Nonviolence International celebrates the bold leadership of Rev. William Barber and the Poor People’s Campaign in the United States of America. We are inspired by their moral witness and join with them in solidarity asking all our friends and supporters to do whatever you can to help raise up their vital work.
On Saturday, June 20th, Americans will come together with a movement led by those whose value has been consistently undermined by our brutal and oppressive system.
There are 140 million poor and low-wealth people in the richest country in the world. Somehow we have allowed enormous and totally unnecessary suffering to continue year after year, decade after decade. It is as if we have forgotten our moral obligation to reduce the violence inherent in the way our society is structured. We at NVI ask - how have Americans become accepting of violence in their economy?
Those who recently lectured on how Dr. King would have felt about property destruction seemed to have missed his larger point. We must recognize the humanity of all people. That recognition requires long-delayed and bold action. This movement, rooted in the leadership of poor people, deserves the active support of all who consider themselves to be committed to nonviolence.
Focusing our attention on those who are most in need has long been a central guiding principle of active nonviolence. For those interested in history, please see how Dr. King’s final campaign echoes in the work we are engaged in today.
See our earlier post on this topic that explores Gandhi and King’s moral commitment:
By Stephen Zunes who thanks the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict for supporting his research.
NVI's longtime Director, Michael Beer, has provided advisory support for Dr. Zunes in his Sudan research.
Sudan’s Democratic Revolution is Being Undermined by the United States
Last year’s nonviolent pro-democracy revolution in Sudan which brought down the brutal 30-year dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir and the subsequent military junta inspired the world. Few popular uprisings in history faced such extremely difficult circumstances and few displayed the kind of courage, tenacity, and effective strategy by pro-democracy activists which led to their victory.
Unfortunately, the United States has been pursuing policies which almost seem designed to destroy Sudan’s fragile democratic experiment.
Since August 2019, Sudan has been ruled by a sovereign council made up of six civilians and five members of the military, along with a cabinet of liberal civilian technocrats headed by Prime Minister Hamdok, a former economist with the United Nations. Elections are scheduled for 2022 to give time for civil society, decimated under the Bashir regime, to reemerge and strengthen. Freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and other rights have been restored.
For the democratic revolution to succeed, the civilian-led government must have legitimacy in the eyes of enough Sudanese.
The Sudanese people have twice before—in 1964 and then again in 1985—risen up in unarmed civil insurrections which toppled dictatorships and established democratic governance only to have the military again seize power several years later. Few people believe the military will not try again. For the democratic revolution to succeed, the civilian-led government must have sufficient legitimacy in the eyes of enough Sudanese for the people to be willing to defend it if threatened. Even if the military is unable to completely overthrow the civilian leadership, chronic economic problems could lead autocratic elements in the armed forces to further assert their influence within the ruling coalition.
A critical factor will be whether the civilian-led government is able to revive the economy which, even prior to the pandemic, was struggling with inflation, a weakening currency, and a foreign debt more than twice the country’s annual GDP. Jonas Horner, a Sudan specialist with the International Crisis group noted, “If the civilians within the government look like they are unable to respond to Sudan’s myriad problems, that leaves space for other actors to pour into the vacuum.”
The single biggest obstacle to Sudan’s economic recovery is the continued US economic sanctions.
The single biggest obstacle to Sudan’s economic recovery is the continued US economic sanctions, which—as is the case with U.S. sanctions against Iran—not only impacts trade with and investment from the United States, but from other countries and multilateral entities as well. Despite Sudan now being led by secular civilians inexorably opposed to terrorism and Salafist extremism, Washington still officially lists Sudan as a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Most absurdly, the United States is holding Sudan’s transitional government responsible for crimes committed by Al-Qaeda, not only when al-Bashir was providing the terrorist group sanctuary in Sudan between 1991 and 1996, but for terrorist attacks which took place in 1998 and 2000 after they had been expelled.
Prime Minister Hamdok, in an address before the UN General Assembly this past fall, noted: “The Sudanese people have never sponsored, nor were supportive of terrorism. On the contrary, those were the acts of the former regime which has been continuously resisted by the Sudanese people until its final ouster. These sanctions have played havoc on our people, causing them untold misery of all types and forms. We, in the transitional government, call on the United States of America to take Sudan off the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism and not to continue punishing the Sudanese people for the acts committed by that vicious regime, especially that our people have been victims of and courageously resistant to.”
Sudan’s inclusion as a state sponsor of terrorism requires the US to block loans from international financial institutions.
In addition to prohibiting any economic assistance, Sudan’s inclusion as a state sponsor of terrorism requires the United States to block loans and other assistance from such international financial institutions as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, prohibits US citizens from engaging in financial transactions with the government without approval of the Treasury Department, denies individuals or companies tax credit for income earned, and bans duty-free imports, among other restrictions.
