Statement from UWSA on the City of Austin Public Comment System

Dear Mayor Adler and Austin City Council Members,

As members of Undoing White Supremacy Austin, we are writing to condemn the city council’s inequitable access to the public hearing process.

Pre-COVID, it was already challenging for residents to take time out of our busy schedules to attend city council hearings in person, particularly for individuals with children, multiple jobs, or other family commitments. The limited space at City Hall for children, the restrictive rules about bringing food into city hall, and the long hours waiting for our one minute to speak, all negatively affected attendance at city council hearings. That so many people turned up on many occasions for key debates despite these challenges is a testament to the work being done to engage and organize residents to speak their minds as well as the work community members did to respond to the challenges, including organizing child care, transportation, and food (until the city staff decided to ban almost all food in the building).

However, the situation has gotten dramatically worse during the pandemic stay-in-shelter period. The registration process (including city confirmation) is online only with no call-in or text option which due to Austin’s large “digital divide” makes this much less accessible for many residents. The phone call-in system set up for the virtual meetings is inadequate to meet the needs of the democratic process. Residents have had to call in early to get in line and then wait on hold for hours, at times over seven hours. There is no option to call in after normal business hours despite the hearings typically extending well into the evening. Even with the process changes, if our calls get dropped we lose our place and end up at the back of the line. People report having their calls dropped numerous times during one hearing. Only people with a great deal of privilege in respect to flexible time, work, and family obligations are able to repeatedly call back and drop to the end of the speaker’s queue. Throughout there is no confirmation of one’s place in line or even whether a person was successfully put back in line. The interpretation system is faulty and inconsistent; if someone’s call is dropped they lose their place in line and the opportunity to have an interpreter. Furthermore, the interpretation is often of poor quality. All of this makes it that much more difficult for Austin’s immigrant communities to participate.

This system re-creates serious inequities. It enables access to city council hearings only for individuals who have the time and resources to wait for hours as well as phone plans that enable them to be on hours-long calls. People with children at home,  who have to leave the house to work, or who have limited internet/phone access are at a dramatic disadvantage. 

We recognize that the process is now changing to a system where people who sign up online in advance can receive a call from the city at the time they will speak, but it is unclear what will happen if residents miss this call. The changing process makes it difficult for people to plan whether and how they will be able to engage in city council budget meetings. Issues regarding access for people without internet access and who are unable to testify during work hours remain. The one minute time allotment is not sufficient for people directly impacted by policing and budget inequities to share their experiences, and the current system does not allow for other residents who would like those experiences to be heard to donate their time. The city-curated list of people who receive more time to speak is not an equitable or transparent system. 

The current system is still actively dissuading many members of the Austin community from testifying. For example, our understanding is that Communities of Color United and Grassroots Leadership will not be organizing their members to testify at the budget hearings. By failing to create an accessible process through which residents can give substantive input in the budget process, the city is privileging the voices of predominantly managerial class and wealthy white communities over working class and poor people of color communities. As proposals to address structural racism in our policing system and inequitable distribution of city resources are at the forefront of this year’s budget conversations, it is more essential than ever for these communities to be heard. To create a process that no parent or service industry worker can reasonably access is one more manifestation of structural racism from the city. We are dismayed that, despite calls for an open and accessible budget process from organizations with members directly impacted by policing, the city has not remedied these issues. We demand the failures of this process be recognized. We call for a more accessible system to be created for immediate use at the July 30th budget hearing, along with a plan to amend the harm to the democratic process the previous hearings have imposed.

We strongly support the demands of Communities of Color United and Grassroots Leadership regarding the city’s proposed budget, including defunding APD by at least 50% and investing in R.E.A.L. solutions (RISE Fund, Equity Office, Austin Public Health, and Low-Income Housing). You will be hearing from us in other ways during this budget process and for the long haul as we proactively engage residents across the city districts now and in advance of the city council elections, redistricting efforts and next year’s budget process. 

Thank you for your attention to this critical matter. 

Members of Undoing White Supremacy Austin,

Andrea Black, Julia Von Alexander, Jim Casey, Rachael Shannon, Bethany Carson, Christel Erickson-Collins, Rachel Manning

Open Letter to Austin’s White Women Council Members

Dear City of Austin Council members, 

We, the undersigned, as White women members of Undoing White Supremacy Austin’s (UWSA) organizing team applaud your wise and moral action in June 2019 to change and repeal ordinances that criminalize people experiencing homelessness in our community. We ask you to stand firm in your resolution that a homes-first policy is the humane and sensible course of action. The call to protect White women has historically been the excuse for the most horrible violence against Black bodies. We refuse to allow calls for our safety to justify violence against people in our Austin community experiencing homelessness.

