Someone is posting ‘exclusively for white people’ stickers in Austin
As SXSW has ballooned from a run of the mill industry conference to a many-headed hydra of corporate sensory overload, people have begun to have some serious conversations about the effect the festival and gentrification in general are having on the diverse city of Austin — particularly its rapidly gentrifying East Side. Now, some genius of intersectionality has advanced that convo lightyears by putting up some “whites only” stickers on businesses around town.
According to the Austin Chronicle, a handful of East Side businesses were targeted for stickering, including Rare Trends (a boutique that sells quirky boho-chic clothing), Windmill Bicycles, purveyor of fixies, and Sugar Mama’s, a vegan-friendly cupcake bakery. Why someone would target those beacons of diversity, I have no clue. The stickers contained a copy of the city’s official seal and claimed to come from something called the “Contemporary Partition and Restoration Program.”
The mayor’s office was not amused. They sent out a statement:
Between midnight and 7 a.m. today, a number of local businesses in East Austin were defaced with a racially offensive sticker.
The stickers included disparaging remarks toward persons of color. They also included the unauthorized use of the City logo and claimed City of Austin sponsorship. The stickers were neither produced nor knowingly displayed by the businesses and were removed by their employees when discovered this morning.
Austin Police Department and Public Assembly Code Enforcement (PACE) Teams have been made aware of the stickers. The City is closely monitoring local businesses for additional instances of defacement and will take appropriate action should further instances arise.
Mayor Steve Adler condemned the stickers.
“This is an appalling and offensive display of ignorance in our city. Austin condemns this type of hurtful behavior. Our city is a place where respect for all people is a part of our spirit and soul. We will keep it that way,” Adler said.
City Manager Marc Ott added the stickers don’t represent the City of Austin.
“This is an affront to who we are as a City and who we are as a community. This type of cowardly and hateful act will not be tolerated in this city,” Ott said.
Now, these stickers are far from the most nuanced critique I’ve seen in my time. It’s myopic to blame your friendly local vegan cupcake baker when gentrification is a systemic, national problem supported at every level by government and developers. And making it about racism pure and simple is lazy shorthand for the complicated class issues involved. And, oopsies, some of the businesses are owned by people of color.
On the other hand, it’s pretty obvious that these stickers were meant as an anti-gentrification, anti-racism protest, and for the mayor’s office to claim not to get that is a willfully ignorant side stepping of the very real issues the intrepid Occupy rejects are trying, however hamfistedly, to bring to people’s attention.
And it’s certainly an issue. Just last month, city officials said it was “not the city’s concern” after they allowed a crooked landlord to demolish a mom and pop piñata store to create parking for a SXSW tech bro party, with no notice and with all of the owners’ property still inside. Where was the mayor’s outrage when that yuppie scum compared his Mexican tenants to cockroaches and implied that they were selling drugs?
TL;DR: these stickers are stupid but at least they got people talking, and the mayor is a big fat hypocrite.
Happy South By!