Jan 152007
Authors: Vimal Patel

Fort Collins is on its way to the Promised Land, but it’s certainly not there yet, some black residents said Monday.

The city still lacks basic services for blacks, such as hair care, for instance, said Theresa Grangruth, an administrative assistant at Black Student Services. The town has just one hair care business that specializes in catering to the needs of African Americans.

“Racism here is not in your face,” the 20-year Fort Collins resident said.

In a state far less ethnically diverse than America, Fort Collins is even more so. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, 3.8 percent of Coloradans are black, compared to 12.8 of the U.S. population. The same survey found that only 1 percent of Fort Collins residents is black.

Louis Dean, 17, plopped himself in the back row of the Lory Student Center Theatre early in the morning, waiting to hear the words of the man who inspired the holiday.

The Fort Collins native and Centennial High School student’s experiences in the city have been pleasant.

“All African-Americans at some point experience racism,” he said. “I think the racism (in Fort Collins) is really low.”

Blane Harding, director of advising for the College of Liberal Arts, said racism in the area is compounded by its conservative slant. Those on the political right, he said, tend to be less tolerant of ethnic differences.

The area, the Loveland resident said, should try to “do the impossible: reach people who really need it rather than preaching to the choir.”

The community needs to aggressively root out racism proactively, he said.

“You do it through the school district, city council, school board, all the way down the line,” he said.

George Jackson, a CSU graduate student who is black, said he’s never been the victim of a racial incident in Fort Collins, and that the community is more progressive-minded on once-taboo issues like interracial dating.

“It is very accepting, but I wish it was more diverse,” the 47-year-old said.

Grangruth said that although most of the city’s racism lies below the surface, the occasional act of overt prejudice rears its head.

A student called her 14-year-old grandson the n-word, causing the Lincoln Junior High student to physically retaliate, she said, adding that she’d like to see more diversity programs for the city’s youth.

“I think Fort Collins is making strides,” Grangruth said, “but it’s not where it needs to be.”

Managing editor Vimal Patel can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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