We  thank you for your bold and progressive actions to begin the process of ending  homelessness in Austin. The same visible presence of people who don’t have access to housing in our community that is now inspiring fear in some residents is what is necessary for our city to more accurately assess the challenge and connect people with housing and needed services. People experiencing homelessness must be visible and active participants in this process; they must not be “disappeared” into jails or isolated locations to avoid enforcement. 

The issue of safety has been discussed at length by people who oppose the ordinance change. We agree that this is a vital concern. However, those who are most at risk from harm and a lack of safety are, in fact, individuals experiencing homelessness. They have always been and continue to be the most victimized. Your ordinance change has decreased the danger to this population; they are no longer forced to sleep in creek beds, fire breaks, or remote woods and no longer face the dangers of incarceration simply for trying to find a place to rest. They are able to be closer to much needed services without the threat of losing all they have if arrested. 

Chief Manley has stated repeatedly that the crime rate has not risen as a result of the ordinance changes. And yet some members of the community say they do not feel safe.  We believe that there is a confusion between feeling “uncomfortable” and actually being physically threatened. As White people, especially White women, we take for granted that our comfort will be assured. Seeing the number of people living in the difficult situation of being on the street is uncomfortable. These are our neighbors, members of our community and their plight makes us feel many uncomfortable emotions. However, feeling uncomfortable is not a threat to our safety, and we must all be honest and forthright about this distinction when addressing residents’ concerns. 

Additionally, the actions of some police officers, who, when called, say that they can do nothing (sometimes in situations not allowed by these ordinances), and tell citizens to “Call your council person” make citizens confused and exacerbate feelings that things are out of control and hence less safe. These police officers are the ones making things less safe by spreading misinformation and refusing to respond to safety concerns resulting from violations outside the scope of these ordinances. We urge you to work with the Austin Police Department to educate department staff regarding the reasons behind decriminalization and the goal of Austin as a humane city that is welcoming for all and to remind them that their job is to protect and serve all people. 

We also know that there is a strong racial element to this call for “safety” by those who oppose decriminalization. Those experiencing homelessness are predominantly people of color. Gentrification, lack of opportunity, and criminalization have decimated the number of Black people in Austin and contributed to their number being as much as nine times higher than Whites in those experiencing homelessness. We believe that the many people speaking out about “safety” without any data to indicate changes in the crime rate are, in fact, playing out internalized (and often unconscious) racist stereotypes of White women being threatened by men of color and the drive to protect White women’s fragility  If we were to look closely at where all women really experience a lack of safety in our community, it would lead us to investigate the culture of intimate partner violence — particularly on campus but throughout this city —  that allows date rape to thrive and be vastly under reported, and, when reported, allows sexual assault cases to be vastly under prosecuted.

We recognize that the recent ordinance changes are just the first step in a broader plan to tackle the scourge of homelessness in a holistic and creative way, calling on all residents of Austin to contribute and take responsibility. We are committed to supporting this broader plan and contribute our time and resources. We urge you to stand strong and not cave to reactionary forces and fears based on racist and White supremacist tropes by re-introducing criminal penalties for sleeping and resting in public

It is time to live up to the reputation we espouse as a progressive city. We must put the humanity of those who are the most vulnerable before our need to feel comfortable. We must take responsibility for the racist policies of the past and call it out when it is present in the moment. If we persevere in the policy you have set us upon we can trade the sadness, guilt and discomfort we are feeling now for pride and accountability.

Andrea Black, District 1

Lauren Ross, District 5

Rachel Manning, District 1

Sandra Molinari, District 3

Bethany Carson, District 4

Julia Von Alexander, District 7

Donna Hoffman, District 1

Doris Adams, District 5

Robin Schneider, District 9

Christel Erickson Collins

Statement to Austin City Council on Homelessness Ordinances 

As members of Undoing White Supremacy Austin, we strongly support changes to the Austin Municipal ordinances related to camping, solicitation, and foundational human activities such as sitting and lying in public spaces. However, we strongly oppose the addition of the “aggressive confrontation” clause in the ordinance that deals with solicitation. It goes against our values as a community and has to be removed.

