What is racism?

by Jonathan Krall

All my life, I was was told that racism is caused by terrible people called racists. The label “racist” is so toxic that, among white people, simply raising the issue invites censure. However, as all protesters know, silence = complicity. By identifying racism as systemic, current scholarship on racism offers a way forward. This approach recognizes that racism is so pervasively systemic that it is in the very air we breathe. Scholar Ibram X. Kendi shows us that racist images, racist ideas, and racist messages “are constantly being rained on your head.” How can we not get wet? This scholarship has the power to give us a common understanding of the specific cultural force, racial prejudice plus power, that is racism. With a common understanding, we can see that we are in this together, that we are both infected and affected.

My current views were informed by an undoing racism workshop, hosted by OAR. The two-day workshop (highly recommended) defines racism as racial prejudice plus power. This is a significant shift in thinking. The idea that racism is caused by evil racists is revealed to be nonsense. Yes, toxic white nationalists exist, but they are not in power. They didn’t invent the Republican “southern strategy,” the Democratic “tough on crime” policies, the bipartisan gang databases, the for-profit prisons, etc., etc., etc. Continue reading “What is racism?”

Statement on Restorative Practices

by Sharon Solorzano

Dear Superintendent Hutchings and Honorable School Board Members,

When I spoke before the School Board last April, I emphasized disturbing data regarding the high number of students who are suspended out of school in ACPS. We at Grassroots Alexandria also questioned the racial disparities and subjective reasons for suspensions. Tonight, I am here to ask for a renewed commitment to Restorative Practices. Grassroots Alexandria members have contacted or met with each of you, and we are convinced of your resolve to see RP emphasized in ACPS. We request a prioritization of RP in the ACPS 2025 Strategic Plan to reflect the ACPS value that “Every Student Succeeds.”

Continue reading “Statement on Restorative Practices”

The expansion of policing

by Jonathan Krall

The pro-bicycle, pro-walking, pro-transit, anti-car-congestion, War on Cars podcast has a really fascinating episode this week on the history of cars, and policing, in the USA. Basically, it says that back in the 1920s and 1930s, widespread use of cars put ordinary folks into the crosshairs of the police in a way that was fundamentally new. This began a tremendous expansion and professionalization of policing.

People familiar with the current civil rights movement (as informed, for example, by The New Jim Crow) may be familiar with the ongoing public debate over the scope of policing. The idea of specifically removing traffic enforcement from policing was, to me, new. It is worthy of serious consideration.

It’s a pretty good example of intersectionality. Worth a listen.

The Arc of History Will Not Bend Itself

by Jonathan Krall

On the Media has done it again. I am once again amazed at their ability to address, with impressive specificity, the toxic “new normal” politics that lie at the heart of my fear for my own future and for our democracy. This time they address the twin myths of “American exceptionalism” and “it can’t happen here,” the “it” being fascism and/or totalitarianism. With guest Andrew Marantz, author of Anti-Social: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation, they simultaneously frighten us by diminishing the myth that the arc of history bends naturally towards justice and give us hope by suggesting that many of us are already on a path forward, that path being movement politics. Continue reading “The Arc of History Will Not Bend Itself”

Support Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Alexandria

by Opal Boyer

Alexandria City Council Member Mo Seifeldein is proposing an Indigenous Peoples’ Day Resolution to replace Columbus Day in the City of Alexandria. This resolution has also garnered support from Vice Mayor Elizabeth Bennett-Parker. Further, Councilman Seifeldein has partnered with members of the Indigenous community on this effort. As engaged citizens of Alexandria who believe in social justice, we can take action and support this important proposal.

