In promotional brochures, Loudoun County, Va., is portrayed as a place where prosperity and racial and ethnic tolerance are encouraged and practiced, but the president of the county’s NAACP takes exception to that premise.
Phillip E. Thompson is the president of the Loudoun County, Va. NAACP. (Courtesy Photo)
Phillip E. Thompson, president of the Loudoun County branch of the NAACP, told the AFRO that he ran for president because he wanted to address issues that face Black people in the county.
“Loudoun is an affluent county,” Thompson said. “However, there are problems Black people face problems with the county government, the school system and the police.”
Loudoun is 7 percent Black, with Asians being the largest minority at 14 percent and Latinos not far behind with 12 percent. The county is best known for the Dulles International Airport, hightech companies and a healthy equestrian industry.
In 2015, its population was estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau to be 375,629, making it the third most populous jurisdiction in Virginia behind Fairfax and Prince Williams counties. The largest municipality in Loudoun is Leesburg, which has a 2010 census population of 42,616 that consists of a 9.5 percent Black population.
Since 2008, the county has been ranked first in the U.S. in median household income among jurisdictions with a population of 65,000 or more.
Thompson said that in the school system, there is tension among the Whites and people of color on multiple fronts.
“Academically, Asians outperform Whites and Black students are punished more harshly than Whites when it comes to disciplinary actions,” he said. “While the school system is nearly 50 percent students of color, only 12 percent of the teachers are minorities.”
Thompson said that the various minority groups have learned to work together on issues.
“When people of color in this county feel threatened, we do team up and that is a good thing,” he said.
Black residents of Loudoun expressed outrage when the Asburn Colored School, an institution that instructed Blacks students in the county in the early part of the 20th century during legalized segregation, was vandalized with hate signs at the beginning of October and the NAACP worked to make sure that the school was cleaned up and that the matter is currently being investigated by the proper authorities. Phyllis J. Randall, who is the first Black to chair the county’s governing body, the board of supervisors, made it clear that type of behavior isn’t encouraged in her jurisdiction.
“Loudoun, I’ve been made aware that the historic ‘Asburn Colored School’ has been vandalized with racist symbols and words,” Randall said on her Facebook page. “Now is the time for our county to rise above retaliation or revenge. We will let our law enforcement do their jobs and complete the investigation and as a county we will send a message that this behavior is neither welcome or tolerated in Loudoun. This is not Loudoun.”
Thompson also led a rally in the summer to protest the statue of a Confederate soldier at the front of the county courthouse, saying that Union soldiers and Blacks in the county also deserve representation in the public space.
While Loudoun doesn’t have the high-profile problems with minoritypolice relations that other jurisdictions, such as Baltimore and the District of Columbia have had, Thompson said that works needs to be done in that sector also.
“We have told sheriff that more minorities need to be hired,” he said. “We are also working to see that Blacks and Hispanics who are caught up in the criminal justice are treated fairly and their rights are recognized.”
The NAACP has called for the county to organize and fund a diversity commission, just as the Leesburg has done.
“Minorities are underrepresented in county government positions and a diversity commission could help quantify that,” Thompson said.
Nevertheless, Thompson recognizes that progress is being made in the county. Leesburg has its first Black police chief, Gregory Brown, and Randall’s election on Nov. 15 as the Democratic chairman of a Republicandominated body with a Black supervisor of her party, Koran T. Saines representing Sterling. Black multimillionaire Sheila Johnson owns her resort, Salamander Lodging, and lives in Middleburg, Va.
Nonetheless, Thompson said Blacks in the county need to be more politically and civically proactive.
“We need people to get involved,” he said. “People come to the NAACP when they are in trouble but don’t want to seem to work when things are okay. It gets old when it’s the same people fighting on behalf of the cause. We need more engagement.”