Open letter to Coloradans

Sen. Michael Benett, D-Colo. - 06/11/2020

To the editor,

It’s been two weeks since the world watched Minneapolis police kill George Floyd. You cannot watch the video without feeling sick, without remembering Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, and the countless other Americans who have lost their lives in this country because they were Black. 

When I worked for the City and County of Denver, one of the first tragedies we confronted was the unjustified shooting of a black teen-ager named Paul Childs by law enforcement in Park Hill. 

That was almost 20 years ago. Nothing has changed.  

What happened to George Floyd would never happen to my daughters. It would never happen to me. That is the reality we face, the reality thousands are protesting in Colorado and across the country, and the reality we must change.  

In recent days, many have observed that the current pandemic has exposed profound inequality in our society. We should not have needed a pandemic to see this. If you have been paying any attention, if you have listened to voices in the Black community and studied history, then you know these injustices have been with us for generations and grown worse in recent decades. You can draw a straight line from slavery to Jim Crow to the redlining of our banking and housing systems to mass incarceration to the recent killing of Black people from Georgia to Minnesota. 

This week, I returned to work in a capitol building whose stones were placed by enslaved human beings. American slavery is not ancient history. Our country enslaved human beings less than a hundred years before I was born in 1964. We will never heal as a country until we fully confront and dismantle the systemic racism that plagues every aspect of our society. As a white male and a United States Senator, it is my duty to use my platform and position to do this.   

I commit to working with my colleagues and others to address structural oppression and racism in our country. I commit to calling out leaders, including the President of the United States, who stoke hatred, racial division and violence. I commit to hearing and acting on the fair and overdue demands of those protesting and demonstrating in Colorado and across the country. And I commit to being an ally to the black community because Black Lives Matter.