This image was produced by Tane Ward of Equilibro Norte to provoke thought and conversation about the racism that is embedded in Austin's contemporary mode of placemaking.
Staying true to its “weird” reputation, Austin, Texas is a place full of contradiction and complications. On the one hand, the Austin community is praised as one of the most environmentally conscious cities, not only in Texas, but in the United States (World Resources Institute 2004). It’s numerous city-programs—including the Water/Wastewater Department’s Dillo Dirt, Keep Austin Beautiful, Water Conservation, Austin Recycles, Energy Conservation, Public Works, Green Builders, and the Propane Program—have won state and national recognition, contributing to Austin’s international recognition as an environmental leader (Gunn 2004). It has also remained relatively strong, economically, throughout the post-2008 depression, ranking at the top of the list of fastest growing cities in the country in 2011 (Busch 2017). On the other hand, Austin is one of the most unequal, racially-segregated cities in the US. Austin’s black communities have been repeatedly displaced over the course of the city’s development (Tretter 2016), leading to a continuous loss of population share every decade since the 1920's (Busch 2017). The city also stands out in the location of poverty. Efforts to keep the downtown “clean” and “green” have inspired strong networks of community policing of poverty and homelessness, forcing much of the homeless population into the suburbs. In East Austin, where numerous neighborhoods are currently undergoing gentrification, the poverty level of black residents is regularly 2,000 times greater than other local whites (Busch 2017).
Ward, Tane. 2019. "Why We Are Here: Make Climate Action Anti-Racist," in Equity in Our Community, Climate Plan Revision. Austin, Texas: Equilibrio Norte.