Rachel Stovall

Colorado is in U.S. news again! Of course, it is for racial foolishness.

A statewide relief bill recently passed — Senate Bill 20B-001. This aid directs money to small businesses affected by our governor-imposed restrictions related to COVID-19.

Thirty-seven million dollars will go to small businesses — like restaurants, bars and gyms impacted by capacity restrictions. Another $7.5 million would go to cultural and arts organizations. Six million dollars to CDPHE, $1.8 million will waive fees for liquor licenses and $4 million will be available to minority-owned businesses.

You would think that a bill, offering financial relief to small business in general with a small emphasis on minority business would be heralded as a lifesaver, or in this case a livelihood saver. It hardly seems controversial.

But the fighting has begun. The new law is being challenged in Colorado court.

Etienne Hardre, who owns Locals Barbershop in Colorado Springs, argues the aid violates the U.S. Constitution because it requires business owners to be of a certain race to qualify and does not remedy specific racial discrimination. Hardre could be right and might even win his case against Jared Polis, the governor of Colorado.

In an email to local media, Rosy McDonough, the director of the state-created Minority Business Office — that helps minority, woman, and veteran-owned businesses to market themselves says,

“Historically, access to capital has been a long-standing inequity faced by minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs and these dedicated funds begin to remove that barrier...”

She continues, “… These limitations and barriers to access to capital for minority business-owners have resulted in weaker banking relationships, thereby putting these owners at a disadvantage for accessing federal CARES Act resources such as PPP.”

I have nothing against this view, but the average Colorado citizen is done being lectured about racial disparity.

Especially without a context that makes sense.

I do not understand why the Minority Business Office did not address specific instances of Colorado discrimination in the awarding of contracts, business lending or contracting in general. Without the evidence, it feels like just another broad accusation of racism levied toward everyone not from communities of color.

I am not saying discrimination never happens in Colorado. We know that it does.

However, when it comes to race, we cannot keep presenting belief in systemic racism — by itself as fact. Even our state disparity study warns that anecdotal evidence of discrimination, by itself, is insufficient to show a systematic pattern of discrimination.

Anecdotal evidence must be paired with empirical evidence to produce argument that makes sense. For race-based programs within Colorado lawmaking, the federal guidelines require the strictest scrutiny to produce a law like this law created for COVID relief.

This effort was bipartisan and based upon data specific to Colorado as a rationale to set aside funds for minority businesses. Furthermore, the term “certified minority business” includes women and veterans of all races, so the bill is inclusive in multiple ways.

So why is anyone fighting about this bill?

First, no one bothered to tell the public the specific facts regarding Colorado instances of discrimination. Also no one bothered to tell Coloradans the strict guidelines for this type of lawmaking. Ironically, all this evidence will be presented in court.

Secondly, the social construct of race has been so toxic and so insane that dealing with race at all — upsets many of us (regardless of our race). Triggered people do not think clearly. The guilt and shame surrounding the historic mishandling of race haunts us daily.

One side wants to act like race is never a negative factor in life in communities of color. The other side wants to act as though race is always a negative factor in communities of color. Neither side wants to engage in deep critical thinking, research or actual numbers.

We just want to go on feelings, stories, videos and memes on social media. The only way out of this toxic mire is truth.

Be like our lawmakers in Colorado. Set aside feelings. Produce the data. Examine the issues. Offer well-meaning solutions.

Do your due diligence.

Rachel Stovall is a long-standing community advocate and grassroots organizer in the Pikes Peak region.

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