It only took 11 years, two governors and a national conversation about race and disability.
Growing up in Stafford County, Va., he enjoyed walking through his neighborhood by himself. Now, he doesn’t go anywhere alone. Not to the store. Not to the park. Not to a coffee house.
“I’ve been changed, you know,” he says. “I just try to stay out of trouble and things like that. I never want to get into trouble.”
On Monday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) granted a pardon to Latson that ends his time under state supervision. He is now free to choose where and how he lives, without having to get approval from a probation officer. He is now free to go about his days, without worrying that one misstep could send him back to prison.
Latson’s family and disability rights organizations have applauded Northam’s decision — and they are right to do so. Latson’s freedom was long overdue. That pardon did not come easily or quickly for the family. It took 11 years, two governors and a national conversation about the intersection of race and disabilities, and who is most at risk of facing injustices.
On the day of his arrest, Latson was not just a Black teenager. He was a Black, autistic teenager. And both parts of his identity matter when talking about his case.
His mother, Lisa Alexander, has long been trying to get people to see that. She was talking about “intersectionality,” without using that word, before that term became a Twitter hashtag.
She was talking about it before many people were ready to listen.
“I was screaming at the top of my voice,” Alexander recalls of those months, then years, following her son’s arrest. “I didn’t know what I was doing, or how to do it, but I did whatever I could to bring attention to his case.”