Editorial: Stapleton is a Community; It’s Not an Airport and Definitely Not a Person

Go anywhere in Denver and ask people what comes to mind when they hear the name “Stapleton.” What will they say? Some may say it’s a community in East Denver with a lot of young families. Others may say it’s an upper middle class Denver neighborhood whose residents seem to complain a lot. Some may even relate it to its positive dining and entertainment options such as The Stanley and the Eastbridge Town Center. These are the types of things you should expect to hear 95% of the time. How many people will refer to it as the place the airport used to be? Maybe one in one thousand. And finally, how many people will cringe when you mention the word Stapleton, and say, “you mean that Denver Mayor from the 1920’s who joined the Ku Klux Klan as a political move to get elected?” As of now, probably one in ten thousand. But, thanks to a revived movement, nationally inconsequential Denver Mayor (city of less than 300,000 at the time) Stapleton is becoming a person again.

The Stapleton Airport was around from 1929 to 1995. From at least 1955 on, the majority of Denver residents knew the name Stapleton as an airport only. Very few Denverites probably knew it was named after a former Denver Mayor, and even less knew the political history of that mayor. In 1995, Denver’s airport was relocated 100 miles east (or at least seemed that way, prior to the A-Line). Then, in the early 2000’s, Forest City began to build an urban community on what used to be a vacant lot of concrete, dust, and weeds. They certainly had a vision of what they wanted it to become. But what should they name it? What would you have named it? It’s not an easy task. They had to have a marketable, meaningful name to get people to buy into the concept. Well, it used to be an airport. What was the name of the airport? Stapleton. It was creative and simple. No one on that marketing team probably even knew there was a Ben Stapleton. And why should they? Few in Denver in 2002 knew there was a Ben Stapleton, and certainly no one anywhere else in the country knows there was a Ben Stapleton.

Ben Stapleton has been dead for almost 70 years. He long ago lost ownership of his name to an airport and more recently to a community. Why are we fighting to give him his name back? Stapleton is defined by the members in our community. Residents in Stapleton are overwhelmingly giving and welcoming. Undoubtedly, Stapleton has its problems, but what neighborhood is perfect? Tying Stapleton residents directly to the KKK is insulting and appallingly inaccurate. District 8, which includes Stapleton, has an African American Councilman and Stapleton resident Chris Herndon. Stapleton is predominantly socially progressive and liberal.  Spend time in Stapleton and ask yourself if you think of “white supremacy” while you are here.

To those who are for the name change, understand you are creating a problem that isn’t there. There is no Ben Stapleton. There is just the neighborhood Stapleton. Let’s work together to address real problems in our communities. What can be done to make Stapleton a more attractive neighborhood for minorities, are community members putting enough pressure on Forest City to keep up with affordable housing goals, are there things Stapleton residents can be doing to positively impact neighboring communities, etc. Work together to make an impact. To quote Francis Chan, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”  Together, let’s accomplish things that matter.

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18 responses to “Editorial: Stapleton is a Community; It’s Not an Airport and Definitely Not a Person”

  1. Dr. Gregory Diggs

    The content of the editorial serves as an excellent example of ignorance, white privilege and highlights the legacy of white supremacy.

  2. Dr. Gregory Diggs

    The Editors should probably stick to comedy.

  3. Ivory Schwaberow

    As part of the majority population, we don’t get to tell the minoritu what they can and cannot feel about a certain name or person. Saying that those who want a change are just creating a problem, is part of the problem.

  4. Jamie Hodgkins

    “There is no Ben Stapleton” just like there is no Hitler or Stalin. Those guys have been dead a while too. By your logic, they don’t exist, have no impact or lasting meaning.

    “What can be done to make Stapleton a more attractive neighborhood for minorities.” Change the name to honor someone who was not in the KKK, who did not appoint KKK members to public office, and who did not say, “I have little to say, except that I will work with the Klan and for the Klan in the coming election, heart and soul. And if I am reelected, I shall give the Klan the kind of administration it wants.”

    “are there things Stapleton residents can be doing to positively impact neighboring communities” We can make others feel welcome, validated, and heard, by stopping Forest City from pouring money into promoting the name of a man who actively drove Jews, Catholics, Italians, and all other non-white protestant men out of the city.

  5. Not You

    I was just having lunch with a group of former Stapletonions who all happen to be people of color. For us, the first things that came to mind when Stapleton was brought up was that 1) it was, by far, the most racist neighborhood any of us have lived in, and 2) it’s namesake is a former klansman. You can #thisisnotus all day and put out “hate has no home here” signs on every lawn, but the bottom line is that the residents of Stapleton take great care to ensure that POC do not feel welcome in the community. If a black man can’t deliver amazon packages without being accused of stealing on Stapleton Community Watch, if a Latino kid can’t walk an alley without being reported to the police, and if white residents can’t be bothered to shop in a King Soopers alongside people of color without complaining about how “trashy” the environment is…don’t expect anyone to believe that you are part of a community that values inclusivity.

  6. Caley Orr

    “What can be done to make Stapleton a more attractive neighborhood for minorities[?]”
    Well, for one, how about not naming it after a KKK Mayor? That seems like an relatively easy first step.

    “Spend time in Stapleton and ask yourself if you think of “white supremacy” while you are here.”

