Arlington, VA

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

In the last several years there has been more conversation around historical symbols and their meaning. How should we address monuments, streets, fight songs and buildings if they cause pain to some people but are a source of pride, tradition and patriotism for others? Until our most recent period of national racial discourse, there was a debate.

In the last several weeks, monuments have been taken down and drenched in paint. Governments have moved quickly to vote on name changes. Sports teams which had previously resisted mascot name changes are suddenly reconsidering past decisions under the weight of corporate pressure. Now that more people are recognizing the pain of systemic racism today, the voices and feelings of the oppressed are being heard loud and clear.

Research suggests that some symbols may cause psychological harm. On July 6, 2020, the New York Times Idea of the Day: Racist Mascot Psychology noted, “that a team of leading psychologists once conducted an experiment to see how popular images of Native Americans affected Native American high school and college students. The students mostly used positive words…but when the researchers then asked a series of follow-up questions… students who had seen the images reported lower self-esteem and more negative views of their community compared with a control group of similar students who had not seen the images.” The mascots “function as inordinately powerful communicators, to natives and non-natives alike, of how American Indians should look and behave.”

Around 2009 I was at a Black friend’s house and I asked her young son what was special about Barack Obama’s presidency. My friend interrupted me and said, “I don’t want him to think anything is ‘special’ about Obama being the first Black president, I want him to believe (at least for now) that it is normal to see a Black man as president.”

That comment stuck with me because I realized that while his election was an accomplishment for a country that has struggled with racial inequality, we should learn how to master the delicate balance of celebrating successes while normalizing them, especially for children. There is a positive psychological impact of living in a world where we are not an “other”, where people that look like us are part of the conversation and leading.

Examining street names or even the name “Arlington” to determine whether they should be changed is only one step. We have to plan for how we will teach an inclusive history to all residents, not just students, how we will normalize the inclusion of underrepresented groups in our current community, and how we will work to create symbols and positive representation which will benefit us all and not cause harm.

Arlington Magazine’s handling of the recent Extraordinary Teen nominations is a model for all of us. Whytni Kernodle with the Black Parents of Arlington and others noted that the annual recognition did not include students of color this year. On July 2 Arlington Magazine announced on its Facebook page that they would be changing the selection process to include a diverse and inclusive five-person panel,  would add a question about race so the panel could ensure the teens that are chosen represent the entire community, and would be proactive about reaching out to a broader network for nominations.

I believe that many of our current Arlington institutions could learn from the changes that Arlington Magazine is making. While they may seem small to an organization or body, collectively, they will prove to represent Arlington well as we evolve to be a more inclusive community.

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.


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

While the Black community has experienced disproportionate deaths as a result of COVID-19, the pandemic has left us all with clarity about the lack of value of Black Americans to the larger society.

Until 1865, Black bodies, minds and souls were an official currency in our capitalist society. The remnants of the peculiar institution of slavery, which exist today in the form of institutional racism, may be withering away slowly. Yet today, there is more energy from white Americans to demand change, including, more support for our lives and our businesses.

If you are not Black, why should Black businesses matter to you? Aside from wanting to support a more racially just society, and benefit from additional diversity as a consumer, frankly, it becomes more difficult over time for whites to segregate from Blacks. Black families are disproportionately living in poverty, and poverty creates a number of social problems, which affect us all.

Last week I moderated a virtual panel discussion on economic empowerment in the Black community. The panelists further elaborated on several important issues and barriers critical to Black economic empowerment.

Fear — African Americans have often been discouraged from entrepreneurship, even as a “side hustle”, due to the risk and lack of access to capital. COVID-19 is an excellent example of when additional income sources would have been helpful to a population that was largely out of work due to social distancing restrictions. Consider encouraging Blacks who are proficient in an area to pursue business training and start a business.

Business Directories — Business directories which highlight Black businesses are necessary. As Randy Philip, owner of the Washington Insurance Consulting Group and one of the cofounders of the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce noted quite simply, “We can’t support them if we don’t know who they are.” Race blind initiatives may result in policies and ideologies which prevent us from knowing who to support. If you know of a Black-owned business, share them with to be listed in this directory of Arlington Black businesses.

Preparing Youth/Role Models — All of the panelists agreed that preparing our youth was critical to encouraging entrepreneurship in the Black community. The Arlington Chamber of Commerce recently shared this blog post by Eshauna Smith from the Urban Alliance on the importance of supporting future entrepreneurs. “You can’t be what you can’t see” is a common refrain used when encouraging any unrepresented population to excel. We should connect Black youth with entrepreneurs for internships and encourage Black entrepreneurs to speak at career days and other youth events.