These ordinances place the comfort of White and wealthy people before the survival of some of the most vulnerable members of our community. They funnel people already facing the danger and hopelessness of being without a home into jails and impossible debt. How can we tell someone they cannot shelter themselves or ask others for assistance when that is one of their only avenues for survival? Ordinances that make it more difficult and dangerous to be homeless are not the answer. Instead of pursuing humane solutions to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness, we have shifted the responsibility to the criminal justice system which is both more traumatic for those targeted and more expensive for all of us. 

The City of Austin has created this crisis of homelessness for our most vulnerable neighbors. We have chosen to invest in policies that spur displacement and perpetuate poverty while at the same time deprioritizing investment in jobs that pay livable wages, and in affordable housing for low income people. We have put the interests of business owners and short term tourism concerns over the lives of people experiencing homelessness, who are disproportionately people of color. We have put in place increasingly punitive laws that attempt to push the homeless out of sight because we don’t want to live with the discomfort of the consequences of these choices. We don’t want to feel the discomfort when people approach our cars asking for help, or when we drive through the city and witness people living on the streets or under the overpasses. This is part of how systemic racism works, criminalizing people, especially people of color, in order to promote White people’s comfort. Many of us have benefited from these policies advancing our comfort and business interests and have not taken steps to become more aware and involved. In that way we are complicit.

We support the City Council’s proposal to change the ordinances on camping and sitting/lying in public spaces. As members of Undoing White Supremacy Austin, we would like to take a moment to address the proposed changes to the ordinance on solicitation to focus on “aggressive confrontation.” As White people seeking to understand and undermine the impact of white supremacy on white bodies and white minds, and how that translates into trauma to to non-white bodies and minds, the text of this ordinance raises very serious concerns. We’ve all heard of the rash of 911 calls made by fearful white people, in which Black people are targeted while going about their everyday lives. The imagined harm to white people becomes real trauma to people of color. There are already laws to address harassment, stalking, disorderly conduct and the other behaviors outlined in this ordinance. There is no reason to create a special set of “homeless codes” to set a different legal standard for people who do not have access to housing. We also know that when we give more discretion to the police the rates of citations rise and increasingly target people of color. The only solution for not continuing to criminalize homelessness and poverty is for these ordinances to be completely abolished.

We should repeal these ordinances today. But it is the minimum we can do. Rather than continuing policies that advance gentrification and displace our community — such as the “trickle down” of a few not really “affordable” units here and there from developers in exchange for more luxury housing —  let’s build homes and provide services for those currently without permanent shelter. Let’s use the funds saved by diverting jail expenses by abolishing these ordinances to provide mental health and recovery services. Let’s use Brackenridge to provide housing, medical assistance and services to the homeless population. The continued gentrification of our community is displacing people and potentially adding to homelessness. We need resources going to support real affordable housing in addition to shelters. If we want Austin to be a leader in equity, should it not be for those who have the least among us? How we decide to treat our fellow residents who need help is a clear expression of our values as a community. 

Hold Austin’s Next Police Chief Accountable for Ending Racist Practices

Over the last years, UWSA has been a part of a large community network organizing against white supremacy in Austin’s police department. In both 2016 and 2017, we advocated with Communities of Color United against increasing the APD’s budget; and this last winter, you all turned out with the Austin Justice Coalition, Black Sovereign Nation and Grassroots Leadership at community forums and the historic vote against the Meet and Confer contract.

This week, there is one final chance to speak out about the type of leadership you expect for Austin’s Police Department. Decarcerate ATX is working to pack the room with voices that are going to ask the hard questions.
As UWSA, we have questions for Interim Chief Manley:
      • What is your commitment to protecting Austin’s shrinking Black population, and how do you intend to make anti-racism a part of your tenure as Police Chief?
      • How will you work to demilitarize the Austin Police Department?
      • As Chief, would you support an audit of the Police Department to find out how much money could be saved and redistributed to mental health services pools and parks on East Side?
      • How do you intend to shift the abusive culture of the cadets training?
      • Will you continue arresting homeless individuals under no sit no lie ordinances even as more families are displaced from their homes under gentrifying plans like the East Riverside corridor developments, where tenants have already been given eviction notices, or will you support community efforts to end this pipeline to jail and stop displacement?
Getting responses to these critical questions will allow us to hold Chief Manley and the Austin Police Department accountable to communities in Austin over his tenure. If you can’t make the forum, you can submit feedback online: https://www.speakupaustin.org/OurNextChief

Declare lights out on Austin’s Juvenile Curfew Ordinance

Please join us in supporting two important efforts this week:

      1. Come to City Hall this Thursday 4- 6 pm to support ending the juvenile curfew ordinance

      2. Send a letter to City Council supporting the Save Montopolis campaign

At this Thursday’s meeting, The Austin City Council is considering ending the City’s Juvenile Curfew Ordinance, a racist policy that punishes our city’s youth.