    I am a resident. And I do think of white supremacy when walking our streets, because its legacy is all around us. The fact that our neighborhood (the 3rd wealthiest in Denver) is disproportionately white is largely a consequence of the history that you suggest we forget. The consequences of institutionalized white supremacy still reverberate in the economics and social fabric of our country and city. Ben Stapleton played a significant role in maintaining that inequity.

    The name “Stapleton” stands as a symbol of exclusion to the bordering areas that are much browner and blacker than we are. If our neighborhood is truly “socially progressive and liberal” (and I believe this of my neighbors), why wouldn’t we prefer a name that represents those values?

  7. Ania Mangi

    Wow, this article is just straight up ignorant.

    I definitely won’t be coming back. Thanks for saving me a click.

  8. Michael Mcmurray

    Thanks for illustrating precisely what is the underlying problem here: ignorance. (Apathy being a close second.) This editorial is already so far on the wrong side of history, it’s shocking.

  9. Michael Mcmurray

    Wait, maybe we’re all just missing the joke!! Think about it: if you tried your very hardest, could you create such a perfect caricature of white privilege and ignorance? I could not. Perhaps this is satire on the deepest of levels. If so, I salute you!

  10. Molly Ferensic

    What did you intend to achieve with this article? All the numbers are clearly made up. Really? 1 in 10,000 associate the name with the Klan? Those of us who want the name changed sure are doing a good job of finding these needles in the haystack aren’t we? Given that pretty much everyone at the 2015 meeting wanted the name changed. Oh, wait, wait.. are we also being paid by George Soros? Damn, I must have misplaced my check. Our zip code is objectively more white than the surrounded neighborhood. People of color and difference have come forward to state that they are insulted by the name. The Jewish gentleman who told the story of the Klan marching on his neighborhood repeatedly in his boyhood was very moving to me, but he’s not alone, folks of all ages have come forward stating that hearing the community name reminds them of oppression and makes them feel less valued. You seem to argue that can’t be true because people here are “liberal.” You can be liberal and racist. Or, you can be totally apathetic. In which case, you may feel you have some kind of moral high ground over the actively bad people in the world, but you nonetheless help them. Finally, on the “this isn’t important enough to worry about” argument. Most people wanting the name changed are also concerned about other issues. And also, if we make it the standard that we won’t change anything unless that thing is the most evil thing facing humanity as we know it, we will take no action on all kinds of things that we could change. And sometimes, if you don’t take action to change the little things, you can’t change the big things.

  11. Rebekah Henderson

    Well, if this is satire trying to point out how white supremacy is so pervasive that a satire site can be so completely tone deaf to the real issue at hand here, then bravo! Great article. #KeepStapletonionWhite #ilovewhitesupremacy

  12. Matt

    People on here losing their minds over a satirical website ‘editorial’!
    In a way it highlights how your message, no matter how morally sound you think, gets lost because you’re too busy trying to get your point across without really listening to the other side. Not everything in life is serious, this site being one of them!

    PS – I really think the black and white KKK pictures in Eastbridge, while giving a nod to its roots, is a little insensitive… just my 2c…

    1. Dr. Gregory Diggs

      Does not seem that people are losing their minds at all @Matt. And we’ve been “listening” to white privilege and white supremacy for hundreds of years.

      1. Matt

        Again, this isn’t CNN, Huf Post, Politico or even just the Denver Post. It’s a blog that is penned in someones basement in Stapleton on subjects like ‘Swinging group angry Stapleton swap stole their name’ and ‘seven year old finally recovers from sleepover’.

        You’re getting upset at a satirical website that’s like getting cross at the Daily Show for not fairly reporting the news.

  13. Brooke Lee

    My oh my. Tone policing and whitesplaining at its finest.

  14. Comment Leaver

    “Staff Writer”

  15. Paul Fisher

    Great article. More suitable for a serious news site (if there are any remaining) than a satirical one. The first and last paragraph, says it all.

  16. Dave

    Sort of like telling black folk in Charleston to “just get over it” and “it’s only a statue” and “you can’t change history” and “we shouldn’t try to erase history”, essentially telling them to ignore the lump in their throat and the pit in their stomach that they get each time they walk by a PUBLIC monument that celebrates men who tried to rip our nation in two in order to preserve a system in which white people could actually OWN and abuse and exploit black people.

    Monuments have power. Public art has power. NAMES have power, especially when they are used to describe an entire neighborhood. And the people that are depicted in those statues and art, and whose names are used in public projects and neighborhoods are CELEBRATED simply by virtue of their being used in such a formal, public way.

    You can try to explain away their celebratory power by saying “we didn’t know his past” and “it’s just a name” and “it was just the old airport name” and “I’m used to it” and “the name feels like home” and “it was a long time ago” but the fact is that although those statues and the name Stapleton might not bother YOU, they do bother many people whose civil and human rights and even existence were threatened by the KKK, an organization which Ben Stapleton belonged to and openly promoted.

    If our neighborhood truly aspires to be inclusive and diverse, something that means thinking beyond just how the name affects the majority of people here, we could so easily find a more representative namesake. Not doing so communicates to all that we only really aspire to those ideals on pamphlets and “Green Books” but not in real life where it actually matters.

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