Recently I was walking through a single-family neighborhood in South Arlington. As I turned onto the street of my destination I immediately second-guessed my decision to walk instead of drive. I wondered if I would be threatening as an unfamiliar Black person walking down their street.
As many of us have heard through countless testimonials of African Americans since the murder of George Floyd, on a daily basis, Blacks often have to assume that our presence and actions can be construed as dangerous. This is just one example of the effects of racism.
Arlington should be a leader in eliminating racism at all levels and in all spaces. The “Arlington Way” should include steps to actively combat racism. Here are just a few ways we can continue to incorporate anti-racism in the “Arlington Way”.
Take responsibility for your learning — I have heard several Black people over the last few days say, “I am tired. I can’t help white people right now; I am dealing with so many other issues.” It is critical that we talk to each other about race, but we also have a responsibility to read and learn through the vast amounts of information that exists. Arlingtonians should learn about Arlington as told through the perspectives of Black Arlingtonians including Wilma Jones Kilgo author of “My Hall’s Hill Family Neighborhood” and Dr. Alfred O. Taylor, author of “Bridge Builders of Nauck/Green Valley“, and visiting the Black Heritage Museum of Arlington.
Speak Up — While it’s hard to admit, white voices are valued more than Black voices. The reason that the conversation/protests around race feel different this time is because so many young white people are involved. Do you have an opinion or a personal story on racial justice issues, police brutality and inequality? Are you able to influence where your organization’s or company’s dollars are spent? You should speak up and consider requesting funding or adding thought leadership to one or more of the many organizations including the Arlington NAACP, Challenging Racism, and Vote Lead Impact, or not invest in organizations which do not support racial justice.
Support Black Economic Empowerment and Advancement — According to Black Enterprise, Black buying power is projected to reach about $1.5 trillion by 2021. I was heartened to see the list of Black businesses in ARLnow and several groups sharing Black business that covered the DC metro area, but it does make one wonder why there are not more Black businesses in Arlington. In a June 6 New York Times article, Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation and board member of Pepsi questions the authenticity and commitment of corporations that have issued statements supporting racial justice. He notes that “generations of well-intentioned pledges by businesses have resulted in only marginal advancement for the black community. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated grim employment trends, and today fewer than half of black adults in America have a job. Black workers make less money than white workers. That is due in part to the fact that they are more likely to have poorly paying service jobs, but research also shows that highly educated black employees are paid less than their white peers.” We should all advocate for fair wages, and support businesses and corporations which have shown their commitment through action.
Do your part to make sure Blacks are represented — If you serve on boards or commissions, and participate in civic associations, look at the racial diversity. Think about your current practices which may discourage a wide variety of participants including inconvenient meeting times, unwelcoming attitudes, or unwillingness to consider new points of view.
What I find most interesting is that we immediately look to Black organizations and leaders to solve racism, when whites perpetrate and condone it. The solution lies in us coming together. White leaders, white-owned businesses, and white-led organizations need to take an active role. Together, we must ensure the “Arlington Way” continues to complement the protests with sustainable action, and root out racism whether it be overt or implicit.
Krysta Jones has lived in Arlington since 2004 and is active in local politics and civic life. This column is in no way associated with or represents any person, government, organization or body — except Krysta herself.