Furthermore, if a country is on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, they no longer have diplomatic immunity from families of terrorist victims who file civil lawsuits in the United States. US policy is that the civilian government of Sudan must pay billions of dollars in compensation to these families in order to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism regardless of the fact they no longer sponsor terrorism. The paradox for Sudan is that they can’t be immune from being sued as long as they are on the list and they can’t be removed from the list unless they pay damages from the lawsuits.
Sudan agreed to pay $30 million USD to the families of sailors on the USS Cole killed in a 2000 Al-Qaeda attack.
In one step towards getting themselves removed from the list, the government agreed to pay $30 million USD to the families of sailors on the USS Cole killed in a 2000 Al-Qaeda attack on the Navy destroyer in Aden Harbor, along with wounded survivors. More significantly, the United States has demanded that the civilian-led government pay up to $10.2 billion USD in compensatory and punitive damages for the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, though negotiations are under way that could significantly lower the amount Sudan would need to pay.
Sudan’s projected budget revenue for 2020 is only $12.63 billion USD. The civilian-led government has few options, however. The International Monetary Fund ranks Sudan as the world’s 14th poorest country out of 186 nations. (Meanwhile, the United States – the world’s wealthiest country – refuses to pay compensation for crimes committed by its government against Iraq, Vietnam, or other countries, including Nicaragua, which the International Court of Justice ruled in 1986 that the United States needed to pay reparations for damages from attacks against its civilian infrastructure.)
Despite desperate needs in health, education, and infrastructure, as much as 70% of the country’s budget went to the armed forces.
Despite desperate needs in health, education, and infrastructure, as much as 70% of the country’s budget while under military rule went to the armed forces. With a huge backlog of domestic needs now facing the civilian government and a foreign debt more than twice its annual GDP, Sudan is still required to repay. It is hard to imagine how Sudan could afford to give this kind of money to the United States.
Punishing Sudanese for the crimes of others is nothing new. Following the 1998 embassy attacks, the United States bombed a large pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum North, falsely claiming it was a chemical weapons factory controlled by Al-Qaeda. While no one was killed in the precision nighttime missile attack, the destruction of the facility—which produced over half of Sudan’s vaccines and antibiotics—likely contributed to thousands of deaths in the subsequent months.
A critical factor in stabilizing civilian rule in Sudan is ending the rebellions in Darfur, the Blue Nile, and South Kordofan regions.
A critical factor in stabilizing civilian rule in Sudan is ending the rebellions in Darfur, the Blue Nile, and South Kordofan regions where tenuous ceasefires are now in place but frequently threaten to break down. There are many complicated factors to be worked out, but peace will also cost hundreds of millions of dollars in order to demobilize and reintegrate rebel fighters, reform the security sector, and provide economic support for these desperately poor regions, which the previous military regime spent huge sums to suppress but almost nothing to develop. Meanwhile, there are more than two million displaced people from these conflicts needing assistance. According to Magdi el-Gizouli, a fellow at the Rift Valley Institute, “The great risk is that Sudan cannot even afford a peace process.”
Most immediately, ongoing US sanctions have made it difficult for the Sudanese to fight the coronavirus. In April, the World Bank approved a $1.9 million USD emergency fund for 25 developing counties along with plans to spend as much as $160 billion USD through mid-2021 to fight the pandemic. However, the US policy of vetoing international financial institutions from providing even humanitarian support forced the World Bank to exclude Sudan from this critical funding effort to fight the pandemic.
The US policy of vetoing humanitarian support forced the World Bank to exclude Sudan from its funding effort to fight the pandemic.
Cameron Hudson of the Atlantic Council has noted lifting the sanctions is a “crucial ingredient in Sudan’s long-term recovery and in its hopes of ushering in a civilian-led, democratic regime.” However, according to Hudson, the process of removing Sudan from the list of state sponsors of terrorism “involves an interlocking network of legislative processes, legal rulings, financial settlements, intelligence assessments, and, most of all, politics, to unwind this ultimate tool in America’s sanctions arsenal.”
To further punish Sudan’s efforts for a democratic transition, the United States announced in February that it was ending migration visas from Sudan, effectively making immigration from that country impossible.
Even prior to Trump, the United States has long supported autocratic regimes in both the Middle East and Africa.
Even prior to Trump, the United States has long supported autocratic regimes in both the Middle East and Africa and has maintained particularly close relations with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. These countries are strong supporters of the conservative military officers who ruled Sudan between Bashir’s ouster and the August 2019 agreement allowing for a civilian-led government, and whom many believe would still like to see the military regain control. A large bipartisan majority of the US Congress supports sending $1.7 billion USD annually to prop up the Sisi dictatorship in Egypt and supports large-scale subsidies for arms transfers and military training to the wealthy absolute monarchies in the Gulf, while refusing to provide any relief for the impoverished democratic Sudan.
