One year ago, from March 2 through 21, this city was gripped by acts of terror when Mark Anthony Conditt, who is white, left cardboard packages armed to explode in homes and yards.
At the end of it all, two people were killed and five injured. Although corporate media and law officials hesitated to call the acts terrorist or racist, Austin’s African-American and Latinx communities bore the brunt of Conditt’s aggression. The two people killed were Black.
The explosions most affected East Austin, which has historically been home to Austin’s Mexican and African-American communities and the center of the 1960s-1970s Black and Chicano liberation movements.
Today, with the gentrifying boom that has destroyed communities of color around the country, and indeed the world, people of color in East Austin are either forced to move out or are struggling hard to stay.
Never forget: Say their names
The first to die was Anthony Stephan House, 39, after picking up the package Conditt left on his front porch on March 2, 2018. Anthony, according to relatives and friends from his alma mater, Texas State University, was a family man and a loving father to his 8-year-old daughter. He was helping his daughter get ready for school before opening the package that killed him.
On March 12, two more bombs left 17-year-old Draylen Mason dead and another injured. Draylen brought the package into the kitchen where it then exploded, killing him and injuring his mother.
According to Facebook posts and the press, Draylen was a gifted student and bass player. He had been accepted into the selective Butler School of Music at the University of Texas at Austin. Students spoke of his warmth and generosity at a memorial a year later.
Also on March 12, a 75-year-old Mexican-American woman was harmed by potentially fatal wounds after handling a package. Esperanza Herrera lives 15 minutes from the Mason family with her 93-year-old mother, who was also at home when the bomb exploded.
On March 18, the fourth explosion slightly injured two white men as they rode bikes in a predominantly white area. That explosion was triggered by a tripwire attached to a For Sale sign.
Two days later, a fifth explosion occurred in a FedEx sorting facility and injured one worker.
Finally, Conditt was identified by law officials on March 21. He killed himself in his car with his own explosives.
Liberal Austin myth also explodes
Austin is often painted as ultra-liberal, as “other” than the rest of the state. Often called the “Berkeley” of Texas, it has become the “it” city, working hard to distance itself from racist, reactionary, rural Texas.
But when Conditt dropped his packages, not only did his bombs explode, but so too did the liberal façade of Austin. Like the rest of Texas, Austin produces haters and white supremacists.
The first myth to explode was that the serial bombings were not racist or terrorist. The Black and Brown communities in Austin felt otherwise. How can any other conclusion be made in this violent society, and especially in the context of a white supremacist presidency?
This country was founded on racism and terror. Austin itself is named after settler and colonizer Stephen F. Austin. Texas, like other parts of the Southwest, was criminally stolen from Mexico.
One of the most egregious things during the bombings was a “Wanted” poster, issued by the FBI before Conditt’s identification, which exhibited the pictures of the two Black victims. Outraged comments on Facebook pointed out that it made House and Mason look like the perpetrators.
Furthermore, police initially treated House as the criminal. They said the bomb might have been self-inflicted, and they went to his neighbors’ homes, implying that the explosion was the result of a drug deal gone bad!
Yet, as the media stated, “House and the slain teenager are relatives of prominent members of Austin’s African-American community.” “House was the stepson of Freddie Dixon, a former pastor at a historic black church in Austin,” according to the March 12, 2018, Washington Post. Austin NAACP president Nelson Linder said that House graciously maintained the organization’s website.
Austin spurs growth. And racists
Austin’s population growth is among the highest in the U.S., according to several government reports. A new forecast says the region’s population will swell by 2.6 percent this year.
More than 150 people move to Austin every day, many from California.
It behooves Austin’s ruling class to promote the view that Austin is “cool” or “weird.” It aims to attract more and more high-tech or Amazon-like industries that use a liberal façade to destroy the planet and exploit workers.
This growth has not just made the traffic on Interstate 35 a nightmare; it has made it a nightmare for Austin’s communities of color as well. But many white workers also find it hard to afford adequate housing.
Of Austin’s population growth of 50,000 people in 2019, more than 13,000 will be millennials, according to real estate advisory company Marcus & Millichap.
Most millennials have many reasons to oppose gentrification, racism, etc. No matter their income, they are aware that the Earth they have inherited is in crisis. Many will stand with the victims of Conditt’s bombings and help to smash the system that produced him.
Austin’s ruling class, just like Trump, knows that interest in socialism is about to explode. Their days are numbered.