5 Reasons Why Blacks Should Move to Austin

Over the last several weeks, I have attended a few forums for Austin mayoral candidates: Sheryl Cole, Mike Martinez, and Steve Adler. Each of the candidates emphasized the importance of diversity and inclusion. However, I am still bothered by the fact that our proud city experiences collective dissonance between how we think of ourselves and how others perceive Austin.

Many of the candidates speak about Austin as creative, economically robust, progressive, and one of the emerging international, cool cities. We have an energetic live music scene, thriving outdoor recreation community, booming technology and pharmaceutical economy, and favor foodie experimentalists. As a friend once said, “Austin is the bomb dot com.”

I would like to see more African Americans come live in Austin to reverse the tidal forces leading to our exodus from the fast-growing city. Austinites have seen dramatic increases in most racial demographics except when it comes to African Americans. Although Austin has heavy lifting to do, our success cannot be accomplished through good intentions, caring hearts, and friendly smiles only. Austin is the tenth most income segregated city along with San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Denver, Memphis, and Washington, DC. And, let’s be clear, income segregation is closely related to race and the gap between the rich and poor.

As with many southern urban cities, the legacy of Jim Crow, overgrown gentrification, and segregation persist in very real ways. One of the first steps to reversing the tide would be to look at cities who seem to succeed despite our country’s legacy of discrimination. Portland, Sacramento, Jacksonville, and Minneapolis are among the cities that experience the least amount of income segregation. Maybe they can offer examples for reducing income disparity.

If more African Americans relocate or move back to Austin, there must be a few reasons to come to the violet crown other than keeping me company. The list is not exhaustive, but these might provide a good start.

  1. It’s Better than New Hampshire — Although New Hampshire is a fine place to live for a number of people, if you are an African American who arrived there or any other remote location for a new job, education, or other motivation, chances are that you’ve done your 2 to 5 years. It’s time to go. As a new Austinite, you would find far more activities, people, and a greater likelihood to see a Jay Z or Audra McDonald concert. You would be able to maintain your proclivity for outdoor activities including canoeing, camping, hiking, and biking without the fear of getting lost in the snow.
  2. Blipsters Live Here, Too — For those seeking a nonjudgmental atmosphere receptive to indie music, progressive thinking, and people who appreciate your love for Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer, Black hipsters can find their new home in Austin. Instead of being the only person of color in the crowd, Austin is an attractive alternative with warm temperatures, a well-established musician community with medical benefits for the uninsured and low-income, and plenty of work.
  3. Job Market — According to Forbes, Austin topped the list of best cities for job growth. Opportunities abound in Austin. However, one of the biggest obstacles is the perception that Black people won’t relocate to Austin and racism is too big of a problem here. Firstly, let’s not pretend racism isn’t a big problem everywhere. I also like to remind people that there are loads of African Americans looking for opportunities to leave home, start anew, and create a life in our vibrant city. Atlanta, Memphis, Richmond, and Houston are saturated with large numbers of African Americans. I am certain that Black people would find a mid-sized, urban city with low crime, good schools, and an abundance of jobs to be an enticing place to live. You may want to network with a group of innovative, brilliant, and creative Black professionals who are fearless in the face of a challenge.
  4. Good Place to Raise Kids — Austin is ranked the 15th safest city in America. I like the sense of safety and it helped my transition to Austin. High crime can act as a deterrent to a higher quality of life. I prefer living a life where protecting my loved ones from or responding to crime incidents is not a primary focus. Many people also prefer the amenities that come with living in an urban community compared to living out in the sticks of New Hampshire. Parents interested in ensuring their children receive a quality education would find many options available to them. Many opportunities are available to expose children to a variety of cultural experiences, as well. Family friendly events, parks, recreational activities, arts, and music are intentionally infused into city life. There are also several Black and culturally diverse faiths with deep roots in the African American community.
  5. Racism Revealed — In recent years, an increasing number of people acknowledge and appreciate the struggles many Black Austinites continue to have when dealing with disparities in education, income, and quality of life. Many want to and are actively making changes so their talk matches their walk. As the city grows in size, they see that change is here to stay and continues to manifest in many aspects of everyday life. They share ideals that help to understand that our progress as a city cannot be realized unless we are willing and able to build an inclusive society prepared to be courageous. Too many years have been spent on convincing people that racism is alive and well. Being a passive liberal minded person is insufficient when racism flourishes and hardships persist for those from different racial, political, economic, religious, and other cultural backgrounds. Being well-intentioned and good-natured often falls short of making a difference. Many are prepared to create change to see that more people are allowed to succeed and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

I know. Austin has its challenges. It is nowhere close to perfect. However, many African Americans continue to live and thrive here. For the moment, let’s postpone focusing on the problems in search for what makes you succeed in Austin or other cities like it.

Share with us what helps you be successful?


Originally published at jelaniaustin.com on June 17, 2014.