The Sudanese not only suffered over 30 years of brutal dictatorship, the United States is effectively punishing them further for having overthrown that dictatorship. The Sudanese people are being held responsible for the crimes of a military regime against which millions struggled for decades at enormous sacrifice and finally succeeded in removing last year. The resulting economic crisis is crushing the optimism Inside Arabia reported on just a few months ago, on February 26.
It’s unclear why there is so much hostility coming out of Washington for Sudan’s democratic struggle. Trump’s fondness for authoritarians is well-known. Depicting Arab, African, and Middle Eastern countries as chronically violent and teeming with angry extremists with a propensity toward terrorism helps reinforce the perceived need for the United States to intervene militarily and to back authoritarian governments and occupation armies. Though there’s no direct evidence to suggest this is conscious policy, downplaying pro-democracy movements and undermining democratic governments does play a function in justifying such policies.
Perhaps acknowledging Arab, African, and Muslim peoples embracing a passionate desire for freedom and democracy doesn’t fit the Western narrative.
During a background briefing at the US embassy in Khartoum back in January, this writer got the strong impression from officials there that they assumed Sudan’s democratic experiment would fail, essentially seeing the country as too poor, too divided, and with too many problems to overcome through democratic governance. This underscores that perhaps acknowledging Arab, African, and Muslim peoples having agency, thinking strategically, engaging in effective nonviolent action, and embracing a passionate desire for freedom and democracy simply doesn’t fit into the Western narrative. Regardless of the motivation, the United States seems to be doing what it can to get this remarkable democratic experiment to fail.
It may be difficult to mobilize public opinion in the United States to force a change in policy amid the pandemic and ongoing struggles against racial injustice and other inequities domestically, yet international solidarity in support of the Sudanese people is no less important now than it was during their struggle against dictatorship.
Dr. Stephen Zunes is a Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco, where he serves as coordinator of the program in Middle Eastern Studies. Recognized as one the country’s leading scholars of U.S. Middle East policy and of strategic nonviolent action, Professor Zunes serves as a senior policy analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus project of the Institute for Policy Studies, an associate editor of Peace Review, and a contributing editor of Tikkun.
For a quick post about a mural in Sudan thanking Stephen Zunes and NVI's longtime Executive Director Michael Beer, please see: https://www.nonviolenceinternational.net/sudan_mural
By David Hart
With thanks to our friends at Waging Nonviolence and Campaign Nonviolence, I am pleased to share a piece I wrote that they just published.
Waging Nonviolence started out as a fiscally sponsored partner at NVI. They are now doing essential work and describe themselves as "an independent, non-profit media platform dedicated to providing original reporting and expert analysis of social movements around the world. We believe that when ordinary people organize they have incredible power and are the drivers of social change — not politicians, billionaires or corporations.
In short, people power is our beat, and we cover the ways it is shaping our world, grounded in both history and the latest research."
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On a tight timeline, Campaign Nonviolence welcomed my article on their Community page on Waging Nonviolence. They are "a project of Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, is working for a new culture of nonviolence by connecting the issues to end war, poverty, racism and environmental destruction. We organize The Nonviolent Cities Project and the annual Campaign Nonviolence Week of Actions."
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Could June 7 be the day humanity begins to save ourselves?
Could it be that on June 7 humanity finally comes together and begins to save ourselves? Long overdue, and desperately needed, a major change did begin on this date — June 7, 1893 — in South Africa. This is the day that Mohandas Gandhi refused to give up his seat on a train. Instead of accepting the humiliation of racial discrimination, he accepted the inconvenience. He didn’t get where he was headed as quickly as he intended, but he began a lifelong journey of discovery that may still, at this late date, have the power to save us. A young Gandhi learned that day about the importance of saying “no” to injustice.
Many know something of his work to liberate India through the power of active nonviolence. He became a renowned practitioner of what he described as “a force more powerful” than any other in the history of humanity. But if you read Wikipedia’s article about June 7, you will learn of many battles, but not of this pivotal moment. Interestingly, one year earlier on this same date, Homer Plessy attempted to ride in the “whites only” section of a train in Louisiana prompting the famous Plessy v. Ferguson case and its evil “separate but equal” ruling. That ruling echoes to this day in the unjust system being laid bare even as I write these words.
Sadly, we have allowed the beauty and impact of nonviolence to remain largely in its infancy. We should have studied how to build a world of peace with justice, as seriously as we have studied war. Yet the early successes of active nonviolence teach us that it is the only path forward that will allow us to achieve our vast potential.
Our world is both beautiful and dangerously broken. In recent days and weeks, many people are waking up to the harsh reality that we are addicted to violence. All over people are seeing that violence is built right into our very system. We face epidemic levels of violence. Even as we hear that “we are all in this together,” we know that to make that commitment real, we have to change our policies in deep and lasting ways.
