From left: Traci, Elijah, Aaron Jr., and Aaron Green '05

Aaron Green ’05: Working for social change and racial justice

Many people avoid controversy. Not Aaron Green ’05. He looks for it, embraces it, dives right in.

That’s what makes him a sought-after and influential social and racial justice expert.

“I appreciate how my work can be controversial,” says Green, who leads his own antiracist consulting firm. “Antiracism work questions our identity, values, and beliefs, which is uncomfortable. It is human nature to resist things that are uncomfortable. I embrace resistance, because that’s part of change.”

With master’s degrees in both social work and change management, Green is equipped to deal with change, resistance, and the fear that can accompany them. He currently is the Health Disparities and Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Officer for the State of Colorado. At Colorado Academy, he serves on the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) Committee, which is part of the Alumni Association Board.

This work is impossible without building community, Green says, and that starts with his own family.

“I cannot begin to do what I love without the support of my own tribe—my wife Traci, and our two sons, AJ and Elijah,” he says. “We’re working together to heal, and the journey is long and winding.”

How he became a racial justice leader

The seeds for Green’s career in social work and racial justice were planted at a young age, by both of his grandmothers.

One of his grandmothers was a social worker for 26 years with the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The other grandmother modeled the importance of “kinship care” by adopting and raising Green’s cousin to keep the child out of the foster care system.

With that “it takes a village” mindset, Green became a social worker himself and spent more than a decade helping children and families. Through this work, he became more aware of the policies and systems that have harmed and marginalized people of color.

He started leading trainings for organizations, teaching senior leaders how to have and foster meaningful conversations about race, equity, and white privilege. His company, Aaron Ross Green, LLC, has helped agencies and institutions of all sizes champion equity and inclusion for all, especially Black and Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC).

He also works as an adjunct professor of social work at the University of Denver and has written two books: The Color Code: 10 Essential Antiracist Tools and Strategies for Social Work Practitioners and Invisible: The Black & Blues of Child Welfare.

“We need to reconcile the traumas that have occurred from systems at multiple levels that are rooted in discrimination, harming historically marginalized groups,” he says.

A place to be your authentic self

Green is enthusiastic about the work he is doing with the CA Alumni Association Board.

“Being a part of the DEIJ committee has been wonderful,” says Green, whose twin brother, Adrian Michael Green ’05, was CA’s first-ever Director of Inclusivity. “CA has done a really good job of fostering a framework for community that accepts everyone for who they are.”

Green feels grateful to have attended CA from Ninth to Twelfth Grade and says it was worth catching a bus at 6:50 a.m. every morning for the 45-minute commute to campus. And it wasn’t just because of the beautiful campus and college-prep academics.

“The outpouring of support from parents and classmates at CA was so wonderful,” he says.

He remembers touring campus before he and his brother enrolled and shadowing then-student Marcus King Stockton ‘04. He remembers admission counselor Darnell Slaughter Castleman advocating for him and his brother.

“Our mom and dad wanted us to be able to be our authentic selves at our new school,” he says, “and Darnell helped us to feel comfortable and let us know what the CA culture was.”

Once he was a student, Green says, CA taught him how to be a global and community leader. The CA community instilled in him a responsibility to “give back,” which is still with him today.

What you should know about antiracism

As Green works to help people unlearn the racial stereotypes and stigmas, things can get uncomfortable, even heated—but he leans into that discomfort.

“If things come up for you around bias, that’s natural,” he says. “Every person who has a brain has bias. Unfortunately, there are systems at play that have conditioned us to have bias based on stereotypes.”

Sometimes, there are misunderstandings.

“People don’t want to be called racist,” Green says, “but we don’t have the language to speak about why we disagree with something that doesn’t feel right.”

And what happens when people perceive “antiracist” to mean “anti-white?”

“Just because you learned something doesn’t mean that it’s right,” Green says. “My role is to unpack these beliefs and help people know that antiracist really means anti-hate and pro-human. I work to build a bridge of inclusion and help you unlock your own story within the construct of race and power.”

Antiracism, he says, is about being aware of our own identities, power, and privilege and giving space to marginalized identities to voice grievances and heal.

“I get to work with folks who want to do better—for themselves, their families, and their communities,” he says. “It’s about getting things right that we’ve had wrong in the past. And there’s only one right answer: to be a good human.”