By Chris Croll
“There’s no racism in our highly-educated, high-income, diverse community,” some might say, and yet the incidents I am about to share with you were told to me by people who experienced them first-hand. These events all took place here in Loudoun County within the past few years.
A Black friend’s daughter made a new white friend in middle school.One day the girls went exploring along the woods behind the home of the new friend. While the kids were playing, the mother of the white girl called out to the Black child and said, “Hey, we onlyinvited you over to see how well you would hang from one these trees.”
An Asian friend’s son was in seventh grade when the pandemic started. One of his schoolmates turned to him in class and said, “You brought the China virus over here.”
A white teen noticed that whenever his Latina friend approached the women in the front office of their high school, the friend was treated brusquely and dismissively. Whenever he approached the same women, he was treated with patience and kindness.
A Black friend was playing golf at a Leesburg resort community where she lives. As she drove the cart onto the course, she was stopped and asked by an employee for her membership number. Her white companion told her that, in the 17 years the white woman had played golf at that club, she had never once been asked for her membership number.
A Black woman went to the doctor, who happened to be white, because she thought she might have a urinary tract infection. After confirming the diagnosis, the doctor asked the patient if she had a new boyfriend. The woman replied that, no, she had been married and monogamous for 25 years. The doctor responded by saying, “Your risk of UTI’s increases with multiple partners at the same time…. this is something you need to consider going forward.”
A fifth-grade girl of mixed race earned straight A’s in elementary school but was recommended for academic classes in middle school rather than honors classes. Despite the top grades, her teachers said they were concerned she may not be able to handle the more rigorous work.
These were not miscommunications, as some would like to believe. They were microaggressions with racism at their core. And from what my friends tell me, incidents like these are not unusual here in Loudoun, or elsewhere in the country.
You may be thinking, “I have never seen anything like that happen here.” My question to you is: Have you engaged in conversations with people of color who live here to ask them about their experiences? When you do, you are likely to hear more stories like this.
The majority of the people who live in Loudoun county are not racist. But many of us were taught to mind our own business unless something impacts us personally. That culture of passivity inadvertently enables the status quo, which, as these stories illustrate, is hurting our friends and neighbors of color. If we want todisruptthe status quo, we must become anti-racists, which requires taking action. How? It all starts with paying closer attention.
Notice how minorities are treated at stores, restaurants, schools, hospitals and in our neighborhoods—and if you see something that does not look right, speak up. Notice which companies have people of color in leadership roles and on their boards and patronize those businesses. Notice which nonprofit organizations champion equity and donate time and money to those organizations. Do a deep dive into our country’s history to get a better understanding of how institutions like public education, the prison system, healthcare, and other industries have systematically discriminated against communities of color and raise your hand to help reform them.
Being an anti-racist also means engaging in uncomfortable conversations with the people who promote racist ideas. There are no “innocent” discriminatory comments. If someone tells you a joke that promotes a racist stereotype, respond with, “I don’t get it. What do you mean by that?” and make the person explain why they think the joke is funny. This provides a teachable moment which is especially important with our children, as racism is learned behavior.
Loudoun County is a fabulous place to live but we can create a more inclusive culture if we speak out against, and take action to eliminate, racial injustice.
Chris Croll is a writer, empathy activist and communications consultant. She sits on the Board of the Ryan Bartel Foundation, a youth suicide prevention nonprofit. Croll lives in Leesburg with her husband and two teenage boys.