Sunday, April 5, 2009

Texas Relays instead of JT

Unfortunately, I think that song with JT and Madonna is crime against my eyes and ears (the eyes when I saw the video at the JT singalong) so I'm going to write about the Texas Relays instead

The Texas Relays have become a point of contention for our fair city, with the crime of Racism being thrown around by residents, visitors and news organizations alike. Obviously this event is associated with some serious issues and we all need to be able to talk about it to change things.

Personally, in the years I have lived in Austin I have avoided going downtown during Texas Relays for the same reason I've avoided downtown during the biker rallies. Both events have histories of violence and unpredictable, pumped-up crowds. I don't think that means that our guests who visit for these events are bad people, or that these types of things happen every year, but that doesn't ease worries about what might happen. Since I have never experienced what can happen during the relays, I asked Edmund to write about it and allow me to share his thoughts with all of you. I think he makes some important points about the relays and why it might be inappropriate to lay blame on businesses that don't feel comfortable being a part of it.

Read on...

I have to say the cries of racism on the part of Austin businesses makes me cringe. TX Relays are the only time I have had to run down an Austin street to avoid a stampeding crowd who themselves were running from tear gas. Now should that tear gas have been deployed? Probably not. Was race a factor when it was deployed? Probably.

TX Relays is also the only time I have had a friend pulled out of his car and savagely beat only to have his car destroyed by onlookers throwing police barricades upon it. Could this have happened during SXSW, Mardi Gras, Pecan Street, on any game day? Certainly. Did it? No.

I am a regular patron of the businesses on Red River and 6th and I regularly go down there during all the aforementioned events. However, something is different during relays. It is palpable. Is it fueled by race? Partially. But I dare say no more than the rivalry experienced by two white men wearing opposing t-shirts of opposing schools on a day when titles are on the line. What is different is the crowd. Not the color of their skin. But the fact that it is predominantly made up of underage athletes and their supporters hopped up on testosterone and the ignorance, bravado, and lack of foresight that accompanies youth. Not to mention the feeling of lack of consequence due to being in a foreign town.

Instead of going to see music or going to the bars. The main outlet is loitering in the streets. Hundreds of kids loitering in the streets with no purpose rarely amounts to good things. I can firmly attest to this growing up in the Bronx and it didn’t matter if it they were Irish or Puerto Rican. At least during Mardi Gras there is a focus albeit getting wasted and seeing boobage.

I have seen Emos bouncers forced to turn into deputies rescuing people from the street in front of their club who were being beaten and then dragging them into the club and locking the door to stop the angry mobs from getting at their victims. Emos allowed patrons to stay well past 2 as to allow their patrons to leave safely with clearer streets.

If Emos or any other business chooses not to open during Relays then the choice is theirs and I’m sure its not one come to lightly. The facts are many venues don’t make money, in fact the lose money due to staffing an empty club whilst the party happens on the streets in front of their club. Why waste the money, the staff’s time and the potential safety of staff and patrons.

Accusations of racism are a conveniently cute bandwagon to jump on. But there is far more to it that that. Racism exists. It will always. But it is not a catch-all and should not be used as one especially when its use clouds real issues that need to be addressed.

Me again, and I hope that discussion about Texas Relays and all the issues we face as city, a culture and as humans can help us all grow.


  1. i like what you have to say. i honestly have never had a problem being downtown durng relays or biker rally times. in fact i always make it a point to gather my pals during biker rally b/c i love the bikes and tattoos and people i see at that time. then again it could be b/c i am mexican woman. i suspect some that are white and/or older may not feel as i do and that is fine.
    i will say that i was a this sports bar during sxsw and these two white guys were upset ohio state lost. one of them threw a mini tantrum at the bar and knocked a drink and a few things over- the drink nearly spilled on my pal and i... yet i can say that if he were a minority, he probably would've had someone come over and tell him to calm down, etc. but since he adn his pal were white, they just gave him a quick glance before dismissing the incident as an upset devoted fan or whatever.

    now i am not one for pulling race card or for automatically labeling things as racial but i do agree that race will always play a part in society for better or worse. what we can at least do is try to understand the other person.

  2. also, i think that the authority figures that should be watching these kids should impose a curfew and if broken the kids should be punished. last time i checked, a criminal record for a young athlete may not get them where they want to be in the sports arena or other related field. (although our current sports stars don't serve as good examples)...

    i mean these kids are kids and should be off 6th if they are not of age to drink or have anyone to watch them, especially if they are out of towners...

    if they just would not act up, it would be fine for them to check out 6th street scene, ya know, check out shops, grab a pizza and head off to hotel...

    if they don't want and crap from media or shops/bars, then behave when out in public. if that were case then no one would get that uppity about those kids out and about.
    argh, i don't know....