Equity Office Tries To Make Good On Year-Old Report On Institutional Racism

Jan 31, 2018

Austin’s Equity Office is considering how to make good on a report published last April that laid out more than 200 recommendations for how the city can combat institutional racism.

“We sent out the report to all of our city departments and requested that they actually review and read the report and  also to respond back to us,” Brion Oaks, the city’s equity officer, said.

In 2016, Mayor Steve Adler convened a group of educators, housing experts and community leaders. After working for six months, this "Task Force on Institutional Racism and Systemic Inequities" unveiled a 70-page report that – until now – we haven’t heard much about.

Oaks told Council members Tuesday that his office has been working to determine which recommendations are feasible, which are already being implemented and which are easiest to act on quickly. His office has calculated nearly a quarter of the task force’s recommendations were already implemented at the city level, and another quarter of the recommendations were already underway.

For example, one recommendation suggested the city have training on racial inequality. City staff already undergo such training, but Oaks said his office wants to build on that and has hired a consultant to help create an "equity training academy."

There are also entirely new recommendations the city may act on, like creating marketing campaigns around the benefits of a diverse city.

Something like, “We Are Austin," Oaks said, "a great place to live, work and play for Asian, black, Latino and American-Indians, showcasing cultural, spiritual and community assets.”

Tuesday’s conversation was just a briefing, so Council members took no action. But Adler said he hopes there will be money in a future budget to increase the capacity of the city’s Equity Office, which is only two years old.