Recently in the United States, people who don’t understand the heart of nonviolence call loudly for “nonviolence.” Why? Because they want to maintain the brutally violent status quo. Active nonviolence must always be on the side of justice and can never support an unjust order. Both Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. shared a deep and lasting commitment to those at the bottom of the social order.
These days people are repeating King’s line “riots are the language of the unheard.” True and important, but let’s also remember that he repeatedly told us that we have a clear and ongoing moral obligation to not only hear those voices, but also to make big structural system changes that reflect the reality that all people everywhere are valued.
When Gandhi sat down on that train, he awakened the potential to change the world without resorting to violence. Of course, he wasn’t really the first to use nonviolence. He read Henry David Thoreau, who in turn had read the Bhagavad Gita. These techniques have been used in small, but meaningful ways for thousands of years. What Gandhi did was to bring nonviolence into the modern world. He was a deep strategic thinker who used creative, constructive nonviolence to overcome a powerful and brutal occupying force.
Gandhi paved the way. Years later Martin Luther King Jr. took these methods and applied them to the flawed experiment in democracy that is the United States. As he fought peacefully for justice, he showed us that nonviolence could be applied to a wide variety of situations. King told us “the choice before us is clear — nonviolence or nonexistence.” His prophetic words ring true today more than ever.
We face a series of interrelated crises that can never be won through the barrel of a gun. All our nation’s vast military might will never manage to fix them. It never could. It never will. Our investment in war has been grossly excessive. We spend treasure and human life in search of a solution that will always elude us. What if we spent a small fraction of what we spend on the military on the serious study of peace and on our pressing human and environmental needs?
Could we find a path out of this darkness to a new and better day? Could this pandemic be the “portal, a gateway between one world and the next” that Arundhati Roy calls on us to build together? Maybe. We certainly have a better chance if we unite a global movement of movements to explore the power of creative nonviolence. Some say it is already too late, but that suggests we are going to accept untold human suffering now and in the future. If we don’t quickly embrace, explore and expand the power of nonviolence, the worst is yet to come.
Let’s consider what happened 127 years ago on June 7, and decide together to address the epidemic levels of violence in our society with love, a commitment to justice, and the transformative potential of active nonviolence.
We Are All Part of One Another - Webinar Series
Creative Nonviolent Action for Palestine During COVID-19
Our expert panel explores campaigns promoting nonviolence amidst the pandemic. Panelists included: Pam Bailey and Raed Shakshak from our partner We Are Not Numbers, Alex McDonald from our partner US Boats to Gaza, our partner Hebron International Resource Network, and Roshan Dadoo, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, South Africa. Hosted by our founders Mubarak Awad & Jonathan Kuttab
Thanks to our friends at Nonviolence International NY who produced this video.
Pam Bailey - 9:37
Raed Shakshak - 16:45
Alex McDonald - 25:47
HIRN - 37:45
Roshan Dadoo - 45:48
HIRN, WANN, and US Boats to Gaza are fiscally sponsored projects of NVI. To support their vital work please visit https://www.nonviolenceinternational.net/donate and become monthly donors.
Starhawk's Response to Current Events:
A cop murders a man in cold blood, in an icon of humiliation, knee on neck, a man who is bound and pleading for his life, and all this happens not just in front of other cops who do not intervene, not just in front of a live crowd, but is videoed and shown to the world.
It’s a public murder, a lynching, a display of brute power.
And this murder is one in a long string of murders, black life after black life, and in the majority of cases, the perpetrators have walked free.
And we wonder why our cities are in flames?
We are surprised when a cigarette butt sparks a raging fire in a tinder-dry forest?
I am a life-long advocate and practitioner of nonviolence, but I’m not going to preach it to those who have the knee on their neck. Not until I first send out a larger call:
I call for nonviolence from the cops, whom we as a society entrust with the right to carry weapons and to use force, and who therefore must be accountable and responsible when they abuse that trust.
I call for nonviolence from the president, who has condoned and advocated violence on every level, stoked racial fear and hatred, supported white supremacists, egged on armed, white protestors, and so much more that I can work myself up into a froth just trying to list it. And from all the other power-holders who aid and abet him, who ignore their duty to govern fairly and accountably.
I call for nonviolence from the media that focus on and glorify violence and too often ignore peaceful protest, from the media outlets that spread misinformation and outright lie, from the social media that provide platforms for lies and hate to spread.
I call for nonviolence from any folks of privilege, whether that’s vanguardist leftists or, far more prevalent, organized white supremacist groups, who are using the protests to advance their own agendas instead of taking the lead from those whose lives are most directly impacted.
I call upon us all to acknowledge that racism is violence, continual and nonstop, like a low-level inflammation that saps your energy and occasionally erupts into agonizing pain. And occasionally sets the world on fire.
