Parks Department In Deep Blue City Forced to Apologize For Planning Segregated ‘Antiracist’ Monthly Meetups

The Parks and Recreation Department (PARD) in Austin, Texas, apologized to its employees after planning segregated “antiracist” monthly meetings, according to internal communications obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation on Tuesday.

Magaly Arredondo Lopez, PARD’s equity and inclusion coordinator who recently started in the position, sent out an email on Jan. 25 asking employees to attend separate gatherings each month, one “for people of color” and “for white people,” according to a copy of the message obtained by the DCNF. PARD Director Kimberly McNeeley later sent out an emailed apology, telling employees that the message was “inappropriate” and “is inconsistent with Department values.”

“Department leadership is aware of an email sent to the City’s Parks and Recreation Department staff regarding efforts to establish antiracist affinity groups,” PARD said in a statement to the DCNF. “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,” the statement continued.

All of the monthly meetings detailed in the initial email have been cancelled, the DCNF confirmed.

Local outlet KXAN first reported the internal communications regarding the planned segregated gatherings and PARD’s apology.

Several PARD employees expressed concern to KXAN under the condition of anonymity over the meetings described in Lopez’s email, which was titled “Healing from Racial Trauma: PARD Antiracist Affinity Spaces.”

“Growing up seeing the signs saying, ‘Whites Only’ [and] ‘No blacks,’ it was like…wow, it took me back,” one of the PARD employees told the outlet. “It says racial affinity… get together for racial healing, but how can that be done if all parties are not there?”

“How do you go out here and expect me to perform to my highest capabilities every day, day-in and day-out, when you guys are treating us like this, making us feel like we’re not all one?” another employee said.

Mary Lou Masters on January 30, 2024

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