Posted on March 9, 2021

City Council Apologizes for Austin’s Systemic Racism

Andrew Weber, KUT, March 4, 2021

The Austin City Council has formally apologized for its role in perpetuating racist policies that contributed to historical equity, health and wealth gaps that persist for Black Austinites.

A resolution, which passed unanimously Thursday, also directs the city to quantify the impact of systemic racism in real dollars and invest in an effort to build a Black “embassy” in East Austin, which would serve as a resource center for Black residents.

Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison, who led the effort on council to pass the resolution, said the measure is symbolic but it’s also an important step in addressing the city’s racist past. Shortly before the vote, Harper-Madison said she hopes the resolution will more tangibly address what she called a “chasm of inequality, of inequity” between Black and White Austinites.

“I want to make sure that we don’t just settle for words, that we demand actions,” she said. “Justice demands actions.”

The resolution acknowledges Austin’s failures throughout history, highlighting the city’s role in propagating slavery in its earliest days; its support of urban renewal and development efforts that displaced Black communities throughout the 20th century; and its present-day struggles to address disparities in health and wealth impacting Austin’s Black community.


Nook Turner, a rapper and member of the Black Austin Coalition, ran point on the community-led effort to get the resolution to the dais at City Hall. {snip}

Turner said he hopes the resolution leads to fundamental change within his neighborhood in East Austin — a historically Black neighborhood where the Black population has been decimated because of urban renewal and gentrification in recent decades.

He said the resolution’s plan for an embassy — a city-backed center that would aim to provide health resources, foster growth and creation of Black-owned businesses and serve as a cultural hub in East Austin — will go a long way toward addressing and reversing long-standing inequalities.