This moment cries out for humanity. A pandemic ravages families and communities around the world, pathologizing the very notion of human contact. And now we as Americans reckon once again with the racist oppression, exclusion, and outright violence that has for centuries denied so many Americans their basic human rights.

We at Colorado Humanities are outraged that so many Black and other people of color continue to die at the hands of officers sworn to serve and protect them. We are outraged that even more suffer daily harassment, indignity, and violence, and the loss of beloved family members and valued community members. Their lives matter. Why must this be said? Because far too often, for far too long, they have been treated as if they don’t. And state-sanctioned violence is just one of the many ways their lives are devalued. Deep structural racism persists in this nation, rooted in its very founding, implicated in its very growth. Alongside unequal law enforcement, and linked to it, are longstanding structural inequities in housing, health care, land ownership, labor, education, economic opportunity, environmental exposure, political power, and much else. These are realities not just among Black Americans, but among other people of color too—as the pandemic’s uneven toll makes terribly clear. None of us can morally ignore these horrors. As a society, as a state and a nation, far too many of us have overlooked them, tolerated them, and helped perpetuate them for far too long. We must not anymore.

The victims of structural racism and violence are not just abstractions or statistics. They are human beings: George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Ahmaud Arbery. Here in Colorado, Marvin Booker. Michael Marshall. Elijah McClain. In more distant times: John Preston Porter Jr. Vó’kaa’e Ȯhvó’komaestse (White Antelope). Lu Yang (Look Young). And many, many more—most whose names we will never even know. But humanity demands that we humanize them—and that we take a stand against the forces that cheapened and stole their lives. Colorado Humanities stands in solidarity with those who work to dismantle systems of oppression, who struggle for justice, inclusion, dignity, and human rights—for basic humanity.

We urge all Coloradans to find their own ways to contribute to the struggle. Even as we write this statement, we are working to find ours. For years we have offered programs that encourage learning about Black, Latinx, and Native history, along with efforts to foster and facilitate difficult, critical community conversations about race. But we can and must do more. We are always looking for ways to make our programs more relevant, more accessible, more inclusive, and more effective—and given the urgency of this moment, we are redoubling our efforts now.

Above all, we urge all Coloradans to join in the self-education, contemplation, and conversation that this moment demands. Far from a luxury or abstract exercise, taking a humanistic approach is exactly what we all must do right now. We need deep reflection and civil discussion. We need to open our minds and examine our own prejudices, include all voices, and honor the diversity and dignity of all people. We need to listen to each other’s stories, and we need to grasp that our own reality is not everyone’s—that other people live, see, and often suffer very differently than we do. We need to learn our history and confront our own connections to it, however uncomfortable. We need to weigh and debate the ethical dimensions of the crisis we face, and of the solutions we propose. Most importantly, we need to rediscover and reaffirm the core human connections among us, learning to recognize how our lives and actions shape each other, both for worse and for better.

There is good reason the humanities are so named. We have no illusions that grappling with history, hearing each other’s poetry, or discussing our differences will magically mend this nation’s wounds. But there is no question that for any healing to happen, we must first find the humanity in each other—and in ourselves.