Opinion: Dear white Coloradans, it’s not time to celebrate yet

By Annie Burky

Nov 6, 2020 | Editorials | 0 comments

//Voters line up outside the Barnum Recreation Center on Election Night, Nov. 3 in Denver. The wait time at this polling station was up to 30 minutes, but it was an otherwise smooth Election Night for Denver. Photo by Esteban Fernandez | este.fdez20b@gmail.com

Dear white Coloradans, I write from within your ranks. I am white, Crest toothpaste kind of white, ultra-white. I am a proud Coloradan. I cried when Red Feather Lakes, my favorite childhood campsite, went up in flames. I watched the Rockies crash and burn in the World Series. I have been tricked into eating Rocky Mountain Oysters. 

I am also a registered Democrat. This year I voted for Hickenlooper, against the abortion ban, and for electing the US President by the popular vote. I voted for Biden. I voted for the America we speak of with hope and honor, that accepts the wearied and downtrodden. 

Over the course of my life, Colorado has become bluer. Gardner has been unseated. I am still able to access a safe abortion, and paid family leave has won. But during this first week of November 2020, I do not think there is an ounce of room for celebration. 

Our country is deeply red. Even after generations of Black Americans being shot by those charged with protecting them, four years of children being placed in cages, thousands of COVID deaths and an ever-narrowing middle-class, our country is red. 

As white Coloradans, we might pat ourselves on the back and rejoice in the victories of approving proposition 113 and denying 115, but I refuse to clap for mediocrity. 

Dr. King wrote in his letter from the Birmingham Jail, that the single most significant threat to Black Americans was the white moderate. King warned of the ones who say “wait, not now.” 

“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a ‘more convenient season,’” King wrote. 

Dr. King’s words tell us we cannot say “next election cycle,” “look at these gains” or “at least we can have pit bulls now in Denver.” 

Let’s look at that wrinkly pit bull mug. A 31-year ban ended with 65% of Denver’s votes. This ban was initially a response to a few deaths at the jaws of pit bulls. However, the racial underpinnings of such bans cannot be denied. As stated in The Baltimore Sun’s aptly titled article, “You can’t separate pit bull prejudice from racial prejudice,” Black Baltimorean and Journalist, Lawrence Grandpe, reveals the largely anecdotal belief that pit bull dog-fighting is a Black act of violence. It could be argued that Denver’s pit bull ban was, therefore, yet another excuse for police to infiltrate the lives of Black Coloradans for largely unsubstantiated reasons. It should not be forgotten that while Black Coloradans only make up 10% of Denver’s population, they account for 26% of Denver arrests

Yes, this injustice has been undone, but why? Well, it should also be noted that in recent years white ownership of pit bulls has increased without dispelling the previously held racist beliefs. 

While the pit bull ban only affected Denver, Proposition 76 will apply to all of Colorado. A whopping 63% of voters chose to address a problem that doesn’t exist. The proposition will change the Colorado constitution to say that “only citizens” may vote, from “every citizen” may vote. As stated in Ms. Mayhem’s voter guide, the measure is believed to be a scare tactic. Non-citizens already cannot vote. The Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition believes the measure may allow for discrimination against voters who are perceived to be undocumented immigrants. It also creates confusion for naturalized citizens, who may misunderstand the new language and be disincentivized to vote. As numerous critics of the measure have stated, it is meant to suppress and intimidate qualified immigrant voters.

But beyond all this, beyond our successes and failures as a state, is a country where a man who refuses to condemn white supremacy and supports groups like the Proud Boys—chapters of which are active in Colorado—has a possible chance at another four years in office. No matter how things shake out, this election is far too close for comfort. 

White Coloradans are not an island. We are a part of a greater whole that is quickly being set ablaze. We ask the country to weep when our fires are burning, but we look away when our non-white brothers and sisters are in a life and death battle. 

The nation-wide protests following the killing of George Floyd and Bryonna Taylor exhibited a marked difference in demographics. Specifically, white people showed up. However, this came at a time when Coloradans had spent weeks bored in their houses, angry and frustrated. I won’t begin to speculate as to the reason behind every protest selfie. I do suggest that all white Coloradans ask themselves, if we were not afforded an opportunity at virtue signaling, would we still protest? Will we protest the next time a Black American is killed? If Trump is afforded four more years, how will we resist? Will we continue to change the system for the better if Biden is elected? Or will we sit back in satisfaction that the world will just be burning slower in front of our eyes?  

If today we rest with anything less than existential dread, we have not adopted the threat non-white Coloradans face. We are not empaths (no matter what that Buzzfeed quiz said). We are not being strategic about progress. We are white moderates and the single greatest threat to America. 


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