This April 20th, being a part of the tide turning


As we in Colorado (especially in Littleton) know, April 20th is an anniversary none of us can ever forget. The sounds of sirens and helicopters racing to Columbine High School on that day in 1999 still flood back into my body every year on this day. My body is tensing up just thinking about it now. I’ve never held my kids tighter than when I picked them up from the bus stop that afternoon. I couldn’t stop holding them all night. In my arms, they were safe and unharmed.

But not all Columbine parents were that lucky. Or Aurora theater parents or STEM School or Arapahoe High School or Boulder King Soopers parents. And the list of mass shootings continues to grow. What are we doing as a society to breed these mass shooters? In the data we have, since 1982 until now, almost all of the shooters have been male and the majority of them have been white.

And this particular April 20th, with the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, invokes another reminder of needless violence. As the statistics show, the extrajudicial killings of Black lives have been overwhelmingly at the hands of white male officers.

So, what can we do to prevent this out-of-control violence? After each mass shooting, public officials gather and brainstorm one more time and come up with yet another plan for an attempt at prevention. Last year after the on-camera murder of George Floyd, electeds and governmental agencies were effectively pushed to start to admit there was a systemic problem to address. (Fortunately, our Colorado Legislature put some corrective, preventive measures into law.)

But law and policy is only part of the answer. We are all complicit as community members, parents, teachers, siblings, business owners, workers, and faith leaders. As the adage goes, it takes a village to raise a child. What is each of our roles in raising white men (predominantly) to cause such harm?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this. What can I personally do in each of my roles to make even a small dent in the prevention of this particular violence? In reflection as a mother, I’ve intentionally attempted to raise my daughters in peace and violence prevention education. But for years of codependence, I also didn’t stop their former cop dad’s emotional abuse and violence in our home. Now, I demand that violence, whatever the form, will not be tolerated by any man in my presence. At the least, not without consequence.

In my role as a state senator, much of my policy was focused on violence prevention. (Perhaps it was a form of reparations for me.) But what blind spots did I not catch? Maybe I need to go back and advocate for any needed changes. For now, at least I can ask my U.S. senators to vote yes on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.

As a white woman in mostly white suburbia, it’s time for me to admit the ways I am personally contributing to such violence and then do something about it. What honest conversations could I be having with my family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues? About our complicity in white male violence, racism, or ...? I do know it starts with each of us, all of us. And obviously, it needs to start yesterday.

If you’re interested in these kinds of conversations, feel free to reach out at

Former Colorado state senator, now with a master’s in Social Justice and Ethics from Iliff School of Theology, Linda Newell is a writer, speaker, facilitator, and conflict/DEI consultant.,,, @sennewell on Twitter, Senator Linda Newell or @TheLastBill on Facebook.


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