We need your help to get rid of the juvenile curfew for good.

WHAT: “Lights Out on Juvenile Curfew” Gathering at Austin City Council Meeting
WHERE: Austin City Hall, 301 W 2nd St Ste 100
WHEN: Thursday, September 28 at 4-6 PM

From Grassroots Leadership: The juvenile curfew allows police to charge youth in Austin who are in public between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. with a Class C misdemeanor. If given a citation, youth as young as ten years old can face municipal court, a steep $500 in fines in addition to court costs, and incur a criminal record if convicted. The juvenile curfew criminalizes children, with youth of color vastly overrepresented amongst those punished by this policy. Rather than intervening to ensure young people’s safety, the curfew only serves to disproportionately police and jail people of color.

Preserve the historic Montopolis School for Negro Children

Also on Thursday, following organizing by the Montopolis community, the City Council will vote to take up the community’s request to preserve the historic Montopolis School for Negro Children with a park, museum and historic cultural landscape over developers who threaten to demolish the school.

Let City Council know that you stand in solidarity with Montopolis and #BlackHistoryMatters. Send a letter for Montopolis Negro School now.

Thanks to Texas Appleseed, Grassroots Leadership, ATXEJ and many others for their great organizing and for making us aware of these events.

See you at City Hall!

Decrease the Fiscal Year 2017 APD budget by 5% in order to fund social services that advance racial equity and promote community safety in Austin

The White Caucus of Undoing Racism Austin[i] urges that the Austin City Council take immediate and decisive action to support its promise to advance racial equity and promote community safety in its Fiscal Year 2017 budget. We urge the City Council to make a modest 5% cut in the Austin Police Department Budget and instead support community initiatives that have been proven to create safe and supported neighborhoods.

The Austin Police Department has historically controlled an outsized segment of the City’s annual budget. For example, in FY 2015-2016, the Austin Police Department controlled over 40% of the City’s General Fund[ii]. Meanwhile, One Voice Central Texas reports that Austin spends far less on social services than similar cities[iii]. This extraordinary focus on policing leaves few funds for critical programs in under-resourced communities that promote true community safety such as: health and education programs, parks, transportation and affordable housing. As a result, Austin is one of the most economically segregated cities in the country[iv] and it continues to grapple with historical and ongoing racial inequity.

We ask that for Fiscal Year 2017, The City of Austin cut the Austin Police Department’s budget by a modest 5% so the City will have more resources to:

      • Create truly accessible housing for families and individuals, particularly those who are low income, who are unable to continue to compete with Austin’s rising rents.
      • Increase the capacity of Health & Human Services and provide funds for Health Equity programs.
      • Support Parks & Recreation Department’s budget, with a particular focus on investing in under-resourced communities.
      • Build a transportation network that will allow Austin to grow and remain accessible, including viable options from the suburbs into the city center and in under-resourced communities.
      • Invest in children’s education, including after school and enrichment programs
      • Support Spanish language programs, including through GED & ESL
      • Invest in livable wage jobs to maintain and incrementally increase wages for Austin workers.
      • Fund the development and implementation of an Equity Assessment Tool, including an independent review board.

The city budget process has historically benefitted white communities at the expense of communities of color. We call on you to fully embrace your goal in creating the Office of Equity and reallocate funding from policing communities of color to supporting and strengthening them.

State-sanctioned violence against black and brown people by police forces, both here in Austin and across the country, is increasingly visible. Further, we know that the safest communities in Austin don’t have the largest police presence, they have the most wealth. As the Movement for Black Lives describes in their political platform, moving funds away from policing and incarceration and into education, healthcare and economic investment improves community safety[v]. As the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights states, “[An] emphasis continues to be placed upon policing and incarceration as the appropriate and only means towards public safety and reduced crime rates. In order for our communities to be whole and healthy, there needs to be equitable access to participation within the society and economy that shapes our realities.[vi]

We therefore urge you to cut the Austin Police Department’s budget by 5% and fund initiatives that will result in more racial equity and true safety for Austinites.

