Residents and neighbors met this week at two facilitated discussions to talk over the possibilities of changing the name of Stapleton, the residential development that replaced the airport of the same name honoring five-term former Denver mayor Benjamin Stapleton...who just happens to have been a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
And that heritage lingers. Today the neighborhood that bears his name is over 80 percent white — a significantly higher percentage than in the surrounding areas, or even Denver as a whole. When I lived in Stapleton, I encountered racist attitudes far too often; they were the expectation, not the exception.
A push to change the name of Stapleton, a movement that started more than two years ago, has lately gotten new momentum. But nothing’s going to change, not really, until the neighborhood's more intolerant residents do as well. With that in mind, here are some modest proposals for new names — just to keep the talk real.
7. Stepford This is the easiest choice, since half of the residents of Stapleton already sarcastically refer to their neighborhood as Stepford. It’s like Ira Levin's 1972 novel about Aryan-dream Connecticut wives, but substitute the blonde hair, blue eyes and coffee klatches with yoga pants, denim ball caps and 10 a.m. farm-sourced lattes at the Town Center. It’s as idyllic and empty as a botoxed smile.
6. North Highlands Ranch Limited-access community? Check. (There may not be gates, but there’s a reason Beeler doesn’t go through all the way to Montview.) Exclusivity? Check. Almost the same percentage of white residents as Stapleton? Check and, by golly, check. Highlands Ranch doesn’t so much get away with its classism as much as it makes no secret of it — and no one challenges it because it’s self-evident. But then we have Stapleton, which was built on developer Forest City’s promises of an “affordable housing” build rate of 10 percent — which it has so far failed to meet. Borrowing on the lure of being “in the city” while also disregarding the multi-racial and economically diverse nature of that city — particularly the Park Hill neighborhood directly to the west? Sort of cheating, and people know it. Admitting that you have a prejudice is the first step to people not expecting much from you, Stapleton. Just ask Highlands Ranch.
5. Pleasure Island In kid-obsessed Stapleton, everyone has 2.5 children (we assume the .5 comes from the one their spouse already had from their first marriage). So it just makes sense to name this place after the Pinocchio-land of childhood indulgence. Instead of drinking, smoking and pool, it’s all ice cream and soda pop and driving around in a golf cart! It’s cool! You’re ten! Live it up! Scream at random. No one will say a thing, because no one is allowed to in Stapleton…I mean, Pleasure Island.
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.