Racial Divisions in Boulder -- a new school building for Columbine & immigration

Monday 29 September 2008 at 01:16

I've mentioned my volunteer work at Columbine Elementary the racial and economic tornado that surrounds the school. That tornado touched down again last Wednesday night.

Columbine is getting a new building. Last night was the first of four meetings where the community surrounding the school has been invited to define what we envision for the future. The racial and economic divisions in our community dominated this first conversation.

One man sadly lead into a question with "How many of families at Columbine are in this country illegally?" He was shouted down there. I don't know where he was going to go next with his question. One person I spoke with after the meeting thought he was trying to ask "Are all the Columbine families paying the property taxes which support the school?"

Where to begin with these questions?

Yes, all Columbine families are paying property taxes. The poorer families pay rent and their landlords pay property taxes. Families are paying their share of the school funding whether they're here legally or not.

The next obvious protest is that if they don't speak English, they put a financial burden on the school. To that I reply with a little Colorado history.

The name of our great state is Spanish: it means "red". East of the Continental Divide was originally claimed by France and part of the Louisiana Purchase. West of the Continental Divide was claimed by Spain, became the Mexican Empire with their independence, and later some of those lands became the country of Texas when it broke off from Mexico. See Texas Annexation and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican-American War.

Regardless of how the lands changed ownership among European powers, they were primarily home to natives with some small Spanish towns in the south.

Most people in this state have moved here only recently. I brag about being a third-generation native of Colorado. By contrast Senator Ken Salazar is a fifth-generation native. San Luis is the oldest town in the State. To belabor the point, please notice the Spanish names. This has been a Spanish speaking region for far longer than it has been English speaking. In Colorado you cannot assume that brown skin and speaking Spanish means immigrant, nor illegal.

So regardless of whether or not it is a financial burden, Spanish and Native American cultures are an inherent part of Colorado. You can't wish that away with English-only rhetoric.

So much more to say about this... so little time.