Denver councilwoman proposes taxing ‘White-led businesses’ as reparations to support minority enterprises


A Denver city council representative seeking re-election proposed taxing “White-led businesses” and redistributing the wealth to minorities as reparations for the harm of capitalism.

“Capitalism was built on stolen land, stolen labor and stolen resources. And a check today could not undo the cumulative impact of generations of that stolen wealth in all of those categories,” Denver councilwoman Candi CdeBaca said during a political forum Friday.

CdeBaca said there were existing structures “that could be flipped” to compensate for land, labor and resources allegedly lost due to racism. 


The forum was hosted by The Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance — an organization of Black clergy dedicated to civil rights and social justice — and included several candidates seeking to represent a district that includes part of the historic downtown Denver area. 

CdeBaca proposed changing an existing business improvement district (BID) in the economically depressed Five Points neighborhood within her district to collect taxes only from White-owned businesses in the city and redistribute the funds to businesses owned by Black and Brown individuals.

“Instead of a BID collecting extra taxation from the Black and Brown businesses that are struggling, you could be collecting those extra taxes from White-led businesses all over the city and redistributing them to Black and Brown owned businesses who are not part of it or who are simply just Black- or Brown-owned. And that’s one way to give back in the business fashion.”

Other reparations proposals, like Denver’s Daily Basic Income program, do not go far enough to address the structure of racism, according to CdeBaca. One proposal, which focuses on giving daily basic income and mainly reaches homeless people, for instance, doesn’t go far enough.


“Reparations’ goal should not be survival, it should be repairing the harm, which is this entire economy,” CdeBaca said.

One of CdeBaca’s opponents at the forum defended the Five Points BID as actually helping current Black business owners, setting off a tiff between the two candidates.

“There are Black folks that we all know around this table that are part of the BID,” said candidate Darrell Watson. “Instead of attacking the BID, look at how you can work with them collaboratively. I’ve met and spoke with them, they are receiving reparations dollars from Denver downtown partnership from White corporate businesses to bring to the Five Points Corridor,” he added. 

“Not all Black people in this city are struggling to survive, but every black person in this city should benefit from reparations or any program that is aiming to do reparatory work,” CdeBaca said as part of her response.

She also took aim at minority business owners who participated in economic programs that hurt others of their skin color. 

“When we look at the BID, we were often supporting Black business owners who were willing to exploit other Black business owners. And that needs to be called out, and we need to also make sure we don’t stand behind that and be complicit,” CdeBaca said.

After CdeBaca’s comments were posted by the popular Twitter account LibsofTikTok, the councilwoman’s office defended her position in a written statement.

“This is the third time CdeBaca has been targeted by a white nationalist mob, and this is part of a concerted playbook to harass, intimidate, and silence progressives and in particular, marginalized communities,” CdeBaca’s office said in a news release. 

“I will not be silenced by the far-right playbook,” CdeBaca said in the statement. “A nuanced discussion about reparations is necessary, but that opportunity has been taken from us by the right-wing outrage machine. This kind of discussion is not going to happen in this media landscape.”

CdeBaca has been called “Denver’s AOC” — a reference to progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. — and was first elected to the Denver city council in 2019. Denver’s municipal elections will be held June 6. 

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