Building a Community that is Practicing Anti-Racism

Alison Raffalovich Article, Front Porch Flyer

By Koreena Malone, Chair, MNA Engagement and Inclusion Committee, from the February 2021 Front Porch Flyer 

Part I – Background, how did we get here?

As a Community Organizer, in order to develop a strategy for action, you have to identify the critical issues and determine the causes or correlations to that issue. When evaluating Mueller’s overt and covert racial discrimination history, I soon realized the work to change the culture of Mueller to develop an anti-racist neighborhood was going to have to start from the top. 

Mueller isn’t unlike any other neighborhood void of racial tension or a history of systemic or institutional racism. NPR’s article (bit.ly/2015mueller) highlighted the neighborhood’s response to a racial incident that took place in 2015. “The incidents convinced some Mueller residents that they needed to open a frank dialogue about race in their community. Two neighborhood meetings have followed. NPR was invited to the latest one, in early December.”

After moving to Mueller in August of 2019, I quickly started having one-on-ones. Often, during those conversations, the meetings from 2015 were brought up and reflected as a symbol of the work that has taken place in our neighborhood. This made it difficult for me to create a space to either offer new opportunities to talk more about racism or even create actions. Talking about racism has not been destigmatized or normalized, so having those conversations were crucial to the ongoing work.

Please understand that conversations lead to relationships, but you can’t simply change racism and the many facets it has seeped into with just that action. The dialogue between neighbors is helpful, but if all we do is talk, we have missed the mark and opportunity for growth. 

After all the conversations and reviewing Mueller’s and Austin’s history I wasn’t even sure if Mueller residents were ready to check our racist history or current policies. If our call to action to an overt racist social media post in 2015 was two meetings, we had a lot of work to do.

Gradually, I started witnessing a shift in both the MNA’s leadership and from my neighbors. I began to see a collective awakening around anti-racism. It wasn’t hard to ignore as the world was walking through this same journey. 

A series of events took place in America and in Austin. The death of George Floyd was hard to witness and for white people, meny seemed to finally understand the fear that black people live everyday. 

In Austin, the death of Michael Ramos (another unarmed bi-racial man) and injuries to Brad Levi Ayal and Justin Howell by the Austin Police Department during the Black Lives Matter protest were on full display.

There was no denying the racial inequities that we were seeing from COVID-19 and police brutality in our front yard. There was no place to cry NIMBY in America, or for that matter, Austin, Texas.

So, what did we do as neighbors? On, June 6th, 2020, the Mueller Neighborhood hosted a #BLM march, and on June 8th, 2020, MNA issued a #blacklivesmatter statement (bit.ly/muellerblm).

Did either of these actions really create a systemic change? Well, no they did not.

Neither of these actions provided a space to discuss as neighbors and leaders what it really means to stand in solidarity with all those who are fighting to end systemic and racial injustice or to push (dare I say, shove) us as a neighborhood to a true commitment to unlearn and relearn about systemic racism. We remained a neighborhood with a history of unchecked racisms.

What was it going to take for our neighborhood to create that change? 

This is the first article of the anti-racism series, please stay tuned to learn what we are doing to organize and change our neighborhood. If you want to be a part of this movement, please contact, Koreena Malone, [email protected] or [email protected]