Arlington, VA

Community Matters is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

There is no doubt that 2020 was a difficult year that presented revelations for many, and left almost all of us with unanswered questions.

As we cautiously step into 2021, decisions loom about everything from police-community relations, schools, COVID management, economic development, political leadership, and race. As a community, we have a responsibility to act on many of the conversations that we started. Memories are often short, therefore we should pause to recognize that we took several positive first steps, specifically on diversity, equity and inclusion.

Financial investments — Minority communities have long stressed the need for increased financial investments in sustainable organizations which serve underrepresented groups. As noted in a June 2020 Washington Post article, Bank of America pledged $1 billion to fight racial inequality in America. Tech companies have invested in Black Lives Matter, the Center for Policing Equity, Colin Kaepernick’s Know Your Rights Camp and other entities engaged in racial justice efforts. Businesses in other industries have also announced significant investments.

NEXT STEP: Follow the impact of these dollars and rebut claims that investing in minority communities is discriminatory. See the recent case in Oregon.

Diversity statements- – While a statement is just words, we can be hopeful that there was also positive intent in the flurry of press releases,  social media posts and black squares declaring commitments to diversity and inclusion. In 2021, we must hold those who made the statements (and posted squares) accountable.

NEXT STEP: Did your organizations, employers, or favorite companies issue statements? What steps have they taken to fulfill the meaning of the statements? How will you help with the implementation?

Support for Black businesses — The Economic Policy Institute stated in 2017 that average wealth for white families was seven times higher than average wealth for Black families. By supporting Black businesses, you are also supporting Black families, and helping to decrease the gap. The current list of Arlington Black businesses is paltry, but it is a start.

NEXT STEP: Encourage an African-American in Arlington to start a business and help them strategize about access to capital, support the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce, or patronize an Arlington Black business.

Acknowledging and Celebrating Juneteenth — Juneteenth is “the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. From its Galveston, Texas origin in 1865, the observance of June 19th as the African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond.” Juneteenth is now officially a recognized holiday in Virginia, and Nike, the Washington Post and many other companies now observe it. 

NEXT STEP: Plan now how you will commemorate Juneteenth this year.

Policing and criminal INjustice reform — The General Assembly passed a number of reforms in 2020 including creating Marcus alert mobile crisis co-response teams to mental health incidents, prohibiting no knock warrants and neck restraints, and allowing localities to create citizen review boards. Arlington County also created the Police Practices Work Group to provide recommendations to the County.

NEXT STEP: Be vigilant and ensure appropriate and complete implementation of new laws and policies, and continue to support additional reforms in line with your beliefs.

If you made progress last year, whether you read a book about race, had a deep conversation with a friend about inequality, or recognized your own implicit bias, congratulate yourself on taking that first step, and continue accentuating the positives in 2021. 

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.

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