Colorado. Land of beautiful scenery, relaxing atmosphere, and economic growth. With the mountains to the West, plains to the East, and the kind of openness to the land that promotes mental clarity, Colorado epitomizes the phrase “land of the free”. Heck, even cannabis is legal there.
When I exchanged my Northeastern digs for something a little more laid back, I genuinely believed that the open-mindedness, kind interactions, and cultural inclusiveness would make my experience leaps and bounds better than what I had already endured. Boston traffic, cranky customer service workers, and downright rude individuals are commonplace in the Northeast. In Colorado, people are genuine, lovely, and neighborly.
Or are they?
A couple days in, I noticed a ‘Native’ bumper sticker. If you’ve interacted with Colorado on any level, in any capacity, you know the sticker I’m referring to. The classic green mountain range, the white words emblazoned upon it. Nice, I thought, this guy’s born and raised Colorado. Nothing wrong with a little local pride. Then, a few weeks later, I saw another sticker: “You got high, now go home”.
Later, while looking at job opportunities, I kept seeing “Colorado Residents Only” on the job descriptions. Now, I had just moved to Colorado. Yes, I had an apartment, but did that make me a legitimate resident? My license has yet to be changed, and my car is still registered in Rhode Island. Would they check?
It got me thinking. Why did Colorado only want people who were already in Colorado applying for jobs? Did it have to do with that harmless bumper sticker? Little did I know, that was only the tip of the iceberg.
After a few Google deep-dives, I came to discover that ‘Native’ Coloradans (people who were born and raised here) refer to people who are from anywhere else transplants. Stereotypically, transplants are from California or Texas. Neither of these groups, I was informed by a local, can drive in the snow. They bungle up the traffic SO BADLY that they have “no right” to be here.
Now, as someone who has studied cross-cultural exchange and advocated for inclusion of foreigners in certain cultures, I find this to be a bit exasperating. The United States is literally comprised of foreigners. Most of the inhabitants here have heritage that is not native to the Americas. How many times do we need to relive this argument? I wonder how the Ute and Arapahoe Tribes feel about this situation.
In my exploration on the subject, I found an interview with Eric Glade, the creator of the Native bumper sticker that premiered in 1979 during the influx of Canadian Oil executives.
“If you didn’t get it, then you don’t belong. It didn’t say ‘Colorado Native,’ or ‘I’m a native of Colorado.’ It just says ‘NATIVE.’” (Eric Glade, 2018)
Whoa there, Mr. Glade. Those are some fighting words. Why is it necessary to deliberately exclude those who are coming to Colorado in search of a better life? These people are still people, regardless of where they come from. If they’re coming to better themselves, their place of work, and their community, then what’s the harm in inclusiveness? And to top it off, Mr. Glade is a transplant himself. Chew on that for a minute.
“‘You look at the national scale, it’s the same thing too. People really don’t like immigrants,’ [Glade] said. ‘I did a sticker for a while, and it was mean-spirited — and it said, “The pool is full” — and the pool was the United States.’” (Seriously, check out his article)
And there we have it. Apparently, folks, the pool is full! This boils down to a blatant disregard for human decency. If I choose to relocate somewhere that benefits me, whether it be economically, socially, or mentally, I deserve enough respect to apply for jobs or talk to people on the street without feeling like I ‘don’t belong’.
As I said before, Colorado is a beautiful place, through and through. The people I’ve met have been some of the kindest, most caring individuals I’ve ever encountered. The landscape is something out of a dream. However, if I will forever be targeted because I’m not NATIVE, then perhaps Colorado isn’t for me.