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

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.


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

The organization Women in Government Relations held an excellent webinar last week on fine-tuning one’s executive presence in this new normal.

The panelists who represented national corporations and associations focused on the changing culture due to COVID-19. Specifically, they conveyed how we can look at past outcomes and determine how to achieve similar results now by changing our tactics through intentionality and over-communication.

For example, we previously could easily run into someone in the hall at work, or even go to a meeting for one purpose but also connect with others to communicate. Those interactions may now be harder to achieve in our new age of physical distancing.

While it is not new, this past week we were reminded of the consistent disparities and inequities which exist locally.  Even if there are disputes about how the data is analyzed, recent health data show that the Columbia Pike corridor is overrepresented in COVID-19 cases.

Arlington prides itself on the Arlington Way, a process that aims to ensure opportunity for civic engagement, participation and transparency to address our community challenges. Many look to the government when searching for solutions, but it is critical that we also focus on civil society. The formal and informal organizations in Arlington are an essential part of our culture. We should all question how we can do more as a community to confront and prevent challenges.

As we adjust to the new normal in Arlington, this is the perfect opportunity to rethink our organizations’ role in the Arlington Way. A few recommendations include:

Countywide all sector State of Arlington summit — An annual “State of Arlington” Summit which brings together several sectors of our community could foster and result in regular communication and collaboration. This would build on the great work of several organizations that have conducted similar events including the Arlington Community Foundation’s Shared Prosperity Initiative, the Arlington Chamber of Commerce’s State of the County and many other events throughout different sectors.

Regular communication among organizations — One of the basic lessons of crisis communications is regular updates and more opportunities for communication and feedback. We should continue this COVID-19 practice by intentionally sharing knowledge and raising awareness among organizations, to our members and the broader community on new issues on the horizon through regular online meetings, newsletters, and social media.

Standard (optional) organizational analysis — Groups and organizations should be encouraged to complete a customized Arlington organizational analysis which focuses on the attributes that Arlington values including equity, participation, digital and technological capacity and collaboration. The internal analysis could assist organizations in directing their efforts towards both their objectives and broader Arlington goals, and allow them to measure their progress towards increased engagement in Arlington and their organization.

Formal organizational capacity building and sharing — Organizations are at different levels in terms of experience and resources. Yet the ability of organizations to promote engagement and interaction with different sectors is a critical part of the Arlington Way and Arlington values. Access to online training, webinars and classes specific to achieving organizational objectives, and sharing and mentoring among organizations in Arlington could help strengthen our civil society.

Arlington’s new normal elucidates challenges that have always been present. We should rethink how we view the organizational component of the Arlington Way as a preliminary step in continuing to address the concerns which plague our community. We must be intentional and communicative in order to continue to move Arlington forward and leave a legacy of which we are all proud.

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.


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

I have always been intrigued by how organizations adapt. As an Arlingtonian, I am beyond impressed by the outstanding work of Arlington’s organizations and businesses during the pandemic. Due to their leadership and long-standing collaboration, they have thrived in ways that will have a positive impact on Arlington for decades to come.

Coordination — The Arlington Community Foundation was established in 1991 when the Honorable William T. Newman, Jr. observed the work of the San Francisco Community Foundation after the earthquake of 1989. Today the Foundation coordinates critical initiatives including Shared Prosperity and Bridges Out of Poverty. The Foundation’s extensive work with other nonprofit organizations has allowed them to seamlessly provide Rapid Response grants to local organizations during COVID-19.

The Cooperative for a Hunger Free Arlington was created in early April as a collaboration between the Arlington County Department of Human Services, Arlington Public Schools, Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC) and a number of organizations providing meals to those in need through school PTAs and local neighborhood groups. AFAC is working with the Cooperative to provide groceries that can be delivered to homebound individuals, those in quarantine, and those with active cases. Having a strong organization such as AFAC has been critical during COVID-19 and they are seen as a key collaborator

Resources — Funds, materials, food and other resources have been critical to ensuring our community is served during COVID-19. Amazon contributed $1M to four area community foundations, of which the Arlington Community Foundation received $350,000. Arlington County is giving $300,000 to Arlington Thrive which delivers same-day emergency funds to our neighbors in crisis, and has been a leader in Arlington for 45 years. Businesses are offering free meals to seniors, students and families.

