Escaping the toxic two-party trap

by Jonathan Krall

Last Saturday I walked and biked the streets of Washington DC with friends. I participated in the collective outpouring of joy and relief as the election was called for Joe Biden. It was beautiful. It was uplifting. But now we have work to do. Job #1, as my Extinction Rebellion friends say, is to tell the truth. The truth is that the conditions that produced Trump are still in place. Normalization of anti-science predates Trump. Voter manipulation predates Trump. As long as the Republican Party talks propaganda instead of policy, uses division, marginalization, disenfranchisement, intimidation, and mass incarceration to suppress voting, is dishonest about its privatize-everything agenda, another Trump isn’t just possible, it is inevitable. As long as the Democratic Party is complicit in a two-party system that marginalizes third parties, a return to Republican control is inevitable. There is a way forward. It won’t come from the toxic Republican leadership. I doubt it will come from the complicit Democratic leadership. I am hopeful that it will come from the people.

What is the way forward? The consensus view is that President-elect Biden will “reach across the aisle.” The consensus view is that Republicans will shut him down. The consensus view is that we are stuck with gridlock. The way forward is to break the pattern. To allow third parties to come to the table. To expand democracy. Anti-gerrymandering reforms and ranked-choice voting–to encourage candidates to appeal to those beyond their narrow constituencies–would be good first steps. Electoral college reform and bringing colonies to statehood (including DC) would be significant further steps, if attainable.

Virginia’s successful anti-gerrymandering reform is a ray of hope. It might not be perfect, but it is a break from business as usual that cannot be easily undone. Continue reading “Escaping the toxic two-party trap”

How do we feel about police in schools? An antiracist exercise

by Jonathan Krall

Like many people, I’ve joined an antiracist study group[1]. We slowly read books like White Fragility or The New Jim Crow, spending months on each book. We study systemic racism and interrogate our complicity. We share the stories we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel like “good people” and ask ourselves, out loud, if these stories are lies. It is one thing to study antiracism; still another to practice it. Antiracist study requires self-questioning. Antiracist action also requires self-questioning, but with different questions. The results are more than worth the effort.

Below we present the exercise and suggest an action. If you aren’t feeling introspective, you can scroll down to the Requested Action below (thanks!). Continue reading “How do we feel about police in schools? An antiracist exercise”

How to be anti-binary

by Jonathan Krall

Throughout the working life of Grassroots Alexandria, we have immersed ourselves in the study and practice of anti-fascism and, more recently, anti-racism. Our ongoing studies suggest a new “anti” for us to consider, anti-binary. Like “intersectionality” anti-binary is a word that connects overlapping concepts in gender, white supremacy and personal politics. Put simply, good/bad and correct/incorrect binary thinking incentivizes self-delusion. While self-delusion can be comfortable, it is also dangerous. As an alternative we, and others, suggest that learning to live with ambiguity can be healthier, for ourselves and for those around us. Continue reading “How to be anti-binary”

Who Watches the Police?

by Zeina, Abdel-Rahman, and Jonathan

Communities, including Alexandria, are re-thinking policing. In Alexandria this is taking the form of police reform, which we address below, and first-step police defunding. Two police reform ideas are reportedly being implemented: a community review board and greater transparency. We say “supposedly” because transparency was promised in February 2018. Two years later, it has only been partially implemented. We have limited data on the race of people arrested and virtually no ethnicity data. To obtain robust oversight of policing, Alexandrians will need to keep up the pressure on City Council. Past experience suggests that public pressure is the only thing that works.

On June 20, two Grassroots Alexandria volunteers spoke to City Council about these efforts. Here are their statements.

From Abdel-Rahman, Grassroots Alexandria volunteer:

I am here today representing Grassroots Alexandria in support of an ordinance for Police Data transparency and a community review board.

Grassroots Alexandria has been an active part of a coalition of several activists, community leaders, and organizations demanding transparency and robust community oversight over the Alexandria Police department. We are demanding that City Council pass an ordinance requiring Alexandria Police to publicly share data on all police encounters with citizens, not just for vehicle stops or encounters that result in arrests. Stopping a citizen and questioning them or searching them is an example of a potentially harassing encounter that needs to be captured. The data needs to be broken down by race, gender, age and ethnicity of citizens subject to stops.

We are also demanding an independent community review board with real powers, investigatory tools, and oversight. The Human Rights Commission, which was brought up several times, lacks independent investigatory authority, it can’t compel the police to provide evidence, and they don’t have subpoena power over the police. Continue reading “Who Watches the Police?”

Tell Governor Northam to extend the eviction moratorium and provide real, lasting rent relief

by Dan Moshenberg

Like the rest of the country, Virginia is facing an eviction crisis. This is the week to stand up and speak out or stand by as our neighbors are evicted en masse.

On June 28, Virginia’s eviction moratorium ends. On June 29, eviction courts will re-open, and their schedules are already packed. Today, June 25, Governor Northam announced a rent relief program which, while it provides some assistance, will take time to implement. Tenants will need time to wade through the application process. Time is of the essence. Governor Northam has the authority to prohibit evictions until the rent relief package is fully funded and implemented.

