This Essay is a series of observations about interrogating and complicating the meaning of color for all of us who call the Rocky Mountain West home. These observations are divided into three sections. First, in Part II, I explore what has long been the defining feature of race relations in the Rocky Mountain West—the persistent tension between the region as a racial utopia free from de jure racial inequities and the legacy of state-sanctioned racial violence and deep-rooted nurturing of White supremacy. Trekking through some of the legalscapes of property, state constitutional, civil rights, and martial law, this section spotlights the legal creation and negotiation of color lines across the region’s multi-racial geography.
Part III connects this history to the present day, detailing some of the ways that the region continues to struggle with and be in tension with its ability to confront forthrightly deep-rooted racial inequities. The section begins by situating the analysis within the racial reckonings of 2020 and the backlash against Critical Race Theory in K-12 public education that followed in 2021. I examine the lessons of those tensions by detailing the political and legal reaction to the death of Elijah McClain after being detained by the Aurora, Colorado Police Department in August 2019. Understanding this tragedy as part of a larger history of colorblindness demonstrates the legacies as well as challenges of racial disparity and inequity in the current geography of the Rocky Mountain West.
I conclude in Part IV by offering some brief observations on the legal, moral, and professional needs for all of us, as practitioners and human beings, to become color conscious as we live, learn, work, and pray in the Rocky Mountain West.
Tom I. Romero, II, A Brown Buffalo’s Observations on Color (Blindness), Legal History, and Racial Justice in the Rocky Mountain West, 2022 ULR 751 (2022). https://doi.org/10.26054/0d-txd6-fmfh