We live steeped in and surrounded by violence, shaped by it, entertained by it. Violence is outright force but it is also neglect, appropriation of resources, lies, stereotypes, devaluation, unwillingness to acknowledge and reward the beauty and creativity and gifts of those who are deemed not to matter. It’s our reluctance to let someone else determine the norms, set the rules, be the center of the story.
So if we are shocked, shocked by broken glass and burned-out cop cars, then we have a responsibility to change the climate that is stoking the fires.
Nonviolence isn’t something to preach. It’s best put into practice, by actively working against the inherent violence that pervades our system.
The Many Faces of Nonviolence- Reverend Joseph Lowery
By Maegan Hanlon
Reverend Joseph Lowery dedicated his life to the civil rights movement. Growing up in the Jim Crow era in Alabama, Reverend Lowery saw first hand the damage violence and racism caused in everyday life. In fact, Reverend Lowery cites an incident with Alabama police that sparked his dedication to nonviolence and civil rights. He recalls as an eleven-year-old, a police officer in his hometown of Huntsville, Alabama “jabbed him with a nightstick.” The police officer then accused Reverend Lowery of not respecting white men. Rather than letting this incident allow rage to fester internally, the reverend said it inspired him to dedicate his life to nonviolent resistance. After college Reverend Lowery worked on a newspaper column about racial injustice, and later decided to attend seminary school to become a minister. He was ordained into the United Methodist Church and joined the NAACP. His experience with faith greatly inspired his commitment to nonviolence throughout his life.
As a minister in the American United Method Church, he believed in using nonviolent tactics to advocate for equal rights under the law. He organized his first nonviolent protest with the goal of desegregating buses in Mobile, Alabama during the 1950s. Later, he helped organize the 1955 Montgomery Bus boycott in which black riders sat in seats reserved for white riders. Their efforts were successful, and Montgomery's buses were desegregated. When reflecting on this victory, he said that the boycott, “sparked and triggered an era of self-determination.” Additionally, the bus boycott victory led to the creation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). The SCLC, led by Reverend Lowery and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., aimed to coordinate local activist groups with a strong commitment to nonviolent protest and action against injustice.
In 1965, Reverend Lowery led the march from Selma to Montgomery that brought demands on voting rights to Alabama’s Governor, George Wallace, a fervent segregationist. Reverend Lowery brought marchers from the SCLC and other organizations to the Alabama state capital to protest racial discrimination in voting procedures. His peaceful marchers were attacked by state police on the Governor’s orders, but the altercation only served to further inspire Reverend Lowery and his supporters. Later that year the reverend led a march on Washington, DC, which ultimately led to the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Reverend Lowery continued to work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for many years, using his nonviolent tactics to fight for justice all over the world.
In the 1970s, he shifted his nonviolent focus to the power of the ballot, and he encouraged millions of black Americans to use their votes to fight for justice. After his success with the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Reverend Lowery wanted to assure both young and old black voters that voting held power. Throughout his career Reverend Lowery continued to advocate for nonviolence tactics after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003. He used his platform as a nonviolent civil rights leader and minister to preach about peace. A great example of this occurred during his eulogy for Coretta Scott King, a fellow civil rights leader and friend, who passed away in 2006. During the eulogy he denounced the United States’ involvement in the Iraq War in front of President Bush and emphasized both his and King’s lifelong commitments to peace.
In 2008 he gave the benediction at President Obama’s inauguration, and in 2009 President Obama awarded him the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. After a long and passionate life of nonviolent activism, Reverend Joseph Lowery passed away at the age of 98 on March 27, 2020. He was a celebrated pioneer for civil rights in the United States. He led the fight for equal rights in a time when it was dangerous. Reverend Lowery provided a light among the darkness for millions of Americans. His nonviolent legacy sets a remarkable example for all of us to live by.
Reverend Lowery worked diligently for civil rights in the United States, and he accomplished a great deal. However, there is still more to be done. Thus we must ask ourselves, how can we follow in Reverend Lowery’s footsteps and stand up for peace in our own communities?
Our wonderful former Intern and new volunteer leader, Claire Mills, wrote the email below to share with friends and family. We were so impressed, we asked to share it on our site.
We love the URL she created (tinyurl.com/whiteallyemail), the framing, the important links... all of it.
Much needed and presented with a powerful mix of humility, a clear commitment to justice, and meeting people where they are by welcoming them into a journey of self discovery.
We hope it will get widely read by those who need it most.
By Claire Mills
As a white person who grew up mostly surrounded by other white people, and goes to college at a predominately white institution, I have been free to ignore my privilege for most of my life. Moments such as these, where an innocent black person is killed and the nation erupts in protest, are the few moments where I cannot ignore my race. Instead, I must confront my privilege and ask myself: what can I do?
Whether these protests have encouraged you to ask the same question or started other conversations about protesting, violence, or race, I hope you will take this email as a chance to consider your own privilege.
