AUSTIN, TX – Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced a task force group on Wednesday that will explore ways the city can combat institutional racism within criminal justice, health, education, finance and housing. The group will be made up of 49 members to take a comprehensive look at institutional racism and make recommendations by March.
The take force will focus on structural barriers – not individuals – both intentional and unintentional, Alder said. It will be disbanded after presenting an action plan to the community in March. Huston-Tillotson University President and CEO Colette Pierce Burnette and Austin Independent School District superintendent Paul Cruz are to lead the task force as co-chairs. The steering committee will also include representatives from the Austin Police Department and the NAACP
Alder said the land plan instituted in 1928 is an example of how city planning and institutions have supported institutional racism.
“We are responsible for remediating the enduring legacy of inequities that continue to flow from what was a pretty horrific plan,” said Alder. “That lives with us today as we are the most geographically segregated city in the country. We cannot add our power to past prejudice even if we are well-intentioned.”
Dr. Burnette said the plan’s ability to create actual change will depend on people being willing to put in work.
“This happens from individuals having the will to do the heavy lifting and hard work,” said Dr. Burnette. “Everyone in that room has the will. The timing is perfect in the nation. Whatever the catalysts are, the timing is perfect in the nation to move forward.”
Cruz states his school district is already implementing programs to examine the differentiation for students of color when it comes to issues like dropout rates, college graduation rates and suspensions. Cruz said reflecting on issues for people of color in the city helps AISD students even after they leave their public education.
Dr. Burnette was named the sixth President and CEO of Huston-Tillotson University in April 2015. She became the first female president of the merged Huston-Tillotson University and only the second female president in the institution’s 140-year history.
Before coming to Huston-Tillotson, Burnette served as Vice President for Administration and Chief Financial officer and also Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer at Central State University, a historically black university in Wilberforce, Ohio.