Sincerely,

The Undoing Racism Austin White Caucus

[i] The White Caucus of Undoing Racism Austin is a group of Austin residents committed to leveraging our time, energy and resources to address the ongoing impact of racism in our community.  Our purpose is to hold city representatives accountable for ensuring the safety and well-being of all communities in Austin.

[ii] City of Austin, (2016) “2016-17 Proposed Budget, Austin, TX” Austin Police Department. https://assets.austintexas.gov/budget/16-17/downloads/FY17_Proposed_Budget_Vol_1.pdf

[iii] http://ilivehereigivehere.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/November-2015-AAS-Article.pdf

[iv] The Texas Tribune; Austin is Most Economically Segregated Metro Area; February 23, 2015; https://www.texastribune.org/2015/02/23/austin-most-economically-segregated-metro-area/.

[v] Movement for Black Lives (2016) “A Vision for Black Lives: Policy Demands for Black Power, Freedom & Justice.” Invest-Divest. https://policy.m4bl.org/invest-divest/

[vi] “Night Out for Safety and Liberation 2016,” p. 2, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. http://www.nosl.me/sites/default/files/%23NOSL16%20Community%20Organizing%20Toolkit.pdf

Demand an End to White Supremacy in Austin’s City Budget

Dear UWSA Supporter,

It has been a difficult few days as we process the events in Charlottesville, VA, where overt White Supremacist violence has left one dead, many injured and many more traumatized. White supremacy takes many forms, from avowed fascists marching in the streets, to seemingly mundane city code in our supposedly liberal stronghold of Austin. As we reflect and mourn together over the recent tragedy in Charlottesville, we hope you will join us in showing up, not only against overt, avowed fascists with guns and confederate flags, but also in efforts to dismantle institutional racism in Austin and build accountable structures that uphold justice and equity for the long haul. In this historical moment we need everyone to work where they can be effective – in the streets silencing white supremacists, inside city hall pushing for deeper, structural changes, and everywhere in between. 

In reflecting on the depth and breadth of the work in front of us, we wanted to share a statement made by Wes Bellamy, vice-mayor of Charlottesville, on Democracy Now on August 7th.  

“…And in the midst of all of this, we also got an equity package passed, which I presented in January, before we had our first vote—and it was unanimously passed—which gave us $950,000 to our African American Heritage Center, $250,000 to build onto one of the parks in the local African-American community. We got $2.5 million to public housing redevelopment, $50,000 annually for anyone who lives in public housing to get free GED training, another $50,000 to anyone who lives 80 percent below the AMI, which is the annual median income, as well as public housing, to have scholarships of sorts to go to our local community college. We got a position for black male achievement, which we’re calling a youth opportunity coordinator. So, I mean, in all, in all, it was about $4 million, basically, from funding, put specifically into marginalized communities to help bridge the gap and create equity.

All of this is about equity. We need equity, and not equality. Those are two different things. Equity is giving everyone what they need in order to have the same playing field. Equality is just giving everyone the same thing. I don’t want equality. I want us to have equity. And we’re going to push for equity in every space, whether that’s public parks, whether that’s in our city budget, no matter where it is, as long as I’m on council. And I’m going to push for it until the day I die.”
https://www.democracynow.org/2017/8/7/charlottesville_va_backs_reparations_fund_for

While confronting overt racism is an unfortunate necessity in this moment, we also remain committed to organizing against structural racism in Austin’s city policies. This Thursday, August 17th at 5:30 pm we ask that you join Communities of Color United, (CCU) at Austin City Hall. They will be leading a push for a racial equity tool for the city budget, ensuring that resources are allocated equitably to marginalized communities in the city.   

UWSA is mobilizing support for this effort by providing transportation, food and childcare, in addition to folks showing up in general support of CCU’s demands.  We need your help bringing more volunteers and many bodies – white bodies – to back up the demands of CCU. Please sign this petition with their demands for this budget cycle http://bit.ly/CCUbudget17, and then join us at city hall on Thursday to voice your support in person. If you are able to help with food preparation for Thursdays’s event please contact Ellen (ellencfriedman@gmail.com). To help with transportation needs to and from city hall or to join the childcare team for the event email us at undoingwhitesupremacy@gmail.com. There will be more opportunities in the near future to support CCU’s efforts with the city. If you can’t make it out this Thursday, know that anti-racism work is a long, lifetime commitment, and that from protests countering white supremacists to helping out at future CCU events, there will be many more opportunities to get involved.