Please join New Virginia Majority, the Legal Aid Justice Center and Virginia Poverty Law Center in asking the Governor to prohibit evictions now. Call Governor Northam’s office and ask him to extend the eviction moratorium. To call Governor Northam: 804-786-2211, select option 1 for his voicemail.

Locally, Tenants and Workers United is organizing in the Arlandria community, where the double hit of Covid-19 and job loss has been devastating. Our neighbors in Arlandria are worried for the health of their loved ones and the stability of their housing, at least through the pandemic. Across the country, the pandemic and the economic crisis has struck particularly deeply and broadly in communities of color, particularly Black and Latinx. In Alexandria this year, Arlandria has been the epicenter of a double crisis. That crisis does not have to turn into a tragedy. We can turn this around, but to do so, to support our neighbors, we must act. Call Governor Northam and ask him to extend the moratorium.

For more details, check out New Virginia Majority’s response to Governor Northam’s rent relief program and the joint NVM – LAJC – VPLC Letter to Governor Northam[2].

It’s Not That Bad, It’s Worse: a statement of support for Black Lives Matter

Most people get through life by telling themselves “it’s not that bad.” This is a lie. On a recent bonus episode of the Code Switch podcast Kenya Young, executive producer of NPR’s Morning Edition, talks about giving “the talk” to her three black sons. This segment, beginning 27 minutes into the podcast, is devastating. After listening, we reached an inescapable conclusion: if we cannot bring ourselves to take power away from cruelly unequal policing, then we ourselves are cruelly complicit. Continue reading “It’s Not That Bad, It’s Worse: a statement of support for Black Lives Matter”

Transparency in Policing: a good first step

by Jonathan Krall

The death of George Floyd has ignited yet another round of protests. Because the last round of protests seems to have accomplished nothing, the new protests are bigger and the messaging is more direct. Many protesters are asking us to defund the police and are calling for system-wide reforms. Here in Alexandria, Grassroots Alexandria is joining with community leaders to ask for transparency and accountability in policing. As part of an effort led by former school board member Chris Lewis’ initiative Just NOVA, we are asking for both a data transparency ordinance and a substantive community review board. If enough Alexandrians speak out and write to city council, we can accomplish these small steps.

Data Transparency

With your support, Alexandria can enact an ordinance requiring quarterly reporting on Alexandria Police Department data broken down by race, ethnicity, and other factors related to:
1. investigative stops, frisks, and searches
2. traffic stops
3. use of force incidents
4. civilian complaints
5. arrests

On February 27, 2018, the APD presented a Data Refinement and Transparency Plan. As presented, the plan would “capture information on stops, information and assist contacts, community outreach efforts and other activities not currently collected. It will also include subject demographic data related the activity performed by the officer as suggested in the 21 st Century Policing report.” Unfortunately, City Council accepted the new policy without passing an ordinance. The promised reports were not required and have not been delivered. Continue reading “Transparency in Policing: a good first step”

The pandemic continues: what can we do?

by Jonathan Krall

In Grassroots Alexandria, we have reacted to the covid-19 threat by working with allied groups and political leaders on immediate needs (enabling vulnerable communities to access healthcare and rental assistance) even as we work on long-term goals (restorative practices, affordable housing, protecting immigrants). But this crisis is personal. We are in our homes, venturing out only for work, food, and exercise, each in a unique world of deprivations, obligations and opportunities. Some are devastated. Some are relatively secure. At a time when so many are experiencing so much loss, it is up to those of us who have resources of time or money to find ways to share. Even in separation, we are a community.


Volunteer work is a great way to become more connected to your community, even if that volunteer work is 100% telework.

Volunteer Alexandria is seeking volunteers to assist with food distributions and other community needs.

The Alexandria Medical Reserve Corps needs medical and non-medical volunteers to support the Alexandria Health Department. Want to help with emergency response and recovery? Want to become a contact tracer? The MRC is a good place to start.

Tenants and Workers United needs volunteers, particularly to help with online teaching and tutoring. Work can be done from home. Please contact Mia Taylor at


In the US, wealth is mostly held by white people. We’d say that, in the face of government failure to enact anti-racist corrections, now is time for individuals to step up, but that isn’t true. The time to step up was long ago, when the 40 acres (and the mule) weren’t delivered, or when redlining and segregated universities kept people of color from benefiting from the G.I. Bill, or… But what of the present? And the future? As a famous Washingtonian said, the future is now.

ACT and the City of Alexandria established the ACT Now Covid-19 Response Fund to provide emergency funding to nonprofits that are delivering the critical services and programs that are needed by Alexandrians right now.

Tenants and Workers United. “In the wake of this global pandemic, our community faces a dire economic crisis. Many of our members have had their work hours reduced or been laid off completely. For the undocumented community, there is no social safety net: no unemployment benefits and no stimulus check from the federal government. We believe it’s our collective duty to take care of one another, right now and always.”

La Colectiva is accepting monetary and in-kind donations for NoVA migrant families. If donating food or household supplies, please reach out to them in advance.

Because the experience of this crisis is so personal, I’ll speak personally. I am saving money by not going out. My employer is paying me to telework and is depositing money into my retirement account with every paycheck. This enormous privilege gives me pause. I am not comfortable with the idea that my wealth is increasing while so many others are suffering.

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

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”