race and space

Saturday in East Austin

Sam, the owner of Sam’s barbecue, has been an icon for decades. Black people who live in East Austin remember him, and he has been a staple in the restaurant industry where he sits. Well, unfortunately, people have decided that East Austin is for condos, and would look better with no Black people in it. Despite the decimation of the Black community, there are still many people in Austin who are frustrated at the vestiges of the Black community that was vibrant during my lifetime. Therefore, Sam has been offered $3.5 million to leave his restaurant so that more real estate can be built.

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When I heard that one of the few Black businesses remaining on East 12th Street was leaving, I decided to go for a meal. After all, there are several other places that I will never have the chance to enjoy again. Because mutton is the most highly desirable meat and runs out quickly, I went with a friend before noon. Without a car, there is one bus that goes to Sam’s and it comes infrequently on the weekend. All in all, it took us over an hour to get to a place that was 3 miles away from where we were, but would have been dangerous to walk to in the hottest part of the day.


It was worth the wait, and just like any other restaurant, I sat there with my friend, ate way too much, and whiled away the time in conversation and the environment. Other people showed up and got their food to go, but I can proudly say that I have enjoyed mutton, and indeed, the meat was tender enough to fall off the bone. I looked at all the pictures around, and felt like the atmosphere reminded me of what barbecue has always been: casual and made to be enjoyed by community.



Across the street was a barbershop, and because my hair had gotten out of control, I was pleased to refresh my preferred hairstyle. Fortunately, the shop was slow for the moment and I was able to go straight to the chair. My stylist was celebrating his birthday, and we talked about how the neighborhood had changed. He mentioned that he was attracted to Austin because of how people pulled together during a crisis, and I told him that I, too, had seen examples of this in my time in East Austin. It took me thirty minutes, I looked good, and I walked to the bus stop with my friend ready to record the next podcast.



The point of this is that despite real estate speculation and general bad reputations, Black neighborhoods have always been places where people simply live. Any riots or rallies that have ever happened were instigated by injustice. For people to believe that neighborhoods only have value based on White population, it is deeply insulting that so many people value displacing communities over the civil rights of human beings.

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