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The Shifting Equity Landscape in Loudoun

by Cris Candice Tuck

Hello again friends and we can, at last, say Happy Spring! The weather has started the inevitable warm up. With the warm up, I offer hope - right here in Loudoun. This month, I am starting off by quoting Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning journalist from North Carolina. Her quote here has captured my imagination this week:

"Trying to make uncomfortable truths go away by admonishing and punishing those who bring them into the light has never worked for long." (Source)

I wanted to address a growing phenomenon based on this quote and how it applies to Loudoun. Bear with me, new information coming and it's really worth it.

Ms. Curtis was writing about the Tennessee Three and the horrific actions that continue to come from the legislature of Tennessee, following drag bans and the revocation of medical autonomy for families, now on to the recent removal of black lawmakers in an obviously racist attempt to thwart democracy. Ms. Curtis rightly points out that this removal was prompted as a distraction in response to the lawmakers outrage at horrific killings at yet another elementary school. The Legislature's selection of black Representatives for removal (and not a white, female colleague) was a perfect lesson in a modern context of how bigotry, racism, and sexism all work together just beneath the surface of modern-day politics. And a lesson in how the importance of teaching accurate history, awareness of diversity, and the necessity for inclusion can not be overstated.

Why are so many afraid of ensuring America's public learns the ugly truth of systemic racism, misogyny, anti-semitism, etc.? Why is there an effort to ban discussions and representation of gender roles, sexual orientation, gender identities, non-conformist expressions, and cultural diversity from age-appropriate settings? Why are the bans so focused on removing the parts of our national identity some in our society don't like?

Because it is working.

Exposure to truth and having representation in the room are the strongest anti-biotic to misinformation, and it is a medicine that is finally starting to work. I recently saw a scene from Field of Dreams, released more than 30 years ago, that looks like it was ripped from a recent Loudoun School Board meeting- wherein parents are demanding book bans over content they find unsavory. Even the language is identical- pornographic, indecent, smut. From Stonewall and the Civil Rights movement, we've been fighting the modern version of these fights for over 60 years. And we are finally seeing the light because, as Ms. Curtis so aptly noted, these tactics never work for long. Unlike in the movie, most of the bad actors trying today to ban "pornographic books", "CRT", and "gender ideology" are becoming overwhelmed by the educated masses. When bad-faith arguments are entered in the public square, they are being drowned out by those who know.

Which brings me to the point of what I want to say, because it's not always in the public square. Sometimes it's the quiet meetings. One of the things I do as President is work with different organizations, representatives, liaisons, and groups to help bring an LGBTQ+ perspective and voice where it hasn't been before. In the last few years, we've worked very hard to bring that voice to places that protect youth- like the Stop Child Abuse Now Network of Northern Virginia or the Prevention Alliance of Loudoun. More on these efforts in another blog.

Because the most surprising connections lately have been with our local law enforcement. The scenes from Tennessee of state troopers standing shoulder-in-shoulder en masse to intimidate young, peaceful protestors is a striking one. And it is reflective of the reality of many of the struggles and the deep mistrust between marginalized communities and law enforcement. But in the last few months, our team has been invited to discussions with different station leaders within the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office. Most recently, our Defense Director and I met with the Assistant Station Commander of the Ashburn Station to discuss the needs, impressions, and areas to address with regards to the LGBTQ+ community.

In the lobby of a Five Guys an incredible conversation unfolded as we took turns talking, listening, and understanding the similarities of the LGBTQ+ struggles and the African-American struggles as they relate to modern policing. We all walked away with a better hope for future interactions and keeping the public safe. This is the third such conversation I've had in nearly as many months. The queer community is often at odds with law enforcement, and for good reason. But locally, officers and localized leadership have been increasingly aware of this gap and are the ones putting forward efforts to resolve these issues through training, awareness, and involvement. While some see police at Pride as an uncomfortable intrusion (rightfully so in many cases), the officers working with us at last year's event were professional, courteous, and - at the end of the day - they were side by side with us enjoying and, yes, even dancing along to the drag show. I'm proud to say that both the Ashburn and Sterling Stations were eager to join us for this year's Loudoun Pride Festival.

But it goes beyond that. Just this week, I was invited to take place in a community panel to review the next Leesburg Chief of Police. It was an honor and responsibility I did not take lightly - researching the candidates, formulating what is the most important question I could ask (we only get one), and working to understand Leesburg's relationship and history with policing. But the Town did not disappoint. Armed with the most advanced set of ideals I could have imagined in candidate hiring, the Town Staff and Council had outdone themselves in identifying the importance of DEIA in police work, the necessity of community policing models, and in ensuring the pool of candidates were selected based on their long history of progress, their accomplishments in successful community strategies, and their ability to lead. Of the two top candidates, I was astounded by their resumes, their resolve, and their commitment. One candidate focused on community outreach, building a visible and respectful community relationship with local leaders, and strong crime prevention strategies. She had perhaps the most startling view I've ever heard in law enforcement- she had personally experienced the mistrust of policing so common in marginalized communities and sought to correct it. The second candidate had an extensive background and understanding in domestic violence, child abuse prevention, and crime mitigation strategies. Her lifelong work to help the victims and survivors of violence was tragic and inspiring, with her work to correct systemic issues promising. Both of these candidates were incredibly qualified, understood the needs of the community, and would be welcome and celebrated additions in the Town (in my personal opinion, of course).

But even beyond the progressive idea of the candidates, was the process and involvement of the community. People from a wide variety of backgrounds- civic leaders, business leaders, advocates, and more gathered to share their thoughts with the Town Staff on how these candidates would shape the future of our Town. The process for selection was in-depth, multi-faceted, and truly sought to find a candidate not just at crime prevention but one that would ensure trust and cooperation between our police force and the community.

And so, I say, it's working. The work of decades is finally peeking through. Because no matter how they try to hide these uncomfortable truths, it's not going to work. We are seeing candidates and leaders in some of the most oppositional groups- law enforcement, media, and legislators - starting to show strength in inclusion, knowledge of diversity, and commitment to equity. Despite efforts to distract, the trans-killer narrative of the Nashville shooting was quickly drowned out by the voices of those majority, educated on common sense gun control. The Tennessee legislators are already reappointed to their positions alongside Tennessee's Governor signing an order to strengthen background checks. And locally, well, I think the future of policing looks promising.


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