Adaptability — Many organizations, businesses and churches did not skip a beat to continue their work despite the social distancing and stay at home orders. The Arlington Committee of 100, founded in 1954 to foster open and vigorous discussion of issues involving all facets of community life in Arlington,  held its April gathering via Zoom. The Rosslyn BID will be holding virtual trivia nights. The Arlington Chamber of Commerce is connecting businesses with resources for signage to alert customers about delivery and carryout options. Several organizations and businesses have updated their websites or apps to facilitate ordering and general communication. The League of Women Voters of Arlington has started Pandemic Postcarding where they wrote 1000 postcards to rural African American voters in Virginia for the NAACP.  I am sure dozens of budding entrepreneurs and existing businesses have started making and selling masks.

I recognize that in addition to these formal organizations, there are countless smaller and information gatherings of people who are doing similar work. Oftentimes the collective of these organizations and businesses characterize a community. They can be our vehicles to solve community problems. They represent the fabric of who we are. When times are good, it is easy to forget about the dedication and the innovation it takes to run both businesses and organizations. When challenges arise we expect them to rise to the occasion. It may be months before we fully realize the impact that our businesses and nonprofits are making, but whether we are having a pandemic or not, they deserve our full support.

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.


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

It’s been more than two weeks since we began our stay at home order in Virginia due to COVID-19. In that time, testing has increased which has provided a clearer picture of the pandemic.

Unfortunately, it’s become more common to learn about relatives, friends and others in our lives who have succumbed to COVID-19 related illnesses.

Grocery stores, one of the few places where we can travel, are increasingly seen as the front lines of the pandemic along with hospitals. Masks are a common sight in public and are highly encouraged, especially when at the grocery store.

On one hand while some religious leaders are refusing to obey social distancing orders, we have become more accustomed to seeing the majority of church services, town hall meetings, news broadcasts, and late-night talk shows either with the hosts/participants practicing social distancing in the same studio and/or broadcasting from their homes.

As of April 13, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Deaths are not as high as originally projected, and there is more serious talk of rapid testing and vaccines.

Studies show that Arlingtonians are working from home, which means that we may be in a better position to bounce back economically. There is a varied reaction to those of us who are diligently reporting and venting about others who are not practicing social distancing or wearing masks. A popular solution gaining momentum is closing off specific streets to cars for pedestrians. When there were reports of schools running out of free meals before spring break, there was a swift community response in the form of the new Cooperative for a Hunger Free Arlington (CHFA)

It’s easy to criticize isolated responses during a crisis but I urge Arlingtonians to focus on the processes and institutions, both strong and weak, that got us here. In a testament to years of advocacy and education by organizations like the League of Women Voters, some of our democratic institutions including elections are evolving to include an emphasis on voting by mail. Election Day is now a holiday in Virginia and the primary and caucus dates are postponed.

Yet, it’s an outrage that we haven’t done more as a community in terms of the systemic inequalities which cause health disparities. Surgeon General Jerome Adams recently received criticism for his remarks targeted toward blacks which seemingly focuses on their unhealthy lifestyles for the disproportionate number COVID-19 deaths, and for using language in his critique  (grandaddy, Big Momma) which was seen as condescending by some.

I asked several African-Americans for their opinions, and as expected their perspectives ranged from disgust for the Surgeon General’s lack of acknowledgment for the systemic racial inequalities in the United States to frustration about the early rumors in the black community that blacks were immune from COVID-19.

According to an April 9 WTOP story “in Virginia, positive cases in which race was recorded as white, black or other, 506 cases involved blacks, or 30.4%. Census data says 19.9% of Virginia’s population is black. Whites make up 917 of the state’s cases — 55%.” Virginia is not immune to the inequity.

As we approach the other side of the curve, it’s the perfect time to ramp up our advocacy around the unequal systems which keep some of us behind – whether its access to quality health care, e-learning, healthy meals for our students or safe and affordable housing for families. These aren’t new or easy challenges, yet they have been exacerbated by the pandemic, and will likely outlast our memories of the early days of COVID-19.

History will judge us kindly if we allow the pandemic to shine a light on our inequalities and fight even harder for an equitable Arlington.

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.


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

I have always been fascinated by leadership. Studies often focus on important aspects of leadership including authenticity, influence, and communication.

Another common theme that I have recently observed is more focus on courage, especially for women. Whether it’s “leaning in,” “courageous leadership” or confronting your fears, successful leaders address their inner doubts and external criticism, and use their voices and talents for good.

Interestingly, leadership advice can sometimes come from the most unlikely sources. In early March I attended the Junior League of Washington’s Women’s Leadership Summit with Carly Fiorina as the keynote speaker. Ms. Fiorina has recently started consulting with nonprofits on leadership. Regardless of her political ideology, I believe her message of encouraging women leaders to confront their fears is compelling.

