State Legislature Introduces Racial Justice Study Bill to Explore Inequities Experienced by Black Coloradans

Bill is top priority for Black Democratic Legislative Caucus


Denver, CO – The Colorado State Legislature introduced SB24-053 on the heels of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This bill would commission an independent taskforce to study injustices and disparities faced by Black Coloradans as a result of the impacts of slavery and systematic racism and the degree to which the government may have played a role in these impacts.

If passed, the study would allow the State to quantify and qualify inequities in health care, housing, education, the criminal justice system, and our economy, and help create a better understanding of how these systems may interact with or amplify each other. The bill’s introduction also comes as Colorado ranks near the bottom on WalletHub’s “most racial progress” state list, according to Axios. In fact, nearly half of all Black families in Colorado are considered low-income. Studies have shown that reducing racial disparities can have positive economic impacts and help grow the workforce. National research shows that closing the racial wealth gap could increase GDP from 4 to 6 percent.

Last month, Justice for Black Coloradans unveiled the bill at the Blair Caldwell Library alongside bill sponsors Vice Chair of the Black Caucus Senator James Coleman and state Representative Leslie Herod and Chair of the Black Caucus Representative Jen Bacon.

“In the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy, we proudly introduce this bill in the Colorado State Senate,” said bill sponsor and state Senator James Coleman (D-SD33). “This transformative legislation proposes the creation of an independent taskforce to meticulously study the injustices endured by Black Coloradans. By focusing on healthcare, housing, education, the criminal justice system, and the economy, this study will provide crucial insights, allowing us to quantify and qualify the pervasive inequities that persist.”

“Today, we take a significant step towards justice and equity with the introduction of this bill,” said bill sponsor and state Representative Leslie Herod (D-HD8). “Timely on the heels of Martin Luther King Jr. day, this bill aims to confront the historical injustices faced by Black Coloradans. By establishing an independent taskforce, we seek to delve into the impact of slavery and systematic racism, evaluating the government’s potential role in perpetuating these disparities. I look forward to its passage from the Senate into the House.”

“We honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy with this bill which underscores our commitment to justice and equality,” said bill sponsor and state Representative Naquetta Ricks (D-HD40). “This bill is a step forward in making Colorado a place for everyone and calls for the formation of an independent taskforce, aiming to scrutinize the historical impacts of slavery and systematic racism on Black Coloradans. Through a comprehensive study, we aspire to acquire data to help drive future policy decisions – and uncover and address inequities in healthcare, housing, education, the criminal justice system, and our economy.”

“Unfortunately, we live in a time when much of our nation’s history, and specifically Black history, is being misrepresented, denied, warped and often not even told at all,” said Sade Cooper, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Collaborative Healing Initiative within Communities (CHIC). “Only when we take the time to understand and reckon with our past can we meaningfully move forward to a more just and equitable future. Thank you to our dedicated bill sponsors for introducing this pivotal legislation that will help Colorado move toward a more just future for all.”

“For the first time, Colorado lawmakers have the opportunity and the responsibility to investigate and understand the wrongs of the past and the ongoing racial discrimination in our state,” said Chair of the Black Legislative Caucus, Representative Jen Bacon. “Without a thorough study, it’s difficult to quantify the extent of the disparities that Black Coloradans experience on a daily basis. This study can provide a data-driven approach to reduce inequities in our state, illuminate pathways forward, and inform future policies and programs.”

Though Colorado was not a slave state, slavery was only fully abolished in the Colorado state constitution in 2018, and Colorado’s history is still steeped in prejudice and discrimination. In fact, the Ku Klux Klan wielded immense power and influence at all levels of government, from the state legislature to judgeships to town councils in major Colorado cities like Denver, Pueblo and Grand Junction.

Racial justice studies have been recognized as important tools that allow governments to qualify and quantify certain impacts of past and current racial discrimination. States and cities across the country are utilizing similar tools to better understand their own histories and create opportunities for justice, repair, and healing.

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