Continue reading “Support Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Alexandria”

Alternatives to prison: an opportunity in Alexandria

by Jonathan Krall

In July, Bryan Jackson and Elizabeth Jones Valderrama told us about OAR [1] programs to aid returning citizens (for Alexandria, Arlington and Falls Church) and to coordinate court-ordered community service volunteers (for Arlington and Falls Church). OAR works with individuals who were formerly incarcerated. OAR’s evidence-based program keeps recidivism rates low: 11% versus the Virginia average of 23%. One way to reduce recidivism is to keep people away from the trauma if incarceration. In Arlington, thousands are sentenced to court-ordered community service instead of incarceration, connecting citizens to community events instead of isolating and exploiting them. In Alexandria, those numbers are merely in the hundreds. It seems to me that court-mandated community service is under-utilized here in Alexandria. Can we do better?

Action alert: more service and less exploitation
In Grassroots Alexandria we don’t just talk, we act. Please write to the Alexandria City Council and the Alexandria Commonwealth Attorney with the following message: “I am a citizen of Alexandria and I am asking that we expand the use of court-mandated community service in lieu of incarceration. I understand that, relative to nearby communities in Virginia, alternatives to incarceration are under-utilized in Alexandria. I further ask that alternatives to incarceration be applied so that people of color have as much access to these alternatives as white people. Over-incarceration of people of color is not acceptable. With better policies, we will get better results.”
To contact City Council, click here.
To contact the Commonwealth Attorney, click here.

Continue reading “Alternatives to prison: an opportunity in Alexandria”

Public Statement on VA Housing Trust Fund

Response by Virginia Housing Advocates and Allies to VA Money Committees Stripping Governor’s Allocation for the Virginia Housing Trust Fund

February 6, 2019

On Tuesday, the Virginia House Appropriations and Senate Finance Subcommittees released their recommendations for the 2019-2020 biennial budget. These recommendations fail to significantly increase to the Virginia Housing Trust Fund, despite the Governor’s proposal to expand it by $19.5 million over two years. The House recommendations included no increase to the trust fund; the Senate recommendations included $1million – just 5% of the executive proposal – over two years.

In light of the overwhelmingly bi-partisan efforts to provide a $750 million incentive package over 15 years for Amazon, as well as $50 million for Micron, we are outraged that selected members of Virginia’s money committees stripped this critical support for housing for Virginia families. Continue reading “Public Statement on VA Housing Trust Fund”

ICE in Alexandria: the data

by Jonathan Krall

This week, the Washington Post published our op-ed about ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) in Alexandria. We encourage you to visit the Washington Post and read about it. The op-ed includes specific statements and statistics. Below we provide our sources.

Want less text and more action? Sign our petition here. And skip to the bottom of this post for more. Continue reading “ICE in Alexandria: the data”

ACPS School Board Candidate Forum

By Barbara Wilmer and Lindsay Stuart

On October 3, Tenants and Workers United and Grassroots Alexandria jointly held a candidates forum for the Alexandria City Public School Board. All 16 candidates attended, vying for the 9 seats. We focused on restorative practices, school resource officers and the school-to-prison pipeline. These are the issues that, we feel, are feeding the so-called achievement gap between students of varying racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Our report is posted here (click the “thumbnail” to view the report)

Please vote on November 6, if not sooner. In person absentee voting has already begun. A video recording of the forum can be found on the Tenants and Workers United Facebook page.

Let’s All Stand Up for Alexandrians

by the Grassroots Alexandria Steering Committee (Zeina Azzam, Opal Boyer, Lisa Friday, Jonathan Krall)

The joint Tenants and Workers United/Grassroots Alexandria effort to keep ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) out of the Alexandria jail continues. Our volunteers have reached out to our local sheriff, to city council, and to our leaders in Richmond. We have learned that both the Alexandria sheriff and city manager are signatories to the agreement that allows ICE to use our jail to detain undocumented Alexandrians. We have learned that ICE issues warrants without judicial oversight. The public debate has been heated. Some who oppose us have resorted to personal pressure tactics, making disparaging statements about individual Grassroots Alexandria volunteers. In the face of personal attacks, the appropriate course of action is to redouble our efforts, focusing on issues instead of on individuals. The Grassroots Alexandria mission is to teach and practice democracy in Alexandria for the benefit of all Alexandrians, especially the most vulnerable among us. We will not back down. Continue reading “Let’s All Stand Up for Alexandrians”