Austin has already seen numerous white supremacist rallies and marches. Last year’s “white lives matter” event, the march against Sharia, several pro-Trump rallies, and even a rally where neo nazi’s marched in formation at the state Capitol as invited guests of a republican lawmaker are among the many examples.  The upcoming ‘Dixie Freedom Rally’ organized by the “Texas Confederate Militia” scheduled to take place in Wooldridge Square Park, is yet another of these increasingly frequent white nationalist events and could disrupt the long-planned Unity March and Concert put on by BASTA TX. There is a counter event already being organized by local groups, and we encourage you to attend as you are able. UWSA will continue to support counter protests and direct action that aims to deny white supremacists a platform, while we remain committed to diving deep and dismantling white supremacy at its roots.

We are committed to making Austin a city that is rooted in racial equity and equity for all marginalized communities. We are grateful to each of you. This is a team effort – to change everything we need everyone. Knowing that we have a network of people in Austin who share a common vision and values makes it possible to continue this difficult and sometimes dangerous work. We hope you will join us in beloved community, calling for an end to white supremacy on Thursday at 5:30 PM at City Hall, as well as in the streets and everywhere in between. 

With respect, gratitude and appreciation,

The UWSA Organizing Group

P.S. In the critical, on-going work to protect communities of color, the River Bluff Neighborhood Association is calling for support to oppose rezoning on East Cesar Chavez for more expensive apartments and continued gentrification of their neighborhood. For more information: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1v-WaqARC7mc0OmE3xWhogW0AiAX-LtGjER038XGF2vU/edit?usp=sharing

 

Mass Meeting for White People Wanting to Show Up for Racial Justice

We don’t want to wait for another Black child to be murdered by police, for another ICE raid that steals away our neighbors, for another violent attack on a mosque or place of worship or the whitewashing of another cultural mural in order to take action. That is why we are changing the date of our Mass Meeting to Friday, June 9th at 7:00PM, to launch a new organizing and mobilization effort here in Austin so that we can be ready when we are needed, including on Saturday, June 10th at the Anti-Islamophobia Rally!

As white people, and as members of Undoing White Supremacy Austin, we have been organizing in Austin for over three years: building a strong group, hosting Community Dialogues and Unlearning Circles, showing up in solidarity at City Council or in the streets, and providing childcare for mamas of color organizing for racial justice. We have also been active on the Mayor’s Task Force on Racial Equity, the Equity Action Team and have been working for a racially just Code Next.

We invite you to come together with us to deepen our connections, strengthen our ability to support frontline communities, and use our privilege in service to the crucial work ahead. Please bring your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers or members of your faith community to this meeting.

This meeting will help us have a shared vision and understanding so that, together, we can build an ongoing UWSA Action Mobilization Network, UWSA-AMN, that shows up when needed to ensure that justice is done. You and your family and friends are a vital part of this.  Please come learn more about how we as a white community can be more effective in transforming Austin into a more racially just and equitable city in collaboration with groups led by people of color.

This meeting will be followed up with a Mass Training on Saturday, June 24th, starting at 10:00AM, to better prepare ourselves for the work ahead.  We encourage you to mark your calendars now to ensure your participation. 

If you have any questions or want to get in touch, please respond to this email! We hope to see you in this growing effort to build a strong movement of white people working against all forms of oppression here in Austin!

It’s On Us

Dear Austinites,

Two weeks ago Donald Trump was declared president elect of the U.S. after winning the votes of 60,375,961 Americans. Throughout his campaign, he continuously championed racist, misogynistic, xenophobic and pro-hate views and he is on course to enact many of these views into law and policy.

While we at Undoing White Supremacy Austin (former the “Undoing Racism Austin White Caucus”) are still in shock and are numb with grief, we can’t say that we are all that surprised. We understand that White Supremacy is baked into the very foundation of this country and that it has been a core element of every fight for justice the country has undergone throughout its history.

What is equally clear is that it is on “white” community members to step up both defensively and proactively. People of color, Muslims, immigrants (documented, undocumented and refugees), LGBTQ folks, the disabled and vulnerable are all justifiably terrified about what the Trump administration has in store for them and their families as well as how fellow citizens will continue to be empowered to commit more hate crimes and abuse. As “white” people we must stand in defense of everyone who will bear the brunt of the Trump administration and say, “If you’re coming for them, you must come for me first.”

