A City Divided
By Robyn Yeh
“Make LOVE Not War” Graffiti at The Hope Gallery.
In the early 1900s, the US Supreme Court passed a series of policies that inhibited zoning minorities to certain areas. The South responded by creating new policies that enforced racism. In 1928, a “Negro District,” where schools and public services were more readily available for African-American citizens was created. Decisions made last century, like those policies written across the southern states, continue to influence socioeconomic status today.
A view of West Austin from The Hope Gallery.
At the age of fifteen, I was working at a family friend’s bakery and getting paid under the table. When I was eighteen, a fellow employee asked me if I would consider marrying him. He asked if I would agree to do it so he could finally get his papers. I don’t know the definition of liberty anymore.
“All political power is inherent in the people and all free governments are founded on their authority and instituted for their benefit.”
As I grew up, I felt myself becoming jaded, more cynical, from the lack of humanity that seems so pervasive in society.
The week that SXSW began, I decided to take a walk around downtown Austin. Everywhere I turned, there was some kind of quintessential Austin landmark. On every street, there was a homeless person, or more than one, seeking someplace dry. My grandfather, who is black, told me a story the last time I went home to visit. Prior to the Black Lives Matter movement, he was at a bar with his friend, who was white and well under the influence. As the police officer approached, my grandfather told his friend to behave himself. My grandfather was asked for his identification. He obeyed, and just as the officer complimented my grandfather’s concealed handgun license, his friend began making snide, disrespectful comments towards the officer. He continued to act in this manner, which resulted in him spending the rest of his night in jail.
Advertisement for “Mr. Robot.” In big lettering, the words: “Our democracy has been hacked.”
In the early 1900s, 1-35 unofficially segregated Austin. The divide within the city is the product of racism and ideas about social class at the time. By 2009, America said it was ready for a black president.
“Need $$ for weed.”
The man sitting under an umbrella bid me good evening.
A man, asleep, on a bench in downtown Austin.
I visited schools in the Austin neighborhood that has been most densely populated by minorities historically. I wanted to see how the government has failed to provide minorities opportunities for success through education, by looking at the infrastructure of this neighborhood, and the community within. Shoes strung up on a power line were one of the first things I saw upon arriving.
“Extend-A-Care Kids After School Program”
An empty beer can lying on school premises.
Next to the elementary school, there was a cancer treatment center. On the adjacent fence, a sign cautioned passerby to be wary of the “high-radiation area.”
A couch, abandoned curbside.
A silent “NO” engraved into the rusted handle of a fence.
After visiting Campbell Elementary School, I wanted to visit a private school in West Austin. The surrounding neighborhood consisted of houses previously lived in by prominent members of society, and law firms.
A sign in front of The Pease School.
The Khabele School in Austin is an International Baccalaureate World School offering a Diploma Programme. Tuition for the youngest students to routinely attend classes for half a day runs around $9,000.00.