Modern displacements : urban injustice affecting working class communities of color in East Austin



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In this report I analyze both historical and contemporary urban planning policies enacted by the City of Austin, TX, through which I establish patterns of structural inequality affecting working class communities of color residing in East Austin. I examine early 20th-century urban beautification initiatives, along with the Progressive era segregationist project of the modern city. Austin city planners solidified segregation along racial lines with the 1928 Master Plan, which mandated the systematic displacement and relocation of African American and Mexican American communities to Austin’s Eastside, along with all “objectionable industries.” Today, East Austin working class communities of color continue to experience unequal burdens of environmentally hazardous industry in their neighborhoods. I examine initiatives implemented by the local grassroots environmental justice organization PODER and their fight for the health and safety of East Austin residents of color in combination with their protest against gentrifying urban planning policies and practices. Through an analysis of the PODER Young Scholars for Justice documentary, Gentrification: An Eastside Story, I look at the ways in which gentrification has changed the East Austin urban cultural landscape. This report aims to shed light upon spatial and racial social geographies that have contributed to the nearly century long battle East Austin residents have waged against discriminatory urban planning policies resulting in educational segregation, environmentally racist industrial zoning, and contemporary displacement of working class communities of color for city profit.