When I first moved to Denver, I was greeted by a sea of white. No, it wasn’t the majestic clouds, the sun glinting off of a lake, or the beautiful snow-capped mountains. It was the people.
Although I’m caucasian myself, it seemed that I had never seen so many white people in one place before. Hailing from Virginia, I am used to a much more racially diverse group. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 70 percent of the state’s population is white, while Colorado’s white population tops out at 87 percent.
Of course, part of that is due to the fact that a lot of African Americans live in Virginia because they are descended from slaves. 20 percent of the state’s population is black. Colorado’s black population caps off at four percent.
But it seems like on the East Coast, people of all races flock to big cities to live or go to school. I was always aware of my white privilege in Virginia because I saw so many people who didn’t share that same privilege. That changed when I moved to the Rocky Mountain range.
I was shocked by the lack of diversity in Denver and the fact that I often find myself in a room or other space with all white people. For a while, it made me feel uncomfortable, as though I was personally trying to shelter myself from cultural diversity.
Of course, there is a large Hispanic population here in Colorado, which technically used to be Mexico. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 20 percent of Colorado’s population is Hispanic or Latinx — Virginia’s Hispanic and Latinx population is less than 10 percent. But still, even living in a predominantly hispanic neighborhood in Denver, the whitewashing is hard to escape.
All this whiteness lead me to do some introspective thinking. What can be done from an equalizing standpoint in a city where most people are white and privileged, where the standard of living is impossibly high and many struggle to stay within the city limits?
Fortunately, many people in Colorado are aware of the social justice issues that surround us, even if they are looking at them through the rose-tinted glasses of privilege. Because of this, we can work together to make sure that diversity is considered. We can think before we gentrify and listen to people of color when they say their piece. We can fight for affordable housing and homelessness help, and we can listen to people different than ourselves.
There are added challenges as we try to work this into the LGBTQ community. Many in the queer community are economically advantaged, either older folks with money or young people fresh out of college and eager to make change. As well-intentioned as these people can be, they are often white people with money.
This is why it is important to listen to our queer brothers, sisters, and gender-neutral siblings of color, and give them a place to speak. While it may not be an answer to all our problems, holding an Aurora Pride is certainly a step in the right direction for inclusion.
Aurora has a highly diverse population, one that is more representative of national diversity than much of Colorado. It also has a significant low-income population.
The bottom line? Some people aren’t born white and with money, and Pride, LGBTQ rights, and equal opportunity are for them, too. So let’s practice what we preach, listen to people who are not like ourselves, and have a great time celebrating diversity in Aurora.