If you get as many election mailers as I do, you know how contentious the Commonwealth’s Attorney race is this year. You may also know that I chose to endorse Parisa even though normally I don’t endorse political candidates in this group. (Also, no one asked me to write this.)
I know that voting for change can be scary. I know that when people you know and respect and who are good people choose to support the incumbent, you might doubt your convictions, doubt whether the situation really is as important as Parisa is campaigning about. I know that these doubts are normal and part of being open-minded and engaged with our communities.
I also know that we need to be brave. We need to trust our community members who share their lived experiences in Arlington. We need to listen and amplify their voices. We need to follow their lead and vote for change, for true criminal justice reform.
If you are wavering at all on voting for Parisa, please reach out to me. I’m happy to share with you what raises my confidence in her over and over (and yes, I have doubted myself).
I know some of you might have personal connections to the incumbent and that she may be a good person. I don’t dispute that. I ask you to look beyond our own personal knowledge and listen to our fellow community members who have experienced something entirely different.
The incumbent does not believe that systemic racism exists in Arlington (I was present when she said this at the first NAACP criminal justice forum). She chose not to engage with our Black and Latinx communities when they invited her to a forum, and did not attend a second forum hosted by the NAACP.
I am particularly concerned about her record bringing charges against children. Whether they are convicted or not, children and families who are involved in the justice system can be permanently affected by that experience. Every opportunity should be taken to avoid taking legal action against a child. The incumbent’s record does not bear this out.
If a few anecdotes feel like not enough evidence of a pattern, please remember that many people affected by bias in the justice system do not tell their stories openly. Recognize your white privilege, understand that it prevents you from seeing the experiences of people of color, and trust that the stories you do hear are the tip of the iceberg.
We focus a lot on educational equity in this group. The Arlington Education Association (AEA) endorsed Parisa: “AEA believes that Parisa’s deep commitment to social justice together with her restorative justice approach to law enforcement is just what Arlington Public Schools needs to create a safe, healthy environment in which students and staff can thrive. Her statement to the interview committee, that “in order to take action to stop the school to prison pipeline, we must first acknowledge openly that it exists”, resonated with the committee and aligns with AEA’s commitment to combating injustice in our delivery of educational services to our community.” (emphasis added)
Arlington’s Special Education PTA (SEPTA) shared a Q&A with both candidates, which includes the incumbent saying that a statute that “criminalizes disruptions to instruction at school” should “remain a tool for individuals who willfully choose to disrupt a school proceeding thus interfering with the ability of others to learn.” Given what we know about implicit bias (and that APS staff are not currently trained on cultural competency in a consistent way), this means that children of color and children with disabilities are more likely to be charged with a misdemeanor for disrupting instruction. Parisa’s response shows a clear dedication to diversion programs and for repealing that statute.
Please vote for Parisa on Tuesday, June 11 at your regular polling place. Thank you for listening, amplifying, and following underrepresented communities in bringing meaningful change to Arlington County and the City of Falls Church.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.
Listen. Amplify. Follow.