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Adler: Anti-racism task force will focus on barriers, not individuals


Religious leaders, business leaders, community advocates and local government officials are among those named today to Austin’s new Task Force on Institutional Racism.

Mayor Steve Adler created the 49-member group to take a comprehensive look at institutional racism and make recommendations by March. The task force will be divided into five working groups: Criminal & Civil Justice; Education; Health; Finance, Banking & Industry; and Real Estate & Housing.

RELATED: Austin Mayor Steve Adler creates city anti-racism panel

“Violent incidents involving our police officers and communities of color are – and should be – disturbing,” Adler said in a prepared statement Wednesday, “but it became obvious when we committed to addressing them that this was a bigger problem than just how law enforcement interacts with African Americans. To deal with racism in Austin, we need to acknowledge that institutional racism exists in Austin, have an honest community conversation about what we can do to root it out, and then commit ourselves to actually do what it takes to make sure all Austinites have an opportunity to thrive.”

Adler cited the February shooting of David Joseph, a naked unarmed teen who was shot and killed by officer Geoffrey Freeman, and the violent arrest of teacher Breaion King, which the Statesman first exposed in July, as reasons for the task force.

The mayor said in a news conference Wednesday afternoon that addressing such issues is long overdue. That doesn’t mean Austinities are racist, but “it does mean we have structures in place that create unjust and inequitable outcomes,” he said.

The task force will focus on structural barriers — not individuals — both intentional and unintentional, he said. It will be disbanded after presenting an action plan to the community in March. Adler and the panel co-chairs, Colette Pierce Burnette, the president and CEO of Huston-Tillotson University, and Paul Cruz, the Austin schools superintendent, all declined to give examples of what that could include, saying they preferred to start with a blank slate for ideas.

Already, the announcement of the task force has “caused quite a bit of dust-up,” Adler said. He attributed that to people not understanding what institutional racial barriers mean versus calling an individual a racist.

“It is my hope that after the work of this group, those words don’t cause alarm and the same kind of defensiveness, but they signify a call to arms,” he said. “But as I was coming into work today, every other person I ran into was asking ‘Exactly what does this mean? Who are you going after?’”

In addition to Burnette and Cruz, the task force includes these 47 members:

  • Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo
  • Ashley Aliniz-Mayor of the Hispanic Scholarship Consortium
  • Theresa Alvarez of Wells Fargo
  • City of Austin Chief of Staff Ray Baray
  • Juan Belman of the UT Immigrant Law Clinic
  • Tony Budet from University Federal Credit Union
  • Edna Butts from Austin ISD
  • Kristian Caballero of the Travis County Commissioners Court
  • Nancy Cardenas of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
  • Larry Coulter of The Lakeway Church
  • Virginia Cumberbatch of the University of Texas at Austin
  • Laura Donnelly from Latinitas Magazine
  • Dr. Gregory Fenves, the president of the University of Texas at Austin
  • Simone Talma Flowers of the Interfaith Action of Central Texas
  • Rabbi Alan Freedman
  • Nikki Graham of the Bank of America
  • Jay Hailey from DLA Piper
  • Kerry Hall from Texas Capital Bank
  • Margaret Haule of Black Lives Matter Austin
  • The Rev. Daryl Horton from Mt. Zion Baptist Church
  • Clay Johnston, dean of the Dell Medical School
  • Shannon Jones, the head of Health & Human Services for the City of Austin
  • Dr. Peniel Joseph of LBJ School of Public Affairs
  • Richard Jung of Austin’s Asian-American Quality of Life Commission
  • Dr. Mini Kahlon of Dell Medical School
  • Ali Khataw of Austin Area Research Organization
  • Nahi Khataw from Austin Community College
  • Local attorney Ramey Ko
  • Renee Lafair from the Anti-Defamation League
  • Roberta Lang from Whole Foods
  • Nelson Linder, head of Austin NAACP
  • Judge Lora Livingston
  • Carmen Llanes Pulido of Austin Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission
  • Teddy McDaniel of Austin Urban League
  • Brion Oaks, the City of Austin’s first Chief Equity Officer
  • Pastor Joseph Parker of David Chapel Missionary Baptist Church
  • Jill Ramirez of Latino Healthcare Forum
  • Dr. Richard Reddick of the University of Texas at Austin
  • Dr. Richard Rhodes, President, Austin Community College
  • Dr. Jane Rivera of La Raza Roundtable
  • Alejandro Rueles from Latin Works
  • Anna Sanchez from Wells Fargo
  • Luz-Cristal Sanchez from Venture Lab
  • community activist Jamelia “Meme” Styles of Measure Austin
  • Ward Tisdale of the Real Estate Council of Austin
  • Cynthia Valadez-Mata Sr. of League of United Latin American Citizens
  • Dr. Emilio Zamora from the University of Texas at Austin

This article has been updated to correct the spelling of Latinitas Magazine


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