Great to see the largest local Democratic committee in Virginia, the Fairfax County Democratic Committee (FCDC) under the leadership of Chair Dan Lagana, move towards a “substantive internal discussion on race and racial attitudes” (see Lagana’s statement, below). I strongly agree with everything Lagana says, including that, “As Democrats, our diversity, complexity, and differences are among our many strengths. However, in a county–like the nation as a whole–undergoing rapid change, these differences can quickly rise to the center of debate.” Good job by Dan Lagana and his team in recognizing the challenge, including a recent incident within FCDC that illustrates the challenge, and moving ahead to confront it.
Last week, volunteers created a Facebook group called the “FCDC Discussion Arena.” The group was intended to serve as a protected place for arguments and heated discussions, to one that would complement the public “Fairfax Democrats” Facebook group. Unfortunately, it had the effect of pitting Democrats against one another.
The ensuing discussions were at times mean-spirited, reflecting the worst aspects of human behavior on social media: Namely, that discussion on social media can be polarizing, with folks “shouting” over one another. Shouting one another down and tossing around accusations on social media doesn’t build bridges. It builds walls.
For that I sincerely apologize. We want to foster frank debate, while promoting mutual respect among us, as we will be working together, I hope, for a long time.
Clearer expectations for the Fairfax Democrats Facebook group are required, and will be developed this year. In the meantime, here are three steps we’ve taken to improve the Fairfax Democrats Facebook group:
1. Name calling or explicitly ad hominem attacks are forbidden and can result in expulsion.
2. Moderators reserve the right to turn off comments.
3. More moderators will be added.
However, as recent events unfolded (both online and in-person), it has become apparent that the Fairfax County Democratic Committee has not had a substantive internal discussion on race and racial attitudes. And we need to.
As Democrats, our diversity, complexity, and differences are among our many strengths. However, in a county–like the nation as a whole–undergoing rapid change, these differences can quickly rise to the center of debate.
Once a largely homogenous community, Fairfax County is undergoing a rapid demographic transformation into one that is increasingly multi-racial and heterogenous. That means we have a greater diversity in perspective and personal experience.
As a party, our continued success and sustainability rests on our ability to attract and retain new members. But even more importantly, this conversation is about our soul: FCDC must be the kind of organization that attracts, nurtures and sustains the diversity essential to our party’s core principles and values (https://www.democrats.org/party-platform#our-values). We must be able to build greater understanding among ourselves today, in order to ensure our success in the future.
Therefore, we will hold at a future date, a discussion on race for FCDC members, moderated by a professional facilitator. I am hoping for robust participation. More to follow soon.
We understand that this is only the beginning of our engagement on these issues, and are keenly aware this must be an ongoing dialogue. But we cannot rely solely on social media for our communications, nor just the forums as we are proposing, it must also be in our day-to-day interactions.
For now and going forward, I challenge us all to confront the uncomfortable, seek to understand, listen, and be a positive ally in our fight for democratic principles and social justice.
Fairfax County Democratic Committee