To the editor:
Racial Justice Alexandria is a multi-racial, multi-generational abolitionist collective of individuals and groups working to implement the Movement for Black Lives policy platform. We call upon our legislators to develop proactive and preventative measures to uplift the rights, dignity and well-being of Black people. Racial injustice is violence and must be aggressively treated as such.
Thus far, however, the city has only offered platitudes, such as the “ALL Alexandria” resolution that acknowledges the necessity of acting “deliberately, thoughtfully and thoroughly to end racial inequities by frank examination,” but fails to propose any action to resolve systemic inequities.
Initially, having taken them at their word, RJA met with each member of council to discuss the policy proposals developed by the Movement for Black Lives. It would be an understatement to say that we’ve been disappointed. Council members are unprepared and unfamiliar with the policy platform, and we’ve repeatedly been told that there must be more learning and discussion.
We’re pointing you toward policies that have been developed by experts in the field of racial justice. Does council require more learning or discussion when considering flood mitigation proposals? Or do they, as we suspect, listen to the experts?
Nowhere is this lack of respect for experts and Black voices more obvious than the current effort to put SROs back in school after ending the program earlier this year. Over and over, researchers have found that SROs do not make schools safer or reduce school violence, gun violence or mass shootings.
Repeatedly, researchers find that the presence of SROs results in greater numbers of suspensions and expulsions and criminalizes school discipline matters. Additionally, students of color and students with disabilities are disproportionately referred to and arrested by police in schools. SROs do not make schools safer for anyone, but they do make schools measurably less safe for Black and brown students and students with disabilities.
Our current reliance on the police does little to reduce violence and harm and actually perpetuates systemic racial inequities. An adult with a gun and a badge cannot fix these issues any more than a carpet vac can prevent a basement from flooding. Their function is purely reactionary.
We hope you will show the same determination and patience to develop real solutions as you are with the flooding issues. Instead of more police, we ask that the council and citizens of Alesxandria deconstruct harmful ideas of power, punishment and justice, and take tangible action, including keeping police out of schools.
-Adrienne Fikes, LaDonna Sanders, Lindsey Battaglia, Racial Justice Alexandria Collective