Dear Boulder [or insert any other city—Burlington, Portland, Madison, Asheville, Santa Fe, to name a few]—
I have a lot of love and appreciation for you. I attended Graduate School at Naropa, but recently I’ve distanced myself by living in Denver.
It wasn’t until I moved away, Boulder, that I was able to fully see what a narrow worldview you have.
(What follows is a short vignette, but I offer you—the reader—the opportunity to view this story as a kind of MadLib—feel free to insert the name of any town or city that exists as a bastion of white, liberal privilege.)
Since I drive a lot from Boulder to Denver, I also listen to the news a lot and make phone calls and think. In recent weeks, I have also done a fair amount of crying and screaming, because the state of our world is in an emergency.
Last Saturday, on my drive into Boulder for a meeting, I was overcome with first relief—and then rage.
I was driving on Broadway and stopped at the light on Canyon. There was some traffic, and I saw it was because there were folks holding signs and calling for attention. I found myself immediately looking at the clock, annoyed that I would be late. But then I took a deep breath and thought of all of the protests happening around the world and decided in that moment that I would forgo my meeting to join this protest for Black Lives Matter, because taking the streets is a great way to demand attention for the people of color who have been murdered and the communities that continue to be treated less-than-equally for no good reason.
This violence is not new; it is getting worse, and it is terrifying.
Stuck at the corner of Canyon and Broadway, I was feeling annoyed but then relieved that citizens of Boulder had decided that they too could take the streets.
To my surprise, as I got a bit closer to the corner, I saw that everyone on the corner was holding signs for Prairie Dogs. My relief turned to anger, and I had to quickly remember everything I have ever learned at Naropa and about social justice, in less than five seconds, in order to keep from jumping out of my car and taking all of their signs.
What I did next still wasn’t nearly enough. I rolled down my window and asked if they needed a Black Lives Matter sign.
I was met with no response and blank stares.
I continued to drive to my meeting, which was about how to provide accessible counseling to the Queer Community, because we all know we need it. The thoughts I had paired with my anger were:
1. I respect the passion for animal lives, but what about our people’s lives?
2. Even if you have committed every Saturday to protest for Prairie Dogs, have you seen the news? Are you also protesting for better policing and protection of the communities of color in Boulder?
3. Does anyone care that Boulder drives away and does not welcome people who are not white, rich and able-bodied?
4. Boulder, how do you think this will end?
After my meeting, I returned to the site of the protest, but folks were already gone. A friend who lives in Boulder advised me that to challenge the Prairie Dog Movement is a waste of energy, but I have to disagree.
No energy is ever wasted. It is all going somewhere.
For my part, I’m not questioning the importance of those fighting for the lives of Prairie Dogs, but I am encouraging protesters to display same level of passion for black lives.
I feel the need to say: Yes, I hold in my heart that all lives matter, but if we don’t address race and the importance of black lives in this country, nothing else will shift.
So I leave you with this, Boulder (or Burlington, Portland, Madison, Asheville, Austin or Santa Fe)—
Open your eyes! Really open your eyes.
If you want to feel the intensity of what I am talking about, go to Whole Foods on Pearl Street at lunchtime, and try to talk to someone about the importance of talking about race in Boulder County. I am pretty sure almost no one will want to engage with you, and that is how I feel about Boulder these days.
The conversations that are inconvenient are the ones that need to be happening.
Ask yourself, Boulder, what do you have to lose? Because honestly, you have so much to lose. Your privilege and your blind eye is directly tied and woven into the violence and hate that plagues the rest of the country.
If you were to engage, I imagine the rest of the world would watch closely and follow.
Author: Sam Field
Editor: Toby Israel