Saira Rao

Former Democratic congressional candidate Saira Rao, center, addresses delegates to the Democrats’ 1st Congressional District assembly on April 13 at South High School in Denver. (Photo by Ernest Luning/Colorado Politics)

Recently, Saira Rao was running to represent Denver in Congress. Last week, she says she’s given up on white people.

The Democrat, the daughter of Indian immigrants, on Thursday retweeted a New York Times column by Emory University professor George Yancy titled “Should I Give Up on White People?” that posted in April.

Rao wrote in her tweet above Yancy’s column, “Short and long answer: YES.”

I spoke with Rao about it Friday morning. After I pointed out that giving up on white people is a bold statement, the former candidate said, “I stand by it.”

Rao told me she had witnessed racism living in Virginia, New York City and Colorado, and they all take the same form, so it’s time for all white people to step up and end it. People of color have tried without success, she said.

“It’s incumbent on white people and not people of color to solve it,” she said in a brief interview, adding it’s the same as it’s incumbent on men to solve misogyny, because women can’t do it alone.

She cited “white fragility” in those who might be offended by being lumped in with white supremacists.

Asked about stereotyping white people, Rao answered, “It makes black and brown people cringe for white people to tell them they’re being racist.”

Rao lost the June 26 Democratic primary in Congressional District 1 to incumbent Diana DeGette, 68 percent to 32 percent.

Last December, Rao wrote an open letter to her political party that was published in the Huffington Post under the headline, “I’m A Brown Woman Who’s Breaking Up With The Democratic Party,” with a subhead, “I realize now that the love has been one-sided.”

In February, after she announced she was running as a Democrat to unseat DeGette, she told Colorado Politics’ Ernest Luning:

“As a woman of color, I have really good sense every second of every day of what it is like to not be white in this country. I have massive empathy, I have huge ears — I want to hear what everybody has to say, because, guess what, people haven’t asked me what I think. I’ve been used as a pawn by the party, I’ve been used for fundraising, for getting out the vote. And then when I have something that I want them to hear, they’re not interested. Not at the table. You know what? I’ve been serving the table. I haven’t been invited to sit there.”

In the column on which Rao based her tweet, Yancy did not give up on white people, despite the insults and threats he cited after his 2015 article, “Dear White America.”

“It might feel like Sisyphus rolling that enormous boulder up the hill again, but let my history embolden you,” he wrote in April. “As James Baldwin said, Black history ‘testifies to nothing less than the perpetual achievement of the impossible.’”

State Rep. Paul Rosenthal, D-Denver, who is white, responded to Rao’s tweet Friday:

“I disagree w/ @sairasameerarao. If we aren’t united across all races to work against racism & celebrate diversity, we can’t succeed. As bold progressives, if we splinter & snipe at each other, racists will not get the message they need to change.”

Colorado Politics senior political reporter

Joey Bunch is the senior correspondent and deputy managing editor of Colorado Politics. His 32-year career includes the last 16 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and he is a two-time finalist.

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