During the 2020 racial uprisings, the City of Austin was confronted with the reality that “liberal” Austinites had done little to make Austin an equitable city for all races. To fake–I mean, make amends, the City decided to paint two murals; one proclaimed “Black Austin Matters,” and the other stated “Black Artists Matter.” These murals were painted in response to a national trend of painting “Black Lives Matter” on major streets throughout the country. Sadly, those murals are generally insulting in Austin for two reasons: 1) most of historically Black Austin has been demolished due to the City’s pointed preference for rich White residents near downtown; and 2) almost no Black artists are meaningfully paid in artistic positions in Austin. While there are anomalies, anomalies are not trends. At some point, the populace should acknowledge that it is abusive to expect that survivors of racial abuse to extend grace to a city that has not changed in any meaningful way.
First and foremost, this sentiment existed before the attempted coup in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021. Countless Black and brown groups have protested meaningfully against displacement, school closures, power plant operations, and police brutality–all of which were ignored until enough White people moved to East Austin. The same mayor who went to Cabo during a pandemic is the same mayor who weaponized the City of Austin to take away a home from a Black resident. Many incidents were discussed on this site, and on the tours offered in 2019 and 2020. It is inauthentic for any political or private body to expect “unity” after thoroughly violating Black and brown people so egregiously that most of the population lives outside the city limits. No one asked to be a target for colonization, and the City and country need to make real amends before any significant unity can be achieved.
Next, too many people are under the mistaken impression that reputations are more important than the actions being taken. Greg Abbott initialized a state takeover of Austin Police Department to celebrate Christmas because he believes that the police brutality claims are being “exaggerated.” Ken Paxton was part of a robocall campaign urging “patriots” to march upon the Capitol in Washington, D.C.–after he had just sued to invalidate the presidential election in four states and whined about the loss of holiday money during a pandemic. Both of these cretins have blatantly ignored a) the ever-mutating xenophobia rampant throughout the entire state; and b) the fact that the pandemic has ravaged the Black and brown communities due to the high probability of residents being considered “essential” workers. None of that matters because the machismo reputations of the Governor of Texas and the Texas Attorney General matter more than human lives. Until that abusive mentality is addressed, there is no reason to believe that any of the atrocities that inspired the racial uprisings will be addressed.
Finally, it is a thoroughly denigrating power play to demand reconciliation before any meaningful change has been processed. Evictions are looming, joblessness has increased, and the City and state keep demanding mountains of paperwork for relief, as if tax incentives had not just been granted to the man who instigated a coup. Austin is swiftly becoming more vapid than gossip at a happy hour, and it has become crystal clear that the government cares more about a “good time” than an adaptive city that transforms itself and its residents. Luxury real estate and artisan restaurants do nothing about the working class, which still manages to be non-White, a truly amazing feat since most affordable housing is located away from any public transportation. Nothing about this city is progressive, and manically claiming to be “weird” is not the same thing as supporting all citizens regardless of race or class.
Since one of the city councilmembers actually led a group dedicated to “taking back Austin,” perhaps the city council should dedicate itself nonstop to relief efforts for the non-White populace that has been demeaned by self-righteous individuals who support the environment as long as the neighborhood is White. If companies cannot demonstrate that any of their leadership is non-White or that they locate in an area easily accessible by transit, they no longer deserve tax incentives. Also, if companies have already received tax incentives but not made a dent in unemployment or racial justice, then they deserve not only to no longer receive tax incentives, but to become ineligible for ten years. Instead of demanding “unity” like sycophants, the government on all levels needs to be doing nothing more than making amends for atrocious behavior in 2020. After all, the best thing about last year is that it will be really difficult to gaslight the populace when everyone finally saw the same thing.
**Image of “Black Austin Matters” taken by Jay Janners for the Austin-American Statesman, published on June 16, 2020. Image of “Black Artists Matter” taken by ATXN and published in Texas Monthly on July 16, 2020.