While Washington continues to drag its feet on passing H.R. 40 to study reparations, local governments – including the City of Austin – are taking the matter of reparations into their own hands.
On March 4, the Austin City Council unanimously approved a resolution “to create a sustainable economic model for 4 the benefit of Black Austinites to address systemic issues in the City’s policy decisions.”
Among those decisions is the directive “to conduct a study and provide a report outlining the economic value of the direct, indirect, intentional, and unintentional harm caused through economic, health, environmental, criminal injustice, and other racial disparities and declination of resources by the City to be developed through the partnership between The University of Texas at Austin LBJ School of Public Affairs and Huston-Tillotson University.”
The resolution is the outcome of a proposal by local rapper Nook Turner who appeared at a rally in Nov. 2020 to advocate for reparations, The Austin Bulldog reported. Turner then demanded the city pay a minimum initial sum of $10 million to Black Austinites as restitution for systemic racism and oppression.
“Our initial ten-year ask is $500 million. And then once the city manager lets us know how much they actually owe us then we can sit down in the next ten-year period and figure out how they gonna give us the rest of the money,” Turner said. “They need to give us what they owe us.”
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While grateful for the progress, activists are concerned how the city will accurately quantify the centuries of economic oppression wrought on Black Austinites. Some like Tiffany Washington, who claims to be the only Black farmer in Austin, still demanded cash reparations.
“I’m against item number 67 because it does not have a budget to pay us right now,” Washington said. “We have cultural centers, we have the Six Square, we have the Carver Museum, we have the African American Heritage Resource Center. There are so many resources here already. We need to be paid. And I’m asking that the City of Austin pays us.
The resolution was sponsored by the city council’s lone Black member Natasha Harper-Madison; and co-sponsored by Mayor Steve Adler and Council Members Greg Casar, Vanessa Fuentes, and Kathie Tovo.
While the resolution doesn’t mention reparations specifically, it does seek to address the wrongs levied against its Black citizens over the years, including those who were forced to relocate, had their homes taken by imminent domain, were victims of redlining, etc.
The city also desires to create a Black resource and cultural center, among other things to right past injustices. “I am proud our city is adding its voice to those cities across the country calling on Congress to develop and execute a national program of restitution for descendants of slaves in this country,” Mayor Adler said.
The Black Austin Coalition reminded the public that this was only “the first step – a price tag will be added to what the City owes us!”
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