ chapter’s base.  Join a chapter if you are not already a chapter, or start one if there is not one in your area.  Be ready to thank people for taking action and invite them to participate in your chapter’s next step towards becoming a leader. This could be a 1-1 meet up with a local SURJ leader, attend another event, or take another specific action.
  5. Here are some additional resources to help with Campaign planning, Action planning, Basebuilding and Recruitment.

Some “What-Ifs”:

A note on safety:  Before we get into specific scenarios there is one guiding principle.  Be Safe, whatever that means to you.  We are in a global pandemic with white supremacist activity, with often tacit support from the police on the rise.  There are no easy answers here, but we are trying to be present and visible.  If there are activities that feel unsafe, you can leave.  And if you feel inclined to use your privilege and white body to be present for police attacking youth of color, do that as well. The decision and risk are yours.  

What if there are too many people?  What a great problem to have!  There are a few options here, you can use caution tape or sidewalk chalk to create social distance places for people to stand or sit.  You can set up an on-line form so that folks can sign up for shifts and make it a 24/7 vigil.  Or you can suggest people go to other targets as well.  Google the police foundation board and look for the local law firms and corporations that sponsor the police and send some participants to those places.  Or, you can go to City Hall and places that oversee the police.

What if white supermacists/militias show up?  Yeah, that can be scary, no doubt about it.  You have to make the judgement about when something is unsafe and you should leave.  There are lots of other tools, often the right-wing will show up in cars, so you can move people to the sidewalk.  For those people who do leave, accompany them back to their cars.

What if police start harassing you?  Again you have to decide your level of safety.  Generally being a predominantly white group changes the way the police will interact with you.  A few things you can choose to do include:

  • Have a police liaison so that the police-who are generally a command and control organization, have someone they can talk to and give requests to.  There are resources for police liaisons:  
  • Film encounters with police.  Ideally designate someone to record, rather than have 10 people with phones filming them.
  • Everyone has to make their own decisions about safety and risk.

Message and Media

Our goal in doing these public actions is to get attention, and media.  Here are some tips:

Message:  If you are talking with TV and Radio, always answer the question you wish they had asked, not the one they ask.  So think about a 30 second blurb and don’t be shy about repeating it.  Speak from the heart. Talk about systems and structures.  George Floyd’s and Breonna Taylor’s murders opened the door so more people could understand how the police function, but it is not merely about justice for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.  Here are some sample things you could say but please speak to your own experience.

“As a white person, I knew I needed to come out today and bear witness at the Police Station here in xxx.  I understand that George Floyd’s and Breonna Taylor’s murders were not isolated incidents, but it is about police violence inflicted on black and brown bodies everyday.  As a mother, I cannot imagine what it must be like for an African American mother struggle to keep her family safe in a pandemic, while also worrying about murder and abuse from the police.   Look at who is mostly dying from Covid, it is people of color as well. I needed to get off of watching the news, and be part of making a change, and I am encouraging my friends and neighbors to do the same.”

Getting Press: Below is a sample press advisory you can send out to media outlets.  Remember reporters are people too, so also call them, email them directly, and direct message them on twitter.  If you have a larger event, designate someone to be media liaison.  This doesn’t mean they need to be the spokesperson, it just means they need to talk to press and bring them to the correct folks who can speak.

***MEDIA ADVISORY FOR Saturday,  May 30th AT 1:00PM *** (Example)

Demonstrators to converge at Anytown Police Headquarters to hold vigil demanding an End to White Silence on issues of Racial Injustice (Title)

Anytown, MO— Tomorrow, May 30th at 1:00 PM EDT, Demonstrators bringing signs and practicing social distancing will be at the Police Headquarters at 150 Main Street in downtown anytown.  They are part of Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ), an organization dedicated to organizing white folks to show up and fight the root causes of racism.  The demonstration is to show that George Floyd’s and Breonna Taylor’s murderers were not just rogue cops, but they represent underlying conditions of racist policing that manifest here in Anytown as well.

WHO:  Members and supporters of Showing Up for Racial Justice, practicing social distancing

WHAT: Demonstration to End White Silence on racist policing practices and the systems that support hat.

WHERE: Anytown Police HQ at 150 Main Street

WHEN: Saturday, May 30th 1:00PM EDT

SURJ Leader Mother Jones said, “As a white person, I knew I needed to come out today and bear witness at the Police Station here in Anytown.  I understand that George Floyd’s and Breonna Taylor’s murders were not an isolated incident, but they represent the police violence inflicted on Black and Brown bodies everyday.  As a mother, I cannot imagine what it must be like for an African American mother struggle to keep her family safe in a pandemic, while also worrying about murder and abuse from the police. I needed to get off my social media feed, and show up in person and bear witness.”