This email includes information and resources to help us all do that. Here you can find an overview of the current situation, educational resources, links to organizations to support through donations, and advice for taking action. Thank you to all who have assisted me in this project and spread this email far and wide. Please send these resources on to as many people as you can.
1: Understand the Current Protests
The most recent outbreak of protests is due to the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. If you have yet to see the video of his death, I urge you to watch it. As white people, we must stand witness to the atrocities our black neighbors face every day in this country. Read more about the situation here.
In response to this horrible event, protests broke out first in Minneapolis, and then across the United States. Many of these protests have been peaceful, organized by black leaders in their cities. Here are examples:
Photos of protests in Minneapolis, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and Denver.
DC Protesters yelling “Stop Killing Black People.”
Protesters in Denver laying down and chanting “I Can’t Breathe.”
Genesee County Sheriff (Flint, MI) joining the protests in solidarity.
Peaceful protests in Santa Monica, CA.
An “I Can’t Breathe” lie-in in Westmoreland County, PA.
“I Can’t Breathe” Chants in Boston.
There have also been many instances of violence. But we should all be careful when discussing “riots” or violent protest. First, destruction of property should never be placed on the same level as the destruction of human life. Buildings and windows and signs can be replaced, human life cannot be. We must always keep perspective on what is truly important. Please watch this video where a protester in Minnesota beautifully speaks about recent looting and the protesters’ mission. That said, much of the violence in these recent protests have NOT been instigated by the protesters themselves. Rather, police have escalated the situation unnecessarily. In this video you can see instances of police escalation, which has been happening all over this country since the outbreak of the protests. You can see more examples from all across the country in this thread on Twitter. Further, white individuals have often instigated violence, despite black people urging them not to. Watch this video, from US Representative Ilhan Omar on destruction and looting in Minneapolis. She says “our organizers don’t put black lives at risk. Those who are exploiting our grief do.”
2: Educate Yourself
It is not the job of black people, or any person of color, to educate white people on racism. Racism is OUR problem. We create it, maintain it, benefit from it, and must work to end it. And in order to do this, we must educate OURSELVES, not ask people of color to do so.
This is a long list of educational resources that you can use to do just that! It doesn’t nearly cover everything out there. but don’t let the plethora of resources overwhelm you; let it inspire you! Pick what suits your needs and go from there.
Books to Read
- Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement by Angela Davis (2016)
- How to Be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi (2019)
- White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson (2016)
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge (2017)
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo (2018)
- White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo (2018)
- Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving (2014)
- Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi (2016)
- Towards the Other America: Anti-Racist Resources for White People Taking Action for Black Lives Matter by Chris Crass (2015)
- The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics by George Lipsitz (1998; updated 2006)
- When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America by Ira Katznelson (2005)
- Women, Race, and Class by Angela Davis (1981; updated 2011)
Documentaries to Watch
- 13th (Netflix)
- Slavery By Another Name, PBS Documentary
- Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement (Youtube)
- Ferguson: A Report from Occupied Territory (Youtube)
- I Am Not Your Negro, PBS Documentary (Youtube and Rent)
Movies and Shows Based on Real Events to Watch
- Just Mercy (YouTube, Amazon)
- When They See Us (Netflix)
- Dear White People (Netflix)
- The Hate U Give (Hulu)
Podcasts to Listen To
- 1619 (New York Times)
- About Race
- Code Switch (NPR)
- Intersectionality Matters! hosted by Kimberlé Crenshaw
- Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast
- Pod For The Cause (from The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights)
- Pod Save the People (Crooked Media)
- Seeing White
Articles and Other Resources to Explore
- “America’s Racial Contract Is Killing Us” by Adam Serwer | Atlantic (May 8, 2020)
- “The Intersectionality Wars” by Jane Coaston | Vox (May 28, 2019)
- “Who Gets to Be Afraid in America?” by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi | Atlantic (May 12, 2020)
- ”White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Knapsack Peggy McIntosh
- 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice
- A Guide to Allyship
- Anti-Racism Project
- Jenna Arnold’s resources (books and people to follow)
- Rachel Ricketts’ anti-racism resources
- Resources for White People to Learn and Talk About Race and Racism
- “Why is this happening?” — an introduction to police brutality from 100 Year Hoodie
- Zinn Education Project’s teaching materials
- Malcolm X - The Ballot or the Bullet (1964)
- America Wasn’t a Democracy Until Black Americans Made it One - Nikole Hannah-Jones
- Don’t Criticize Black Lives Matter for Provoking Violence. The Civil Rights Movement Did Too
- The 1619 Project - Full Version (NY Times)
We’ve all heard the phrase: put your money where your mouth is! There are so many organizations fighting for racial justice and your donations help increase their impact tremendously.
The Official George Floyd Memorial Fund was started to aid the family of George in paying funeral and burial expenses. It has since raised large amounts of money they plan to put to good use in honoring his memory.
