DENVER — A coalition of local and state leaders launched a new initiative on Wednesday aimed at uncovering and measuring the impact of historic injustices against Black Coloradans.
The group gathered at Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library to unveil their proposal, which calls for the creation of an independent task force to conduct a comprehensive study.
They said the task force will “determine the extent to which Black Coloradans have experienced and continue to experience racial discrimination linked to harmful practices, policies and systems of the state; and quantify the generational economic impacts of those harms.”
“We need legislation to better understand disparities and injustices across various areas, from healthcare to education, to criminal justice to housing that impact the ability of Black Coloradans to build sustainable generational wealth and vice versa,” said Norman Harris, a community organizer. “Knowledge is power. And with the right data, we can drive and form policies and initiatives to enact meaningful change."
Members of the Colorado Black Caucus will introduce a bill next session to create the task force.
"This is a priority bill for us," said State Rep. Jennifer Bacon, the Assistant House Majority Leader. "To be able to share with all of our colleagues the reminder that we are a growing and learning state and that we have the responsibility to acknowledge the good, the bad, and the ugly."
State Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, said the goal of the task is to make sure there is equity across the state.
“We'll be looking at housing, the criminal justice system, education, of course, because we know education is really a cornerstone of that building block for success. We'll also be looking at environmental injustice and other health care inequities that we know exist right here in Colorado,” she said.
They hope the findings will provide a roadmap showing where policy changes might be needed.
“We have the responsibility as lawmakers to investigate and understand the wrongs of the past, to study historic and ongoing racial discrimination in our state, and to shed light on a path for the future,” said State Senator James Coleman, D-Denver, who also serves as president pro-tempore of the Colorado Senate.
Though these leaders already know many of the racial disparities Black Coloradans face, they expect the task force will discover things they weren’t even aware of.
“Oh, I do think we'll see surprises in this study,” said Herod. “I think the study might open our eyes to other discrimination, other pieces of inequities that we can address. And so, I absolutely believe and know that there will be some surprises in this study, and maybe even topic areas that we haven't yet considered.”
Their proposal calls for History Colorado to lead the effort, including determining members of the task force.
If approved by the legislature, they expect the work to take between one to two years to complete.
While the findings may make some people uncomfortable, they say it’s the best way to move forward.
“It's not something to turn our backs to or to shun. It's something that we have to address head-on and in full force,” said Herod. “That’s what we’re doing with this study.”