An Update from the Mayor's Task Force on
Institutional Racism and Structural Inequities
Dear Community Members:
I pray this communication finds you and your loved ones safe and well during these unprecedented and austere times.
It was a little over three years ago that we found ourselves in a state of unrest as a community and began the work of the Mayor's Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities Task Force (IRSI). While many of us continue to work daily for fighting the good fight, quite frankly as a collective, the fervor with which we all initially took on the task to work towards building a beloved community for all, waned over time as our day jobs consumed us, and life just kept happening. As a collective we slipped into 'Someone Else' will continue this hard heart work.
Before we waned as a collective we culled a list of recommendations. Then we prioritized those recommendations and developed individual implementation plans. We are grateful for the hard work and commitment to the mission of the IRSI Task Force working groups, steering committees, and working group co-chairs.
In January of this year, we met and recommitted ourselves to reconvening the collective for the next phase of our work. We began working to devise a communications plan to update the community on the direct and indirect results of our work and to emphasize the need to reignite our fervor. Then, what felt like suddenly, all across our country Black, Indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) community members were spun into a multi-pronged crisis. Our quest to update the community and to ask you to return to the collective took on a whole new sense of urgency by these alarming and repeating events:
The disparate impact of the coronavirus on Black and Latinx communities: disproportionate loss of livelihood; disproportionate exposure to infection; startling higher death rates; and disproportionate difficulty to continue their children's education during a pandemic,
Increasing difficulties serving the needs of those experiencing homelessness,
Continuing accusations of racism and racist behavior at the Austin Police Department (APD), and
A confirmation of racial profiling within APD data on motor vehicle stops from 2015-2018.
Over the past several days, around the globe, citizens are demanding justice for the recent senseless killing of Black and Latinx by law enforcement (and former law enforcement officials). Once again, events such as this have ignited a heightened national dialogue about racism's disastrous impact on society. Once again we are shaken awake.
The journey together has been long and, at times, challenging. Now, with the undergirding of hundreds of community leaders' collective wisdom, we must return to our work as a collective strategically channeling our frustration into action. We must continue our invaluable work bringing the voices of hundreds of community leaders to the forefront to make transformative and sustainable change in our community.
While there is still much to be done, we have seen some fruits from our labor:
Placed-based planning in Colony Park;
A regional workforce plan implemented to assist 10,000 financially disadvantaged individuals secure middle-skill jobs by 2021;
Equity assessments of every City department;
Racial equity training of over three thousand community and industry leaders; and
The opening of Austin Community College's Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Campus Center.
Life will keep happening, and our day jobs will keep calling. So, how do we maintain the will and keep pushing towards transformational change? After discussions with the working group leaders, the IRSI co-chairs, community leaders, and Mayor Adler, there was consensus that for the next phase to be successful, and infrastructure must be in place to guide and oversee the implementation of the IRSI's recommendations. So in partnership with several organizations and individuals including the Anti-Defamation League, Austin Community College, Austin Health Commons, Austin Independent School District, Austin Justice Coalition, the City of Austin's Equity Office, Community Action Network, Equidad ATX, Huston-Tillotson University, and Leadership Austin we are creating a non-profit association to serve as an umbrella organization for some of the anti-racist work in our region. The association will be held accountable for setting goals, promoting and stewarding anti-racist strategies guided by and rooted in the IRSI recommendations and measuring progress.
That will continue our collective work. There is still work we must all do as individuals to maintain the movement of dismantling institutional racism and eradicating systemic inequities. Now is the time to engage beyond optical allyship. Instead, be an accomplice.
We ask that you:
Educate yourself on the history of what has led to current actions in Austin (see NAACP info),
Take your cues on action from communities of color,
Operationalize your training on courageous conversations;
Activate now on systemic reform in your institution and in the civic space;
Encourage people to read and act on the IRSI report; and/or
Prepare your networks, pocketbooks, and voices for Phase Two of our journey.
We are encouraged by how the conversation about race has changed in our community. There are seen and unseen changes in people and institutions having more courageous conversations than ever before. For this, we should be grateful.
As Mayor Adler said at the beginning of our journey, "We must become comfortable being uncomfortable." That is how we change. This is hard work, but we must keep at it. The "arc of the moral universe is long," but it is bending towards justice.
We will be in touch with each of you with more specifics of how you can help as we launch the next phase.
We leave you with two reflective questions:
"When the history of our times is written, will we be remembered as the generation that turned our backs in a moment of a global crisis, or will it be recorded that we did the right thing?" ~ Nelson Mandela
How are you working to eliminate institutional racism and systemic inequities?
We would love to hear your feedback, questions, thoughts, or concerns. Please email them to Kazique Prince ([email protected]).
Thank you again for your ongoing commitment.
We look forward to continuing to co-labor with you building a beloved community together,
Colette Pierce Burnette, Ed.D.,
Paul Cruz, Ph.D.
Mayor's Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities