An Arlington County employee discovered “KKK” scrawled on a pillar in the parking garage below the county government’s Courthouse headquarters last week.
The employee, who is Black, found the message in the garage for the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center (2100 Clarendon Blvd) and reported the incident on Thursday morning to County Board members, County Manager Mark Schwartz, Chief Race and Equity Officer Samia Byrd and the Arlington branch of the NAACP, according to the local NAACP. The employee filed a police report yesterday (Monday).
The Arlington NAACP shared an excerpt from the email chain between the employee and the county that it said encapsulates how the incident harms more than just the individual who found it.
“It seems because I reported it, and because I happen to be Black, I am seen as a single victim,” the employee wrote to the county in an email, according to the NAACP. “I do not see myself in this way.”
In a statement to ARLnow, County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti condemned the message.
“It’s unfortunate and unacceptable to see racist graffiti anywhere in our community, let alone in our own parking garage,” de Ferranti said. “This garage is open to the public at all times and frequented by those using the businesses throughout the Courthouse neighborhood.”
Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services and property owner JBG Smith took steps to remove the writing from the pillar, he said.
“Our thanks go to the individual who reported it to us,” he added. “ACPD is also investigating, and we will have a more extensive response regarding the steps we have, are, and will be taking over the coming days.”
In a statement, the Arlington branch of the NAACP took a stronger stance, saying any county employee who parked in that garage was “victimized” by the message and emphasizing that this incident is not “graffiti.”
“Speech expressing hatred of a particular group of people is defined as ‘hate speech’ and is not ‘graffiti,'” the organization said. “The Arlington Branch NAACP condemns any form of hate speech and stands with the Black employees and any employee or citizen who reports hate speech.”
The NAACP asked county leadership to send a message to the county workforce that hate speech will not be tolerated anywhere.
“However, sadly, the County missed the opportunities to get in front of this and, as of Monday evening, four days later, still had not addressed these concerns with its employees,” it said.
Hateful messages have popped up elsewhere in Arlington in recent years.
“It’s OK to be white” was sprayed over a church’s racial justice sign last summer. “Heil Trump,” “KKK” and two swastikas were found on a dumpster two years ago — the same year racial and gender slurs were found on a building that serves people with developmental delays.
The full statement from the NAACP is below.
On Thursday, August 26, 2021, at 11:05 a.m., an Arlington County employee reported a Hate Speech incident to County Board Officials, the County Manager, the Chief Race and Equity Officer for Arlington County, and the Arlington Branch NAACP. As a result, a police report was filed on August 30, 2021, by the employee. In addition, the Arlington Branch NAACP intends to notify federal authorities. The incident occurred in the garage located at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard, Ellen M. Bozman Government Center (Courthouse Plaza). In emails shared with the County and NAACP, the employee who reported the hate speech said it best: “It seems because I reported it, and because I happen to be Black, I am seen as a single victim. I do not see myself in this way.”
The Arlington Branch NAACP believes that every County employee who parks in that garage was ‘victimized’ by the hateful message. We strongly believe that a “KKK” message is meant as a message of hate and intimidation OR as a message of solidarity – there is no in-between.
Speech expressing hatred of a particular group of people is defined as “Hate Speech” and is not “Graffiti.” The Arlington Branch NAACP condemns any form of Hate Speech and stands with the Black employees and any employee or citizen who reports Hate Speech. We are now aware County leadership intends to address the issue soon. Therefore, we are asking County leadership to immediately engage the workforce, sharing a powerful anti-discrimination message that clearly states hate speech has no place in our County–including our public areas or where we work. This kind of message will demonstrate solidarity with all who found the news hateful. Additionally, this will reinforce that we stand firm against all forms of hatred in our workplace and the community. However, sadly, the County missed the opportunities to get in front of this and, as of Monday evening, four days later, still had not addressed these concerns with its employees.
The Arlington Branch of the NAACP shares the whistleblower’s sense of outrage. But unfortunately, this hate speech now permeates the County’s workforce first by its mere presence in an area primarily frequented by its employees and second by the County’s deflection and lack of an immediate and robust response.
The County has stated, “more is coming.” But the post-George Floyd anti-racist playbook is clear. There should be no excuses, no pats on the back for past efforts, but rather an acknowledgment that racism and racial intimidation still exist in Arlington County, and it hurts — All of us.
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