On Thursday, July 29, 2010, the Austin city council took a vote that was a pivot point for race relations in Austin, Texas. Statistics show what folks know by talking to each other - Black people are leaving Austin quickly and moving to other cities. Many point out that it is because of the feeling that people of color don't belong and are not accepted by the majority. Housing in Austin continues to be almost 100% racially segregated. Social life is segregated by skin color with a few notable exceptions.
Some say the most disturbing difference is the way that police treat people of color compared to the way they treat folks West of the racial dividing line of IH-35.
City council sometimes boasts that it has given people of color a new buiding or a music festival to show that they care. But Black people are not leaving town because they do not have enough buildings or music festivals - they are leaving because of the disrespect they feel from other people. It's not about things, it's about people.
Last week the Austin city council showed that, as a body, they do not care, understand, or care to understand, that people of color continue to be brutalized and insulted by the Austin Police Department on a daily basis - with the worst cases ending in death. Did you know that Austin police kill about one person every year and every one is a person of color?
We were hoping that the disrespect that is obvious at the street level as people on Austin's East Side interact with the police, would not extend to the top levels of our city government but that hope was dashed last week. Touted as progressive and ready to move us into the future with grace, our current city council voted to move us back a generation in time "betraying" all of the people in our city, as Reverend Dixon claims on this video after the city council vote.
Please take the time to watch these videos. You will see Austin citizens who are young and old, White and Black and Brown, men and women from all parts of town, speaking with a powerful collective voice calling for justice. You will see the police union president speak in public to city council, something that almost never happens, as the lone voice asking council to disrespect the family and the police officer who had both agreed to settle the wrongful death suit related to the killing of Nathanial Sanders, Jr., by APD.
Here is part 1 of 3 (it's worth it yall):
Part 2 of 3 (the best is yet to come):
Part 3 of 3 (the vote is at the end, plus citizen reaction):
For an excellent media roundup, see The Night Council Blocked the Settlement by Michael Bey on the AustinPost.org. See local NAACP President Nelson Linder accuse council member Chris Riley of liking bicycles more than Black people here. The Statesman editorial on this vote doesn't mix words, and even the federal judge didn't take kindly to this historic vote.
Please stay tuned as this story is not even half over!