Hello! My name is Denise Perez and I am a senior at UT majoring in psychology and minoring in social work. I was born and raised in Houston, and am a first-generation Mexican-American. Growing up I lived in a low socio-economic neighborhood and my high school was approximately 60% Latino and 40% African-American. We did not have many resources available to us and only a tiny percent of us went off to 4 year institutions. Where I am from, it is hard to break the cycle of poverty and beat the odds held against you. Thanks to my mother who instilled education as my number one priority I was able to be the first in my family to attend a prestigious 4 year university. After taking Dr. Gilbert for a different class last semester, I found my passion which is working with minority youth and communities, especially in education. I want to be able to help with the achievement gap and provide resources for my community back home, non-profit organizations. I want to help the youth with similar backgrounds as myself, inspiring them to attend post-secondary institutions. Part of the reason why my community back home lacks resources is because of modern segregation and institutionalized racism. With all of this in mind, I felt I had to take this course in order to learn more hands-on about the social issues taking place in local communities and what I can do to fix the issue.
When interviewing people about their views or opinions of East Austin, their perceptions bothered me. Most people perceive this part of town as a "dangerous", "crime-stricken," community where most African-American and Latinos reside. What these people don't know however, is that Anglos in 1928 created a city land ordinance to keep African-Americans on the east side and they called this part of town the "Negro District." It seems that not much has changed. People are still associating the east side of Austin as the place where "blacks and Mexicans" reside. I live on riverside and honestly I feel much safer here than West Campus. Here, I don't have to worry about being a victim of hate crimes such as the bleach balloon incidents that happened on West Campus, and I also can walk in my apartment complex and not be worried about being sexually assaulted as many female UT students have experienced this on West Campus. My point is that just because there is a heavy influx of minorities in a certain area, does not mean you are in more danger than in an area with just Anglos. Crime can happen anywhere and anyone regardless of their race, gender, or class is capable of doing crimes. I hope that one day East Austin will not be associated with just negative connotations. East Austin is infused with many different cultures and traditions that I hope never disappear because of the heavy gentrification it is experiencing.