Polis signs bill to jumpstart Colorado racial equity study

History Colorado will study the impact of racism on Black Coloradans
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Posted at 1:04 PM, Jun 05, 2024

DENVER — Gov. Jared Polis signed a racial equity study bill into law Tuesday.

The legislation creates the Black Coloradan Racial Equity Commission, which will direct History Colorado to study the impact racism and discrimination have had on Black Coloradans in a variety of areas, including education, health care, housing, economic mobility and the criminal justice system.

“It’s really important that we understand the history of Colorado and how we got here,” Polis said. “It's very important that Colorado fully understand our history with regard to the contributions and challenges that Black Coloradans have faced over the history of our state.”

Sade Cooper, the co-founder and CEO of Collaborative Healing Initiative Within Communities (CHIC), spent the past four years pushing for legislation to approve the study.

“A lot of frustration, tears, happiness, joy,” Cooper said. “But we're happy we're here.”

Cooper and other community leaders hope the study will provide a better understanding of the inequalities and discrimination Black Coloradans have faced and continue to face.

"We still have a gap when it comes to Black homeownership,” said State Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, one of the bill sponsors. “We still have a gap when it comes to Black educational outcomes. We still have a gap when it comes to Black representation in the criminal justice system."

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Black Coloradans share stories of discrimination as state considers study

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8:07 PM, Feb 01, 2024

According to data from the U.S. Census, 18% of Black Coloradans live in poverty compared to 8% of white Coloradans. While 53% of white Coloradans have a college degree, just 32% of Black Coloradans do. According to the Bell Policy Center, the average Black Coloradan makes 34% less than the average white worker.

The study, which will be paid for through gifts, grants, and donations, will be conducted by History Colorado staff and could take nearly three years to complete.

“After the three years, when it comes back, then we'll need to still keep pushing so that we're able to use the data to start to create policy,” said State Rep. Naquetta Ricks, D-Arapahoe County, another bill sponsor.

Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., they know they may never get to see a time when all barriers facing Black Coloradans are broken.

"We are thinking about legacy and the generations and the girl, the boy that we might not ever meet to know that we are doing this work,” said Cooper.

They are optimistic the study will lead to a better understanding of the challenges and may provide a roadmap for overcoming them.

“It's going to take lots of steps, but I believe that we are going to get there,” said Ricks. “Like Martin Luther King said, I think we will get to that promised land and that we will see it.”