By Abby Block:
Racial bias in interactions of Fairfax County Police with the community and racial disparities within the Fairfax County Schools was discussed during the July meeting of the Mason District Democratic Committee (MDDC).
Terry Adams, Chief Deputy in the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Office, mentioned anecdotes from his own personal experience to illustrate the negative attitude of white police officers toward neighborhoods they perceived as “different” from them. He also exchanged comments with committee members on the disproportionate frequency of stops without cause of minority members by white policemen.
Adams brought to the discussion his experience of over 40 years as a U.S. Marine, an Arlington County Deputy Sheriff, a Fairfax County Consumer Protections Commissioner, and an attorney in private practice. During his tenure in the sheriff’s office, he was an instructor at the Northern Virginia Criminal Justice (police) Academy. Since the meeting was virtual, many committee members participated through Chat.
Various causes for the overtly biased police approach were explored, including that many policemen do not live in the communities they serve, and that there are significant cultural differences between the rural communities from which officers are often recruited and the much more diverse environments such as Fairfax County where they work.
Adams cited Annandale High School as an example of a school with a minority white population struggling to retain its academic standing. In the context of educational achievement, several committee members commented on the ongoing non-inclusion of African Americans in the student body of the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology.
The magnet school located in the Mason District admitted no Black students for the 2020-2021 school year. While selections have been made for the class graduating in 2024, the Washington Post reports that Fairfax County officials won’t say how many are Black and speculates that the number is fewer than 10 out of 486.
The discussion resulted in several action items outlining what citizens can do to help address long standing racial injustice. Collective activities such as establishing task forces to research specific aspects of the problem and develop appropriate follow-up plans were on the list.
Adams emphasized understanding the power we have as individuals to hold officials accountable. Given the current awareness of how transparency and accountability affect the long entrenched systemic barriers to equality, he urged that now is the time to demand change.
Eduardo Conde, council president at the Hope Lutheran Church in Annandale, a member of the Fairfax County Task Force on Equity and Opportunity, and Commissioner of the Fairfax County Human Rights Commission led the exchange with Adams.
Abby Block served in the federal government as a health benefits program manager and as an executive advisor to a consulting firm. She is a member of Mason District Democratic Committee.
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