URBANA – On Monday night, the Urbana City Council is scheduled to discuss a resolution recognizing the city’s history of structural racism and pledging a commitment to racial equity.
The resolution outlines some of the main points of racism’s history in Urbana — from slavery in the early 19th century, to a large Ku Klux Klan chapter in the 1920s, to systematic housing discrimination after World War Two.
Sponsor Shirese Hursey (D-Ward 3) is the daughter of the late Paul Hursey,Sr., who became Urbana’s first Black alderman when he was elected to the city council in 1964. She says her resolution was inspired by a similar resolution passed by the Evanston City Council in 2019.
“We [African-Americans] were just as integral in the development and building of Urbana as anybody else, and we’re still not treated fairly,” said Hursey. “And I just want to make it plain.”
The resolution states that “The City hereby rejects the institutionalized legacy of racism and white supremacy that is our history and afflicts our community today”. It pledges that the city of Urbana will use “all methods and methodologies at our disposal” in the pursuit of racial equity in the future. The resolution does not mandate any specific actions, but says “the City will seek to ensure that there is harmony between equal and fair processes and equitable results”.
Mayor Diane Marlin supports the resolution, and says the city is already taking steps to eliminate structural racism. She notes the city’s effort to end racial disparities in police traffic stops, with introduction this year of a new selective traffic enforcement program.
“And we’re hopeful that we’ll once and for all, be able to eliminate these racial disparities,” said Marlin. “But you’ve gotta be able to, instead of rearranging furniture in the house, you gotta be willing to remodel the house.”
Marlin says the resolution could also play a role this year as the Urbana City Council works on revising the city’s comprehensive plan.
The Urbana City Council Committee-of-the-Whole meeting begins Monday, February 1 at 7 PM, via Zoom and on the Urbana Public Television channel.
If council members endorse the resolution at that meeting, a final city council vote could come as soon as February 8.