I recently heard an interview with Jennifer Lopez where she discussed learning how to not internalize criticism she received early in her career. It is an inspiration to know that a former presidential candidate/Hewlett Packard CEO and talented dancer, actress and international celebrity have challenges with finding the courage and confidence to ignore the 24-hour news cycle and negative online commenters and continue living up to their full potential.

Amid our current COVID-19 reality, opportunities for leadership abound. Some of our leaders are stepping up to the plate, and others are faltering. During a recent interview on COVID-19, a health professional admitted that she is scared, but she must leave that at the hospital door. She can’t effectively serve her patients if she is afraid.

A March 27 article by Aisha S. Ahmad in The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that we should recognize that life has been changed forever by COVID-19. We may slowly start to return to work, dine in restaurants, exercise at the gym, and meet in large groups in a few weeks, but we won’t ever forget this experience.

Sometimes it’s easy to only remember the negative aspects of a traumatic situation. I personally hope that I never forget how I am marveling at the countless health professionals, grocery store workers and other essential personnel whose names we will never know, who bravely battle the pandemic. Or how I admire the leadership in Arlington: those starting community corps and Facebook groups, the entrepreneurs who innovatively pivot to new business models to keep their employees working, the nonprofits that collaborate for those most in need and even local leaders who are both praised and criticized for every decision.

I don’t ever want to forget the spirit of community I felt when I left a roll of paper towels outside the home of a total stranger in Fairlington who posted in the Facebook group “Arlington Neighbors Helping Each Other Through COVID-19 “because I purchased a large pack from Costco a few months back. Or that I was moved to get off my couch and dance around my living room after being inspired by a DJ who was live-streaming hip-hop and 90s music from his basement to raise money and secure matching chicken donations for those on the front lines during the pandemic.

When we begin our post-pandemic lives, I lament that the fear, death, isolation, nonsensical press conferences, persistent media, and any missteps by our leadership will remain in our psyche. We are all applauding the courage of our community today. On the other side of this pandemic, my hope for our community is that the “Arlington Way” will encompass people who have the courage to allow both our individual and collective experiences to transform us into a permanently courageous community.

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.


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

Last month I led a conversation in Loudoun County to determine how a group of committed women activists could best serve our community.

One of the attendees shared her experiences of a teacher mishandling a racial situation involving her son. The next day I received an email from the Arlington NAACP asking for more details from Arlington Public Schools (APS) on the “current policy and procedures for staff, students, and families to report acts of discrimination and bigotry.”

While I know Arlington is not immune to racism, Loudoun County tends to get more local media attention around racist incidents including KKK flyers and confederate war monuments.

Sometimes it’s easy to believe that living in “progressive” Arlington means that we have less racism, but the moniker can be misleading. The lasting disparities and discrimination that can be found in almost every sector of our society is proof of the prevalence of racism. Racism still exists, yet I believe we have the power to eliminate it.

A September 22, 2019 Washington Post article, “Arlington schools were named best in Virginia, but a growing chorus of black parents is disrupting that narrative” highlighted the Black Parents of Arlington’s concerns about the APS disparities noted that 2015 federal data show that Black students accounted for 29 percent of Arlington’s in-school suspensions while making up 11 percent of the school population. Hispanic students made up 41 percent of suspensions but were just 28 percent of the population.

At a recent meeting of the African American Leadership Council of Arlington we discussed an incident at Wakefield High School in which swastikas were found on the building. ARLnow has also reported incidents in the last few years of racial graffiti and stickers.

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

In 2020 we commemorate the centennial of women gaining the right to vote, and last month Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

It is natural to analyze how far we have come in the years between 1920 and 2020, and what should be done in the next 100 years to reach full equality.

In 1920, most white women were allowed to vote, along with select groups of non white women. Today, most women of all races enjoy the right to vote.

Over the years the number of women in elected office has increased, despite the challenges. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, the number of Democratic women challenging incumbents in 2018 for the U.S. House of Representatives increased nearly 350% from 2016.

According to the National Committee on Pay Equity, in 1963, women who worked full-time, year-round made 59 cents on average for every dollar earned by men. Today, while white women earn 80 cents on the dollar of what men earn, Black women earn $0.61, Native American women earn $0.58, Latina women earn $0.53, and Asian women earn $0.85.

While I do not have data on pay equity in Arlington County, Alexandria conducted a study which found that female city employees earned 94 cents for every $1 earned by their male peers. (The article notes that it does not appear that many local governments come close to this small gap in wages.)

