My name is Ms. Koreena Malone. I’ve lived in the Mueller neighborhood since August of 2019 with my three children and two cats. Earlier this year I was elected by the Steering Committee as the Chair of the Neighborhood Engagement and Inclusion Committee. I didn’t imagine my very first engagement with our neighborhood at large to be a statement about institutional racism and police brutality.
MNA leadership and residents stand in solidarity with our neighbors and all those who are fighting to end systemic and racial injustice. We stand against police brutality that has taken the lives of local residents like Michael Ramos, Morgan Ranking, David Joseph, Sophia King, Nathaniel Sanders, Byron Carter, Jr., Daniel Rocha, Kevin Brown, and too many others around this nation; people like George Floyd, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor.
We stand with you when you exercise the fundamental right to protest. We know that the voices of many who are asking to be heard will not be drowned out by the few who take advantage to discredit your actions during this time, and as we’ve seen from the events of this past weekend, the most violent abuse and backlash from our police department will be suffered by black people and people of color. Brad Levi Ayala (https://www.gofundme.com/f/brad-levi-ayala) and Justin Howell are the kids in the hospital right now (https://www.gofundme.com/f/health-justice-and-recovery-for-justin-howell).
Our hearts break as we hear and see story after story about black people dying due to police brutality. #BlackLivesMatter is neither political nor governmental. There is no government or political party that has yet to dismantle institutional racism. We know that systemic racism disproportionately affects Black and Brown people and it is not up to them to fix it. White society must actively work to dismantle white supremacy, in solidarity with and in support of the efforts of people of color.
As an Asian and White cis female, I carry a lot of privilege into spaces that my Black children don’t. I have weekly conversations with my children about what it means to be Black in America and living in Mueller. My children still don’t quite understand or grasp the repercussions if a neighbor calls the police and they are stopped.
We have conversations about how they may be the Black male or female that our White neighbors see walking, riding their bike, sitting, swimming, or socializing, and white neighbors may call the police because to them, my children look “suspicious.”
We typically see it playout like this: “African American, suspicious, came to my back alley. I called the police.” This is quoted from the KUT article about residents in Mueller from 2015: A Texas Community Takes On Racial Tensions Once Hidden Under The Surface. How many Black parents have chosen not to live in Mueller for this primary reason?
Being stopped by the police and treated in a way that threatens my life isn’t something I’ve typically experienced and this isn’t the reality that many Mueller residents will ever understand. Crime is real and should be reported, but how we as a society react to it isn’t just.
White people don’t often ask, “Do we need armed people to show up and resolve this issue?” They don’t understand the gravity of the circumstances that could take place when the Austin Police Department (APD) is called on people of color.
If we want to work to dismantle an oppressive system that affects our Black and Brown neighbors every day, we need White people to step up. Doing that work requires that we move from the confines of our homes to spaces that will be filled with uncertainty and unrest. This means we give each other permission to stop thinking we need to be perfect and stop worrying that we will get it wrong and should therefore disengage. We need to be open and willing to enter into hard conversations about race, knowing we will get things wrong, but we are willing to learn.
Our call to action for now:
• Understand how the 1928 City Plan (How East Austin Became a Negro District) created a structure to continue to deprive Black and other non-White people from basic needs in our own neighborhood. We need to think of ways that we can work with our neighborhood’s master developer, Catellus, to make Mueller more accessible and appealing to black and brown families.
• Learn how much money is allocated to community policing (APD) and start asking, “Is there another way?”
• Ask how can black people and people of color be lifted out of poverty through investment by the city.
• Continue to read books that can help educate about race, like White Fragility, So You Want to Talk About Race and Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race.
• Commit to unlearn, and relearn, about systemic racism and how it affects us all, and deeply impacts many.
• Stop censoring or omitting issues related to race and institutional racism or treating them as political and/or party-affiliated issues.
Our neighborhood is full of so many people who want to support people of color and this fight for justice. This means we must stop looking away and being inconvenienced by talking about race, and start leaning into the hard realities of our neighborhood and identifying the steps needed to make it safe and beneficial for all people who live here.
Stay safe and take care of each other. I look forward to hearing from you and continuing the conversation.
Neighborhood Engagement and Inclusion Committee [email protected].com