Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sticker Shock in Austin

Sugar Mama's employee April Jensen with offensive sticker
These days the city of Austin, Texas is known for it's vibrant arts community which includes nationally recognized eclectic music and film scenes, highlighted by the SXSW Festival taking place this week at multiple venues, and the Austin Film Festival that kicks off October 29th.

It also happens to be the location of the main campus of the University of Texas, one of the largest colleges in the nation.

So employees and owners of several different small business in East Austin were shocked to find stickers with the message "Exclusively For White People" affixed to the front windows of their establishments when they came into work early Wednesday morning.

The stickers initially caused a lot of confusion as the city of Austin's official logo and colors were printed on them, right beneath the words "Maximum of 5 colored customers, colored BOH (back of house) staff accepted."  

Apparently someone walking by one of the businesses early Wednesday morning saw one of the stickers, took a picture of it and posted it on Facebook where it quickly circulated before the story was picked up by local media outlets and eventually garnered national media attention.

Austin Mayor Steve Adler quickly condemned the stickers as "appalling and offensive" and a city spokesman made clear the city had nothing to do with them.

Police are investigating but the mindset that would take the time to produce such a sticker and attach it to local businesses is unfortunately familiar to us in this country.

The offensive stickers were placed on a cupcake shop called Sugar Mama's (see picture above), a restaurant a block away, and a bike shop among other businesses that were targeted.

Artist Stromae performs live at Stubb's on day two of SXSW 2015
Austin is a diverse and progressive community with a deserved reputation as an intellectual hub, so a bunch of stickers aren't going change the character of the community and its residents.

Nor will it overshadow the SXSW Festival which features rap, punk, country, rock, alternative, metal, and soul artists that span the spectrum of musical acts and draw people from all over the nation and around the world.

A sticker is not going to change what Austin has become.

And the message printed on it, plus the fact that the braniac who put them up placed them on several businesses that are owned by minorities, pretty much tells you all you need to know about who did this:

A coward steeped in ignorance and consumed by hate; that's not what Austin is about.

It's not what America is about either, but it reminds us what lurks in the shadows.

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