Racist deeds existed in East Austin too

“Don’t think that it’s a white-only neighborhood,” she said. “Because it’s not. It hasn’t been for a long time.”

That’s not a sentence you’d expect to come from somebody an east side neighborhood activist.  The pattern is generally the opposite: a neighborhood that for generations was almost exclusively black or Latino is becoming increasingly Anglo.

But only two decades after the city of Austin designated the area east of East Ave (what has since become I-35) as the “Negro District,” a developer built a subdivision that was off-limits to “persons other than strict white Caucasian race.”

That was an interesting piece of history that came out of a routine permit request before the Planning Commission the other week. If you happen to know about similar cases of white neighborhoods built in the eastern crescent during the Jim Crow days, I’d love to learn more. Here is the property in the Marlo Heights neighborhood, which is still very sparsely populated:

Screen Shot 2018-06-25 at 8.34.44 AM

There was a small-scale clash between Angela De Hoyos Hart, an outspoken pro-housing/urbanist, and Karen McGraw, the most doctrinaire supporter of single-family homes.

McGraw issued a defense of deed restrictions, acknowledging that many were racially motivated but that “there were many other reasons for deed restrictions and many of them are still valid.”

Referencing the racist clauses, McGraw said, “I don’t think any of us would support that –”

“Agree to disagree,” interjected Hart.

“Whatever, good lord,” whispered McGraw in a comment that was likely caught by a colleague’s microphone.

To me, one of the central ironies was that in proving that her neighborhood was not racist, one of the neighborhood activists pointed out that it was a multi-racial coalition that had sued to get a mobile home removed from a nearby property. Classism is a helluva antidote to racism.

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