February 8, 2017 Published in Letters/Opinions

Alexandria Responds To White Supremacy

To the Editor:

Protest in Old Town on Jan. 29 (Photo: Jonathan Krall)

The presence of white supremacist Richard Spencer in Old Town is a symptom of our broken politics. The major political parties have too long avoided difficult conversations about racial and economic justice. White supremacists want to fill that vacuum with hate speech. For example, they see mass incarceration as a campaign of ethnic cleansing that they want to expand. The compassionate people of Alexandria must instead fill that vacuum with love and support for our most vulnerable brothers and sisters.

Our political leaders, and we ourselves, must recognize that politics has changed. By this, I mean that many more people are engaged and that we are reaching beyond the limits of the current conversation. People of good conscience are gathering in new organizations, such as Grassroots Alexandria, Showing Up for Racial Justice, OurRevolution, and Indivisible. We are bypassing the political professionals by marching instead of writing checks. We are educating ourselves and our neighbors.

I myself only recently learned that our jobs-based welfare system leaves the poorest among us absolutely desperate for jobs; that for-profit detention centers are driving a broken, for-profit immigration system; and that racial profiling and being “tough on crime” have systematically turned citizens, mainly black citizens, into “felons” (as described by author Michelle Alexander, the New Jim Crow is “no felons” instead of “whites only”). It is up to us to broaden the discussion and to muster the political will to change the status quo.

Perhaps most importantly, “war on drugs,” which dates all the way back to the Reagan era, is an engine that drives mass incarceration, mainly of black and brown citizens. Good citizens must come together to dismantle both the war on drugs and racial profiling. Both the Alexandria Human Rights Commission and Tenants and Workers United have repeatedly called for the Alexandria Police Department to record and report racial data on stops, searches, and arrests. Grassroots Alexandria supports them and has asked city staff for a meeting.

In December 2016, Richard Spencer spoke at Texas A&M and had this to say: “… we got to define what America means, we got to define what this continent means. America, at the end of the day, belongs to white men.”

We protested Richard Spencer’s presence in Alexandria on January 29th. The next protest, with a Valentine’s Day theme (wear red), will take place on Sunday, Feb. 12, 12:30-1:30 p.m. at the corner of King and Patrick Streets. We will gather and speak out. We will be disciplined and non-violent. We will share our message without disrupting local businesses.

Richard Spencer’s presence in Alexandria must be made into an engine of positive social change. Otherwise, he diminishes us all. While many prosper, many among us are left behind. While many feel safe, many others do not. We will act until we succeed in sharing prosperity, in breaking down racial barriers, and in truly protecting each other.

Sincerely,

Jonathan Krall
Co-founder, Grassroots Alexandria

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