In Arlington, women have succeeded in political and civic leadership. Approximately 40% of the civic association presidents are women, and several women (primarily white) lead our nonprofit and business entities including Leadership Center for Excellence, Arlington Community Foundation, Arlington Chamber of Commerce, Rosslyn BID, Crystal City BID, and the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization. At least 10 women have served on the Arlington County Board. To my knowledge, all have been white. On the School Board, at least 26 women have served, including at least three Black women and two Latina women.

Despite progress in voting rights, electoral politics, leadership and pay equity, sadly, violence against women and sexual discrimination have characterized the gender gap in the United States and across the globe, particularly in the last few years. The U.S. Department of Justice reports that approximately one in four homeless women is homeless because of violence committed against her. While I have never been a victim of sexual assault, the #MeToo movement was impactful to me because it adds a personal face to the sobering statistics.

In September 2019 I spoke to a group of university students about the “Power of Sisterhood” among women of different racial groups. One of the Black female students asked me if we are Black first, or women first.

As we celebrate the centennial of the 19th amendment here in Arlington, and I see photos of white women in traditional sashes and suffrage garb, that does not tell the full story of the fight that my Black ancestors waged for their rights. That is why it is important for me to be involved in several different centennial celebrations and portray the diverse voices of the movement. I am proud to say that the story we tell today picks up where my history books left off.

Over the next 100 years, I believe it will take all of us speaking up, and providing a space for different voices to be heard. While we definitely want to see more equality, I believe it is also an internal question. For me personally, it is an everyday feeling of being respected, heard and seen equally as both a Black person AND a woman (over the next 100 years, we should not have to choose unless we want to!) — living, playing, working, and leading, in Arlington.

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.


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

I recently did something which may be considered a faux pas among social media users.

The “People You May Know” section on Facebook had gotten on my last nerve. I have designed a very specific Facebook experience for myself. I don’t like reminders or requests. I check messages and handle any action items which create notifications quickly, just so I do not see the notification. (I do realize this is odd!)

I had approximately 4,600 friends, and the limit is 5,000. I randomly added about 400 friends so I would reach the limit and avoid enduring the “People You May Know” section while I scrolled on my Facebook timeline.

While most of the people with whom I have shared this think it’s the stupidest thing someone can do (who wants a bunch of random people to see their posts or better yet, why do you want to see their random posts?), it has been a fascinating experiment. It has forced me to get comfortable with being uncomfortable each time I see a post contrary to my long held beliefs.

In 2006 I graduated from the Sorensen Institute of Political Leadership at the University of Virginia. One of the basic principles of the organization is to bring together people who “have a wide variety of viewpoints and backgrounds but want to work together for the common good.” I relished the opportunity to hear different perspectives and to have my own ideas challenged. So much so that when I started Virginia Leadership Institute in 2006 to increase the number of Black elected officials, it was important to me that the organization was non-partisan.

While the majority of African Americans identify with the Democratic Party, if we are focusing on electing the most qualified African Americans who will create public policy which helps all African Americans advance, we must recognize the value of diverse perspectives at the table.

On Facebook, when I meticulously selected friends who I either knew personally, or knew people I knew, I predictably agreed with the majority of what they posted. With my new influx of “friends,” I quickly began to notice ideological differences in everything from politics, to what they felt comfortable posting on Facebook (some of these comments and memes are straight out of the 1950s in terms of the sexist tones.)

It is tempting to unfriend them, or unfollow them, but being confronted daily with opinions which are so far from what I would ever believe or entertain, is important. That “discomfort” comes with a constant reminder that there really are people who think that way, and they have supporters who like, love and laugh at their opinions and inappropriate humor.

I recently took an unpopular position publicly and have been chastised for it, to include rude and inappropriate behavior in public. I was surprised because I expected more from the person. Living in a progressive Democratic community, I had hoped that disagreements would be treated differently.

When members of our community react negatively when we disagree, it creates an unhealthy dynamic. Arlington’s public engagement norms for the most part provide ample opportunity for dialogue, but what happens afterwards? How are you treating people on the “winning” or “losing” side? Are we coming together to rationally discuss our differences? We will not grow as a community if we don’t learn to respectfully disagree, and truly understand each other’s perspectives.

This month, I challenge you to find at least one person who you disagree with on an issue and just talk to them about it. Listen to their ideas. 2020 is sure to bring a number of challenges throughout Arlington. We will not always agree on the best way forward, but the final solutions will likely be a combination of perspectives, with a dash of discomfort along the way.

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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