We must organize among our “white” families and in “white” communities to dismantle White Supremacy while working in collaboration with people of color-led groups in the city towards social justice and racial equity in our community’s policies and institutions.

We are not 100% clear about all our strategies yet and that’s okay. We at UWSA are very grateful that we have had two years of working together. During this period, we have been deepening our relationships, building skills and leadership, and trying out different strategies and tactics. So we aren’t starting from scratch. Going forward, we will continue to learn as we build. It may be scary and confusing at times, but we have a wealth of knowledge to learn from those in this nation and in other countries who have resisted. It will be hard — at times meandering, at other times frustrating — but it will also be joyful and fun. Together we will shed the baggage we carry as a legacy of White Supremacy and build relations of love and solidarity with folks we work with side by side.

If you are interested in doing this work with us, please join us. Feel free to share this message with anyone you know who would be interested in helping out. There are two upcoming opportunities to get acquainted with UWSA, its core agreements and principles, and its work in progress:

6:30 pm, Wednesday, November 30
Wildflower UU Church (Faith Presbyterian)
Classroom
1314 E Oltorf St, Austin, TX 78704
1 pm, Saturday, December 10
Wildflower UU Church (Faith Presbyterian)
Community meeting room
1314 E Oltorf St, Austin, TX 78704

If you have already attended an orientation, or attended one or more of our “community dialogues” earlier in the year and would like to work on the organizing team of UWSA, you can attend our monthly business meeting, which is held on the third Monday of each month, in the community meeting room of the Wildflower UU Church (Faith Presbyterian), 1314 E Oltorf St, Austin, TX 78704.

Peace and Justice,

Organizers
Undoing White Supremacy Austin

White People to Demonstrate for Black Lives, Call for Police Accountability

Following Recent Brutal Murders of Black People By Police,

White People Locally and Across the Country Call for Changes to Policing

AUSTIN, TX — On Thursday, July 21st at 7:15 AM, the people across Austin will march to End Police Violence as part of a national day of action calling for @FreedomNow from state sanctioned violence against Black and Brown People.  The Austin chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice along with representatives of many local groups will march from the Victory Grill 1104 E 11th Street to disrupt business as usual for those who allow this violence to continue.

Following the murder of David Joseph in Austin on February 8, 2016, and the recent murders of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Philando Castile in the St. Paul area, Delrawn Small in New York City and other Black people in the last two weeks, White people across the country have been moved to take action in resistance to police violence. 

We’re calling for the transformation of policing in our society, to re-center its purpose and implementation, so that Black people are no longer tortured, brutalized and murdered by police,” said LOCAL LEADER, an organizer of SURJ-Austin.  

The community is calling on Mayor Steve Adler, City Manager Marc Ott and Police Chief Art Acevedo to commit to clear, concrete steps to reduce state violence against Black people in Austin, and a broader transformation of policing in the US, so that it no longer serves as an agent of anti-Black oppression. 

“For centuries, police killings of unarmed Black people have been condoned by our society and our elected officials. This must end.”  

We’re taking action in solidarity with Movement for Black Lives organizers who are occupying, demonstrating, marching and chanting for a new future – a future in which they can be free. Free from state-sanctioned violence and oppression. Free to be themselves. We echo their call for #FreedomNow,” said SURJ-Austin

Details for Thursday’s action are as follows:
Who: Showing Up for Racial Justice – Austin
What: Local participation in national day of action calling for an end to anti-Black police violence, in support of Movement for Black Lives #FreedomNow demonstrations
When: Thursday, July 21st, 7:15AM
Where: Starting at the Victory Grill, 1104 E. 11th Street, Austin TX 78702
Why: It is vital for White people to visibly and loudly demonstrate that we condemn the police violence that has become a daily reality for people of color. These actions are meant to not only hold the Austin Police Department and national policing organizations accountable for that violence, but also to call on police officers to condemn and work to end the murders of Black people.
Visuals:  There will be dynamic and engaging visual props, as well as drums, pots and pans and other noisemakers to accompany the call to wake up. 

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Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) is a national network of groups and individuals organizing White people for racial justice. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, SURJ moves White people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability. We work to connect people across the country while supporting and collaborating with local and national racial justice organizing efforts. SURJ provides a space to build relationships, skills and political analysis to act for change.