AUSTIN - Mayor Adler made it clear Wednesday afternoon he wants his recently created task force to do more than simply discuss the issues of institutional racism in Austin; He wants them to come up with some legitimate plans of action.
Adler said discussions for the task force started back in July when the Austin Police Department was in the spotlight for the violent arrest of Breaion King caught on dashcam video. That followed the officer-involved shooting from this past February, which led to protests outside city hall and then a July arrest.
"These folks are not being asked to lead discussion groups," Adler said. "I have asked this task force to come back to our community and give us an action plan by next March."
Adler's task force will be led by a steering committee made up of volunteers.
The team will be broken up into five groups:
- Criminal and Civil Justice
- Banking Real Estate and Housing
"We need to do more than just have meaningful conversations," Adler said. "We need to recognize immediately that this is not just a challenge associated with criminal justice."
In terms of what this group will be fighting - institutional racism - Mayor Adler wants his group to look into the five sectors and see if there are issues in the structure of how these institutions are set up that are a hindrance to certain races. Adler wants to make sure the workplaces, schools and other institutions in Austin are providing equal opportunities to everyone.
"It's not that we're racists in Austin or we have a racist society," Adler said. "What it does mean is that we have structures in place that create unjust and inequitable outcomes."
Adler gave the March deadline because he is ready to see change take place.
"This is hard work," Adler said. "Real change doesn't come without some measure of dust up. It is important to lift up both equity and equality."
When Adler spoke to his task force directly, he challenged them to bring ideas he hasn't thought of.
"Don't be afraid to break some eggs," Adler told them. "I'm not interested in just turning up the dial on the status quo. I want things to be shaken up."
Dr. Nesto Rodriguez, a professor in the sociology department at the University of Texas, said the reason institutional racism is sometimes difficult to spot and fix is because it often times has simply been embedded in certain businesses and entities, going unnoticed for years and years.
"The thing about institutional racism is it can be impersonal," Rodriguez said. "There's no one person who is caught in a racist principle. An organization can have a policy that inadvertently affects certain groups in a negative way."
Alder hopes to see his task force go out into the community, identify where institutional racism exists and then bring legitimate solutions to the table.
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