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Sociologist Wonders, 'Where Are The White People?' At Race Relations Forum

DENVER (CBS4) - In one of many forums around Denver on Saturday, U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette challenged leaders of faith to come up with solutions to racial tension as activists and civil rights leaders prepare for peaceful gatherings for the upcoming Martin Luther King holiday.

"We need to recognize that there is evidence of discrimination right here in our community," DeGette said.

Rep. Diana DeGette talks with CBS4's Melissa Garcia (credit: CBS)

In the wake of racially charged issues across the country and in the Denver metro area, DeGette is calling on people of faith to be leaders of change in racial reconciliation.

With state Sen. Lucia Guzman as moderator, dozens of faith leaders and elected officials came together at Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church to voice their concerns.

"I really believe that America is in this moment because we've never sincerely and systematically strategically talked about race in America," Guzman said.

"Our youth have to be part of the discussion because they are the primary folks experiencing the injustices," Denver City Councilwoman Deborah Ortega said.

"I believe one of the biggest strategies of hope is just in relationships -- building relationships with one another. Not just talking about it, but being about it," Pastor Kyle Speller with The Potter's House of Denver said.

For some taking action means promoting more people of color into positions of power.

"We need to be promoting more into positions, executive positions, into the state Legislature," said Alexis Harrigan, co-chair of the Denver Latino Commission.

DeGette says forums such as those held on Saturday are just the beginning of a long process.

"So the first step is really having meetings like this all around the community and all around the country to talk about how we can break down those barriers," DeGette said.

But some who came feel the attendance at Saturday's event is a far cry from dismantling the segregation that still exists.

Sociologist Jeanette Baust
Sociologist Jeanette Baust (credit: CBS)

"When I come to a meeting like this, and 80 percent of the people here are people of color, and we're talking about racism, my very first question is, 'Where are the white people?' Because we're the people who have the most to learn," sociologist Jeanette Baust said.

One of the groups represented in Saturday's forum was the Denver Freedom Riders. They are scheduled to hold a Black Lives Matter conference on Monday after the Marade.

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