If you haven’t visited our last blog, we’re sharing a new blog series interviewing Austin community members about their perspective on Austin’s tech scene and intersecting policies.
Both technology and policy affect everyone’s lived experiences and with rapid growth and gentrification, BIPOC communities are bearing the brunt of political consequences. This blog series tries to answer the question of “How might we uplift the voices of the communities of those most affected by Austin tech and policy decision
This week we share Stephanie Webb’s perspective .
Community Perspective: Stephanie Webb
Hey, there! Who are you and how do you identify?
My name is Stephanie Webb, I am a Black cishet femme (womxn) native to Austin, born at St. David’s at 11:52pm.
How engaged are you in current Austin policy and government?
I currently work with Austin Texas Walk Bike Roll (ATXWBR) and I was recently chosen to be an Equitable Transit-Oriented Development (ETOD) Community Connector. Additionally, I maintain DecipherCity.Org, which tracks mostly Austin history.
How do you value or use technology in your day to day and with work?
Currently, I use a smartphone and a desktop for research and communication. Although I have had the use of a tablet, I feel that those are used more to project the appearance of high-tech when people could use their smartphones to accomplish the same tasks with appropriate links.
It’s been shared that tech jobs are contributing to gentrification and pushing out Central Texas’ people of color. What changes do you think might help to mitigate these rapid changes within the Austin tech community and through city policy?
As a native Austinite, I grew up with a lot of people who entered into the tech field. Frequently, I noticed that most techies grew up surrounded by mostly white people, as well as BIPOCQ subordinates to mostly white people, giving the impression that BIPOCQ(Black/Indigenous/Person of Color/Queer) are only in existence to be subordinate to the needs of white people or perpetuate positive imagery. Consequently, most tech entities feel nothing when they price out, ridicule, and destroy BIPOCQ residents and our livelihoods for their own enjoyment. Though challenging, the tech community would need to build trust with BIPOCQ organizations not built on subordination — i.e. PAID, with equal authority and autonomy — and stop demanding incentives to destroy BIPOCQ communities. Likewise, the city needs to stop validating the assumption that tech = good, and not offer incentives to tech organizations that only have predominantly white executive suites. Michael Dell, Larry Ellison, and Elon Musk have had their way with this city to the detriment of so many former constituents, and we need fewer people aspiring to mimic their behavior.
What future do you imagine for the Austin community as a whole?
I believe that to keep Austin whole, there needs to be a lot more people than myself and other activists caring about the expulsion of the BIPOCQ population. I have yet to see that behavior pattern in the public and private sectors.
It’s February, which means it’s Black History Month and election season is in full swing for the primary elections. March brings warmer weather and the third year of the Covid-19 virus affecting our community. Do you have any thoughts you want to share on any of these subjects?
As a Black womxn, there is no such thing as Black history “month” because I’m Black everyday. As for elections, politicians have done nothing other than exploit the Black communities for actions they won’t honor, so many of us are wishing them well in their future endeavors. The rest of the year will bring more awareness that the well-off are using the pandemic as an excuse to regress into more extractive behavior, so I suspect the working class will continue to suffer.
Is there a way to connect with you digitally?
Everyone can find me twice a month at DecipherCity.Org.
Thank you for your perspective, Stephanie!