AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin City Council members are formally apologizing for the city’s historic role in racial inequity “through generations of enslavement, segregation, urban renewal, and systemic discrimination,” according to a press release.
The apology came in the form of a resolution council members unanimously passed on consent Thursday.
Besides acknowledging and apologizing for the disenfranchisement of Black Austinites, the resolution also sets into motion a plan of action to help increase opportunities and access for Black people in Austin.
“You cannot ask a community to pull itself up by its bootstraps when it can’t even afford the boots it’s been long denied,” said mayor pro-tem Natasha Harper-Madison during a virtual press conference before the city council meeting.
The resolution tasks the city manager, Spencer Cronk, with figuring out what resources have been denied to Black people in Austin and just how much that and other policies have harmed their community.
The study of direct and indirect harm will be conducted in partnership with researchers at Huston-Tillotson University and the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs.
“The ultimate goal is for us to find out what we have lost as Black people dealing with the institution of the city of Austin,” said Black Austin Coalition’s Nook Turner during the press conference.
Harper-Madison brought forth the resolution and said the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Mike Ramos sped up this local effort.
“Us having economic justice. That’s what this resolution is about,” he said.
Cronk must also now scout existing city buildings for a Black embassy in east Austin.
“It would be a hub, it would be a centralized place where our citizens could find resources, access to healthcare, access to support for entrepreneur ventures,” explained Pam Benson Owens, interim executive director for Six Square, Austin’s black cultural district.
During the city council meeting, a couple of speakers said money should be invested elsewhere.
But all council members supported the resolution as a step toward equity.
“Restitution that allows us the economic opportunity, the social opportunity and the resources for us to rebuild and reverse time back 100 years and we reset the clock on us having an equal opportunity that was supposed to be provided when we were emancipated,” Turner said.
According to the resolution, Cronk has until August first to come back to city council members with the study as well as recommended locations for the Black embassy.