Hero & Zero – 3/6

Heroes: Delegates Jay Jones and Lashrecse Aird

This week, many delegates took to the floor to speak against SJ18, a proposed redistricting constitutional amendment that leaves communities of color behind. We were especially moved by speeches from Delegates Jay Jones and Lashrecse Aird. 

Delegate Jones gave a passionate and powerful speech about white lawmakers brushing aside the concerns of their Black colleagues in pursuit of their agendas. He said he believes we can still achieve a redistricting process that lies solely in the hands of the people.

Jones also spoke in support of finding legislative fixes to the redistricting process, specifically the redistricting criteria proposed by Delegate Price. Price’s legislation would ensure that voters can choose their elected officials, not the other way around. It would also prevent those who draw the maps from leaving communities of color behind. 

Delegate Aird spoke to the marginalization of Black voices on a more personal level. She shared an anecdote about a fellow legislator who questioned what she stood for and what she believed in. She also highlighted the inherent racism of this issue, referencing numerous Virginia papers that have used racist language to shamelessly accuse Black legislators of hiding behind racial issues to hold on to power using a partisan redistricting process. 

These delegates made it clear that we can do better than the proposed amendment, which falls far short on civil rights and transparency. In a state where we are still struggling to remove Confederate monuments, there is no excuse for adding an amendment to our constitution that does not fully and equally protect voters of color when we’re still working to correct the legacies of our past. 

Given the myriad of inappropriate and even racist attacks on Black lawmakers who have taken a stand against this amendment, we commend Delegates Jones and Aird for their bravery and dedication. This week, we celebrate them for their remarkable integrity in standing up for communities of color in our redistricting process!

Zero – Senator Joe Morrissey  

It takes something special for a single individual to end up as our Zero two weeks in a row, but we should have known that Senator Joe Morrissey had it in him! While our heroes this week work to lift up and include Black voices, our zero is working overtime to silence them. 

On Thursday, Senator Morrissey gave a press conference as a part of his ongoing campaign to defend Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax from sexual assault allegations. It was a strange choice, given that Morrissey knows neither of Fairfax’s accusers and is not a witness to either alleged event. 

Before his election to the Virginia Senate, Morrissey spent time in jail for contributing to the delinquency of a minor after having a sexual affair with his underage secretary. And the lack of other connective tissue between the two men makes the fact that both are perhaps most well-known for their inappropriate and abusive behavior towards women glaringly obvious. 

If the goal was to make both Fairfax and Morrissey appear more innocent, then it’s safe to say it was an abject failure. Responses on Twitter ranged from righteous outrage to derision and disbelief, with CNN even calling him “Virginia Democrat’s newest headache.” 

Events like Morrissey’s press conference, which attempt to normalize the reprehensible and defend the indefensible, can discourage victims from coming forward to seek justice.

We expect and demand that anyone who holds public trust in our Commonwealth treat victims who share their experience of sexual violence with dignity and respect. We will continue to stand with victims and against their abusers and continue to hold men like Morrissey and Fairfax accountable for their words and behavior!