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Wednesday, June 07, 2017

The Most Ridiculous Thing You've Ever Heard

South By Southwest SXSW, the annual music and tech event that brings 
$325.3 million (link) to the Austin, TX economy and serves to promote tourism to Austin has been asked to relocate to another state by two US senators until SB4, the anti-sanctuary cities bill that recently became law is repealed (link). SB4 requires law enforcement officers to act as immigration officials and to detain people they guess are undocumented immigrants, an immigration function, not a local law enforcement function.

Asking SXSW to relocate to another city is a tall order for a city whose identity is symbolically defined by this yearly festival born out of Austin's brilliant creative, hippie, laid-back spirit. SXSW just doesn't seem right anywhere else, it's an Austin thing. Would anybody go if SXSW were anywhere else but Austin? Rather doubtful. 

However, when Austin Mayor Steve Adler learned of this request he reacted with "that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard".  - A bit of overstatement to be sure. I'd expect the Mayor to have heard a lot of ridiculous things, like a special session to demand transgender kids' bathroom options are dictated by the state, or that schools cannot be financed unless they have vouchers forced upon them like the Baylor football team, or that the cost of living in Austin has chased out most of its interesting people.

When other states have lost business due to discriminatory laws, why should Texas be any different? There's nothing ridiculous about asking the coordinators of SXSW to hold the event in another state. SB4 is that hateful and that destructive. 

To Austin's credit, Austin has joined the anti-discriminatory lawsuit against SB4 along with Dallas and San Antonio. However, the response from Mayor Adler could and should have been less dismissive of the request. The implementation of SB4 will harm families, it will feed into the profiteering immigrant detention pipeline, and it will harm Texas' economy and growth including that of Austin. To ask the coordinators of SXSW to hold the event elsewhere is not ridiculous, even if it's unlikely to happen. To call it ridiculous dismisses a serious concern and shows a fear that the city and state could suffer the consequences of a racist law imposed by extremists in the Texas Legislature. The state rightfully should suffer those consequences in protest to a racial profiling law couched in a legal pretense of contrived importance.

If Austin truly is a radical city of social conscience, it will hold SXSW but few will attend - an outcome for which many Austinites would be grateful.

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