The Bail Project, The NAACP Legal Defense Fund and your local bail/bond fund assist protesters by paying bail, helping them gain legal representation, and otherwise supporting activists in the legal system.
Finally, there are many organizations who work to support and empower activists across the country to organize their community to reform the systems which perpetuate inequality. Donate to places such as Black Lives Matter, the Dream Defenders, Dignity and Power Now, Common Justice, the Equal Justice Initiative, and the Know Your Rights Camp to support this broader mission.
4: Take Direct Action
- Critically Self-Reflect
Consider how you have contributed to the system of racism in America, even unintentionally. Reflect on how you engage with people of color and discussions of race or racism. Also, think about how you have benefited from racism, simply by being a white person.
As an example of how to begin this self analysis: Black Americans have been killed while going for a run (Ahmaud Arbery), playing with a toy gun (Tamir Rice), receiving a routine traffic ticket (Sandra Bland), and walking home with a hoodie on (Trayvon Martin). Black parents have to warn their children of how to avoid such situations from a very young age.
White privilege is being able to engage in these everyday behaviors without ever worrying about being shot. White privilege is being pulled over by police and not thinking it may lead to your death. White privilege is never having to have these difficult conversations with your children for their protection. Critical self-reflection comes with acknowledging the privilege of every situation you have been in and are in where your race does not put you in harm’s way, and what causes those situations to be so dangerous for those without such privilege.
- Engage in Hard Conversations
As white people, we have a responsibility to confront our own role in upholding racism in America, and ask other white people to do the same. Please begin these conversations with other white people in your life, particularly those who you think may disagree with you. Especially once you have educated yourself with some of the above resources, you will be well equipped to have these conversations, even if they aren’t easy. And they may not be successful. It is difficult for some white people to address their role in the system. But that is not an excuse to ignore racism from your friends and family. Start non-confrontational, open ended discussions where you seek to understand others perspectives in order to educate and expand their world view. And remember, none of us are perfect. Recognize how you have also contributed to the things you now speak against, and retain humility during these discussions.
- Color of Change to charge officers involved in the murder of George Floyd
- Justice for Big Floyd to charge officers involved
- Change.org to raise the degree of murder charged against Derek Chauvin
- NAACP’s “We Are Done Dying” petition for justice for George Floyd
- Protect and Serve Petition proposing a bill requiring a minimum 3 year sentence for officers who kill an unarmed person of color, as well as additional charges for police killing POC on their own property, due to mistaken identity, while POC are restrained or handcuffed, or due to officer breach of training protocol.
- Justice for Breona Taylor to call for action to be taken in another recent instance of police violence
- Color of Change to make systemic changes to policing in order to hold officers accountable and invest in tools which actually make communities of color safer, such as mental health services, education, and housing
- Hands Up Act to create a 15-year minimum sentence requirement for officers convicted of killing an unarmed individual
- Attend Protests
Of course, there are many protests happening right now. But even if you don’t join these, there will be more in the future. Take the time out of your normal life to show up in solidarity. Be aware that you are a white person entering a protest likely organized by black people, so understand your place. Follow others' lead. Do NOT engage in violence or agitate law enforcement. Often what can be most useful to protests is for allies to provide resources such as food, medical supplies, and physical support. White people are often used as a barrier between black citizens and the police, as the police are far less likely to engage in physical violence with white people.
- Speak to Your Elected Officials
Call your elected officials. Whether national, state, or local, they are paid to represent you. Engage them on these issues and demand they make progress. Often you can have the most impact on a local level. Find out your local community’s practices for racial bias and de-escalation trainings for police officers and demand progress be made if necessary. Take the time to talk to your town’s mayor, a county official, or even a police chief.
- Step in When Racism Happens
When your family member or friend makes an offhand racist comment/joke, don’t just let it slide. Speak up and stand up for what you know to be right. This also goes for bosses, coworkers, professors, instructors, ministers, and anyone in an authority position. They should not use their power to perpetuate racism, and you have the right to step in.
If you do see an incident happening between a police officer and a black person, be a witness. Whether through recording the instance from a distance or making your presence known to the officer you have the opportunity to increase accountability. If done correctly, this can de-escalate situations and quite literally save lives.
- Spread the Word
If you use social media, be vocal about your support for this movement. People are most likely to be influenced to change their perspective by those that they know and love. Your post can have a big impact. A few things to remember when you post:
- Monitor your post for comments. Try to engage with others, even if they disagree with you, but feel free to remove hate speech.
- Do not post pictures of protesters where their face is visible. This puts them at risk by making it easy for them to be targeted.
- Do not spread videos of black people being killed on social media without warnings. Place other photos to cover them in your Facebook posts, for example, so people have to intentionally click to view the video. Watching this type of content over and over again can be traumatic for black individuals.
- Instead of only posting your own thoughts/opinions, uplift black voices in your posts. Center their words and experiences when possible.
