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    EDITORIAL: Diversity must come out from the shadows

    The Town of Leesburg is considering a bold step that addresses a sensitive issue. A diversity commission has been proposed to find and address perceived wrongdoing related to diversity and EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) issues.
    It’s a start. In Leesburg, as with Loudoun County, minority groups have not been sufficiently represented in municipal or county jobs. Some contend the roots of the problem run deeper, reflecting a history of segregation and discrimination.

    Two public officials, Town Council Member Suzanne Fox and Loudoun County School Board Member Bill Fox, have an alternative with a broader reach: the formation of a Diversity Leadership Council comprising leadership from minority stakeholder groups. The council would work with government entities across the county, providing what the Foxes call “consistency in objectives and messaging.”

    Unlike the commission that the Town of Leesburg is considering, the diversity council would not be subject to Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act or public meetings requirements.

    That’s a mistake. For too long, the conversation about discrimination in our community has been a whisper in the shadows. We can ill-afford to muffle the conversation any longer, to somehow “manage” the message. Those are elements of a legacy we have been given and must now change.

    We support the Town of Leesburg’s efforts at diversity. We agree with the Foxes that the efforts should be expanded throughout the county. But it’s crucial to move the conversation about diversity and discrimination out of the shadows.

    Diversity isn’t just some abstract concept. It increasingly underscores how people of different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs will interact in the 21st century. It is important to our community’s health and welfare, schools and education, economic development as well as our sense of ourselves.

    How our community addresses diversity sends a message to all about how we work and live in this county. The message should be that discrimination against any citizen regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religious affiliation or sexual orientation will not be tolerated here. The welfare of our community requires nothing less.

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