Here4TheKids Using the Power of White Women to Get Rid of Guns | Westword

Gun Culture

Saira Rao Wants to Use the Power of White Women to Repeal the Second Amendment

The former congressional candidate is calling for a sit-in at the Colorado Capitol in June.
Wolf Terry (left) and other people canvassing for the Here4TheKids movement.
Wolf Terry (left) and other people canvassing for the Here4TheKids movement. Wolf Terry
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Saira Rao, the former Colorado congressional candidate and co-author of White Women: Everything You Already Know About Your Own Racism and How to Do Better, was lying in bed on the night of March 27, dwelling on the persistent issue of gun violence in America after the school shooting that day in Nashville, when she had an idea.

Rao would like to see the Second Amendment dismantled nationwide, starting in Colorado. That night, she dreamed up the idea for Here4TheKids, which calls for women of color to use the power of white women to achieve that goal.

"White women have the most power in the country, and they have the most privilege. They can actually effect change," says Rao.

She and her co-founders envision a large group of white women under the leadership of women of color, using their political clout to force governors across the country to sign executive orders banning guns.

And Here4TheKids is taking aim first at Colorado, a state where guns are the leading cause of death for children and teens, and at Governor Jared Polis — whose voting base is made up largely of white women, Rao notes. Tens of thousands of white women have signed up to participate in a sit-in at the Colorado Capitol that will start at 5 a.m. June 5, she says; Rao expects that number to grow over the next few weeks.

Rao is also the co-founder of Race2Dinner, "a movement to inspire white women to confront themselves and to acknowledge their own racism and complicity in white supremacy," according to the website promoting a documentary about the movement, Deconstructing Karen. The film was shown to a sold-out crowd at the Sie FilmCenter in March.

Rao and business partner Regina Jackson — who co-authored White Women and is a founding member of Here4TheKids — started Race2Dinner in Denver in 2019. The pair met when Rao ran for Congress in Colorado's 1st Congressional District in 2018 in the Democratic primary against Diana DeGette; Jackson worked on her campaign. After Rao lost against the longtime incumbent with 31.8 percent of the vote, she and Jackson began hosting dinner parties with groups of liberal white women, which grew into Race2Dinner.

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Saira Rao and Regina Jackson at the Race2Dinner table.
Through the organization, women pay thousands of dollars to attend dinner parties with Rao and Jackson. During the gatherings, Rao, who is Indian American, and Jackson, who is Black, confront their white guests with "cold, hard truths" about their complicity in white supremacy — despite their best intentions as liberals. The dinners originally took place only in Denver, but have since gone nationwide.

The pair will host four dinners this year, at $2,500 per guest. All four are already sold out.

In the years since it started, Race2Dinner has attracted national attention — and plenty of controversy. The New York Post called it a "for-profit money grab" last year. Still, Rao and Jackson have amassed a dedicated following of racially conscious white women, whom they now plan to weaponize for their current priority: getting rid of guns.

According to Rao, this movement of white women is the country's "only chance of getting a repeal of the Second Amendment." Following decades of never-ending violence against children in schools, "we have been abandoned," by our politicians, she says.

"I mean, look at your brave blue state legislature that just killed an assault weapons ban on the eve of the Columbine anniversary," Rao notes, pointing to House Bill 23-1230, which was voted down by a committee during an April 19 hearing at the Colorado Legislature.

The Here4TheKids Instagram page just became active on April 12 and already has over 40,000 followers. It's gotten shoutouts from such celebrities as Yvette Nicole Brown, who starred on the popular sitcom Community. But does that mean Here4TheKids will be effective?

"How do we know it's going to work?" replies Rao. "Because if history is any guide, it always does."

Rao compares the Here4TheKids movement to Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous march from Selma to Montgomery to protect the voting rights of Black people in the Jim Crow South; the brutalization of the Black people by Alabama State Troopers ended when white people joined the march. "Denver is our Selma," she says.

Rao believes a nationwide gun ban will be necessary, saying that blue states "will become target practice" if guns are banned there and not in red states. Still, she chose Colorado as a starting point for the larger goal because of her personal connections with the state as well as Colorado's blue governor and "inordinate amount of school shootings," starting with Columbine and recently spreading to East High, where a student shot two deans on March 22 and later committed suicide.

Rao lived in Denver until she moved to Virginia last August; if she'd stayed here, her daughter would have gone to East High School.  "It's a war zone there. ... It's like target practice," she says.

And Here4TheKids is serious about stopping the violence and making schools safe by giving real momentum to the anti-gun cause. "Republicans have been playing chess; we have been blowing bubbles," Rao says. This movement, on the other hand, "is coming and showing up for the game."

The women who participate on June 5 won't be like the "pink pussy hat"-wearing protesters who demonstrated against Trump, she says. "No, these are white women putting their bodies on the line. They're coming to sit, and they're not going to leave until they get this executive order from Jared Polis."

"I'm planning on wearing a diaper," says Wolf Terry, one of the white women who will be at the Capitol on June 5.

A freelance writer living in Lakewood, Terry says she only recently learned of Rao, when a friend messaged her suggesting she check out the Here4TheKids movement. Terry responded to a post from Rao on social media calling for volunteers; five minutes later, she says, she got a call back.

That was April 27. Since then, Terry has put the rest of her life on pause in order to throw herself into the movement. "We are running this sort of like a campaign," she says. Under the direction of Tina Strawn, one of the other founders of Here4TheKids, Terry and other white women dedicated to the movement have been working hard in Denver, meeting, organizing and canvassing to build their coalition.

Terry was drawn to the movement "so that we can go to the grocery store without the fear of being shot," she says. "My kid's autistic, by the way; if there's an active shooter at his school, he's going to be the first one killed."

Getting involved in Here4TheKids is about "putting aside our white woman fragility, getting comfortable with the discomfort, leaning in and organizing to actually make change happen with the help of Black leaders who are leading the way," Terry notes.

She'll be at a community-organizing event hosted by Here4TheKids at 11 a.m. on May 17 at the Evans School in the Golden Triangle. Saira Rao and other co-founders will be there, pushing the June 5 action at the State Capitol and explaining why it's important.

"I would like for everybody to know that June 5 is more than just a bunch of people getting together for a hopeless cause," says Terry.

"This is civil disobedience," Rao says. "This is a sit-in. This is a rising up of the people we have never seen in America in our lifetime."

And it's just the start. "It's literally history," she continues. "This is going to be probably the biggest thing that will have happened in any of our lifetimes. This is going to be a 'Where were you on June 5?' And I hope all you white folks are able to say, 'I was in Denver.'"
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