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MLK Day discussion: Race in Boulder County

Posted: January 16, 2017 at 3:16 pm by , in A Public Affair, Breaking News, Featured

“there’s a lot going on that keeps people blind, a lot of things that people do themselves to check out, because they’re difficult conversations to have, difficult things to know about, but if they’re happening to you, you don’t have that option, you have to find ways to address them.”

To coincide with Martin Luther King Jr. Day we begin a series of conversations on what it’s like to be a person of color in Boulder County.

Nikhil Mankekar who was born and raised in Boulder, is a City of Boulder Human Relations Commissioner. He is the first Indian American and Sikh American to serve on any city commission.

Mankekar says that the conversations that have been happening since the election around diversity and inclusivity have been positive.

“We’ve seen a groundswell of people who seem to have woken up to what has been going on and who have woken up to their own complacency and want to get involved in things.”

Mankekar however cautions that racism and discrimination have been a reality for many people in Boulder County, long before the election of Donald Trump.

“When people talk about this post election…as if it’s something new – to people of color we deal with this all the time. As a Human Relations Commissioner and even before that in the community with the activism I was involved in…many, many people, this is all that’s talked about, there are so many incidents. But if it’s not happening to you and if it’s not happening to someone from your community then a lot of people don’t pay attention to it. So it’s nothing new and I think there is a lot of privilege in the community and a lot of things that we could address and hopefully Boulder can do better on, so we can get a handle on these issues. But there’s a lot going on that keeps people blind, a lot of things that people do themselves to check out, because they’re difficult conversations to have, difficult things to know about, but if they’re happening to you, you don’t have that option, you have to find ways to address them.”

Tracey Jones is originally from Boston but has been living in Boulder County since 1997. She says that as an African American woman she experiences racism in different ways on a daily basis. “It’s a great community but as far as micro-aggressions, as far as little racial things, it’s like death by a thousand paper cuts and being tossed into a pool of alcohol and when you react negatively people are like ‘oh you’re just out of control, you’re just super sensitive, you need to calm yourself.’ So it puts you into this limbo of ‘is this really happening or am I being sensitive?’ and it’s a little bit crazy making because you want to err on the side of thinking positively of people but the behaviors often make it impossible to ignore.”

Tracey Jones and Nikhil Mankekar will be leading monthly discussions on KGNU on issues of race in Boulder County.