A city agency in Austin, Texas invited employees to racially segregated “anti-racist” meetings where “white folks” were asked not to attend a meeting that was only for “people of color.”
A January email obtained by Fox News Digital reveals Austin’s Parks & Recreation Department’s equity and inclusion coordinator invited employees to attend “Antiracist Affinity Spaces,” consisting of two separate trainings segregated by race as part of an “Equity and Inclusion program.”
“For People of Color*: Once a month, PARD employees of color will meet up at various city sites,” the email says. “The first 1.5 hours will be for fostering dialogue and the last 30 minutes will be for networking. This monthly space will offer folks the opportunities to gather and connect with other PARD employees of color, share about our personal and professional experiences with racism, and learn about mentoring and job opportunities for professional development.”
That description is followed by an asterisk disclaimer explaining that the February 22nd meeting is only for “people of color.”
“To cultivate a brave and safe space for attendees, we kindly ask that you do not attend these spaces if you are not a Person of Color,” the email says.
The email goes on to explain what will take place at the meeting for “white people” on February 26th.
“Once a month, white PARD employees will meet up at various city sites. The first 1.5 hours will be for fostering dialogue and the last 30 minutes will be for networking,” the email says. “In this space, white folks will share about their ongoing learning around anti-racism, explore their role in disrupting racism in and outside of work, hold one another accountable in this work and actively practice being in solidarity with PARD employees of color and communities of color.”
No disclaimer was included for the “white people” meeting placing conditions on who should attend.
Fox News Digital was told by a source that “staff of all races are upset” by the email and several Austin citizens also expressed disgust over the concept of holding separate trainings for different races.
“It is terrible that the City is splitting up employees by race and telling White employees they cannot attend certain meetings,” Austin area attorney Adam Loewy told Fox News Digital. “That is racism and should be condemned – as it rightly would be if Black employees were excluded from meetings. I’m shocked this is happening.”
Dennis Farris, President of the Austin Police Retired Officers Association, told Fox News Digital that it “seems they missed a great opportunity to bring everyone together and instead what they are proposing is divisive at best and racist at worst.”
“With multiple issues with homeless living in the parks and recently a young man was attacked with a machete that has changed his life forever and this is what the parks department worries about,” Farris added, referring to a recent attack on a 19-year-old walking on a trail in Austin’s Auditorium Shores park.
Farris continued, “Plus it seems the equity and inclusion office isn’t for ‘white folks’, their words, and is more interested in pitting co-workers against each other. Could you imagine if you flipped the flyer and said people of color weren’t allowed at the meeting for white people what the reaction would be? This should be no different. It appears they are actively promoting discrimination against “white folks, again their words.”
Specifically segregated “Affinity Groups” have become increasingly popular as part of an overall DEI push from the progressive left in recent years and opponents have pushed to remove those kind of training from public institutions and city governments.
In Massachusetts in 2022, a school district was forced to back away from holding racially segregated “affinity groups” after a non-profit filed a lawsuit.
Some states, including Florida, have moved to ban DEI funding all together arguing that it promotes exclusion rather than inclusion.
In a statement to Fox News Digital, a spokesperson for the Austin Parks and Recreation Department said that an apology was issued over the email.
“Department leadership is aware of an email sent to the City’s Parks and Recreation Department staff regarding efforts to establish antiracist affinity groups,” the statement said. “The email was not vetted, did not reflect the Department’s values, and, within 24-hours, the Department issued a retraction email apologizing for the exclusion of employees in any space.”
“The Department remains committed to ensuring all employees benefit from collaboration and professional development that is inclusive of all staff. While the original email identified separate racial groups to encourage participants’ comfort and willingness to share personal experiences, the intent of the email/groups was not to be exclusionary, but rather to provide a supportive environment for sharing their lived experiences and identify ways to improve the Department’s relational culture.”
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