- Ask yourself: Who is this helping? Am I only posting to feel less guilt? Am I only doing this to appear as though I am not racist?
I hope this email has helped you to find concrete steps you can take right now. Please make one of those steps passing along this email to others, even if you think they might not agree with its contents immediately. If you do so, consider adding your own personal note to encourage others to follow your lead. This is about far more than an email chain: this is about white people taking ownership of our role in the systems that uphold racism, educating ourselves on how to move forward, and then taking those steps.
Personally, in addition to a renewed commitment to live anti racist practices every day, I am committing to a monthly schedule of donations to organizations listed in this email. I will also be spending my summer working through the educational resources provided here. Please join me!
Thanks to bit.ly/ANTIRACISMRESOURCES, https://www.charisbooksandmore.com/understanding-and-dismantling-racism-booklist-white-readers, and tinyurl.com/blmforever for some of the resources in this document. If you want to find more resources, check them out, as well as these resource pages:
Celebrating 30 Years of Nonviolence International
Check out this video produced by our friends at Nonviolence International NY.
Jack Healey is a world-renowned Human Rights activist and a leader who has inspired generations to join the fight for a better world.
He served for 12 years as Executive Director of Amnesty International, USA.
During that time he vastly increased their membership and impact by organizing major concerts with global superstars including: Peter Gabriel, U2, Lou Reed, Joan Baez, Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, The Police, Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman, and Youssou N'Dour.
Jack Healey is the founder and director of the Human Rights Action Center, and is a longtime friend and supporter of Nonviolence International.
This video is part of a series celebrating our proud history and calling us to do even more in the years to come.
Please check back for more.
Nonviolence International is thrilled that renowned peace educator and activist Metta Spencer featured several of our key leaders on her podcast - Project Save the World.
Our founder, Mubarak Awad was joined by our longtime Director, Michael Beer, Yeshua Moser and Andre Kamenshikov.
In addition to reflecting on NVI's long and proud history, the panelists discussed creative uses of nonviolent direct action in this time of crisis. They discussed transnational strategy for transformation through nonviolent campaigns and movements.
They noted our growing list of Nonviolent Tactics, our NV Training Archive, which is a partnership between NVI and Rutgers University International Institute for Peace (IIP), and our exciting new podcasts series - We Are All Part of One Another that highlights bold nonviolent action around the world.
Learn more about the great Metta Spencer at:
By David Hart
I grew up a few blocks from Philadelphia and as a kid was deeply influenced by the Movement for a New Society's powerful and exciting vision of what creates real and lasting social change. Their work helped me see my childhood passion for peace as part of an ongoing and beautiful struggle that requires a lifetime of activist commitment. They taught me how issues are interconnected and how to sustain ourselves for the work ahead. Without their example, I'm not sure that I would have managed to stick with this challenging and important work through decades of activism and focused study in both undergraduate and graduate programs in Peace and Conflict.
Now, in this time of crisis, a great mentor to me and to so many others has just published an important new piece reflecting on lessons from MNS. Like many of George Lakey's recent articles this one can be found in full on Waging Nonviolence, an impressive project that got its start as a fiscally sponsored partner of Nonviolence International.
I celebrate George's wisdom, his commitment to being a life-long learner, and his loving and supportive way of teaching. Please see a few excerpts below and read the full piece on Waging Nonviolence.
If you haven't already done so, please read his latest book How We Win: A Guide To Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning and check out this wonderful webinar he did with our friends at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.
When activist burnout was a problem 50 years ago, this group found a solution
As activists weary from war, campus killings, a tyrant in the White House and poverty at home started dropping out, Movement for a New Society built a model of sustainability...
How do we sustain our activism for the long run? When people drop out, movements miss their hard-won skills, experience and relationships that make alliances stronger. On multiple levels, burn-out costs movements dearly...
The MNS theory of change supported sustainability by giving up a typical activist preoccupation with analyzing what’s wrong. Our alternative was to focus on vision...
We looked for ways to taste liberation in the collective reality of our work and daily life...
MNS had a slogan: “Most of what we need to know, we have yet to learn.” We found that this helped support serious study, training and also sustainability. Part of burning out can be giving up on ourselves when our performance doesn’t fully meet needs and expectations. Members found that the slogan embedded forgiveness.
Read the full important and timely piece on Waging Nonviolence.
George Lakey has been active in direct action campaigns for over six decades. Recently retired from Swarthmore College, he was first arrested in the civil rights movement and most recently in the climate justice movement. He has facilitated 1,500 workshops on five continents and led activist projects on local, national and international levels. His 10 books and many articles reflect his social research into change on community and societal levels. His newest books are “Viking Economics: How the Scandinavians got it right and how we can, too” (2016) and “How We Win: A Guide to Nonviolent Direct Action Campaigning” (2018.). https://twitter.com/GeorgeLakey_