A Culture of Denial

by Ashia Ajani 

When I tell people that I’m from Denver, Colorado, I usually receive a snicker and get asked if I either smoke weed, ski or both. Colorado is often portrayed as a state filled with yuppie liberals and pretty scenery. This is true, for the most part. But what most people are unaware of are the chapters of white conservatism and extremism that are housed within our borders. Colorado Springs has had an active KKK base since the Prohibition Era.  And last year, the city was ranked as the fourth most conservative major city in the country. There is a running “joke” among people of color in Denver that if you love yourself, you avoid Colorado Springs at all costs. Colorado Springs is a cesspool of white extremism that often goes unrecognized by the media.

That is why when I first received word that there was a hostage situation at a Planned Parenthood in the city, I was not surprised. I also wasn’t surprised that the white man who killed three people and wounded nine others was taken into custody alive.

This isn’t the first time Colorado law enforcement has “peacefully” arrested a white man for shooting up a building. In Aurora, Colorado James Holmes was taken alive after opening fire in a movie theater. And of course, this isn’t the first time white privilege has come to the rescue of mass shooters all over the country. These violent men, because of the pigment of their skin, are described as misunderstood lone wolves, as opposed to the terrorists they are.

This is the same system that views Black and Brown bodies as monolith and inherently dangerous, and white ones as brooding and misunderstood.. When white supremacists shoot up a Black Lives Matter protest, they aren’t perceived as threats. When white supremacists make threats against students of color on college campuses, professors still demand that these students of color come to class. However, when protestors gather on Colfax in response to the Michael Brown verdict, they are tear-gassed.

Marginalized people, however, will keep on fighting. Protests and vigils in honor of Jamar Clark will keep on going. We will not forget Sandra Bland, Lamia Beard and the countless other Black and Brown people that have been murdered. Planned Parenthood put out a statement: “These doors stay open.” We will keep deploring racialized and gendered violence and fighting against it. Amidst the tear gas, our middle fingers stay up.