For the people who love negative Texas stereotypes, here’s an article that evens the playing field.
The district I basically grew up in (3rd grade through graduation) is considered one of the most ethnically diverse districts in the US. And it’s in Texas. Yes, Texas.
I get tired of telling people that most Texans may be conservative, but that doesn’t mean all are ignorant or intolerant. I may not vote the way the rest of the state does, but that doesn’t mean I feel like an outcast or feel as if my brain is collapsing because of a lack of intellectual stimulation.
The media loves one narrative. It’s easier to write about the George Bush type of Texas. It’s easier to write about the culturally conservative type of Texas. It’s easier to write about Tea Party Texas. It’s not easy to write about other things.
Texas is a state with millions of people, but we’re all supposed to be obese with heavy accents and little knowledge. I stopped counting how many times people told me “You’re from Texas? But you’re not big and you don’t have an accent (which is code for you sound intelligent; God forbid you’re intelligent and have a Southern accent. To the rest of the world, those two items are mutually exclusive unless you’re Bill Clinton).”
People don’t want to hear, and the media does not want to report, about a place in Texas where immigrants move because it’s welcoming and respectful. Quite frankly, in the five years I was in NYC I heard more ignorant things come out of people’s mouths pertaining to another’s race, culture, religion, ethnicity, etc…than I ever did in Texas. One of my biggest frustrations in NY was that too many NYers thought they were cosmopolitan because they lived in a cosmopolitan city.
Let’s clarify things a little bit: a person is not cosmopolitan when he/she lives in a segregated neighborhood, works in a segregated field (like I did in education), and only brushes shoulders with someone from a different background when he/she is pushing onto the train during rush hour.
And, thanks to astronomical housing costs, NYC is the third most segregated school system in the US. To be fair, Dallas is second and Houston, my hometown, is fifth. It’s why I’m all the more thankful that my parents happened upon the diverse school system that they did. I really don’t think they were searching for it, but I knew even while living there that it was something special.
I keep telling people that NYC was the most segregated experience of my life (this is inclusive of my time here in Venezuela; in NYC I lived in an all-black neighborhood; taught at an all black school in another neighborhood; attended an all black Catholic church; switched to an all white Catholic church that was in an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood; and then switched to an all black Baptist church. If I was in a particular neighborhood, I was around a particular race. There was little to no racial mixing. Anyone who rides the subway from end to end can see that).
Even my “diverse” college couldn’t beat my high school’s diversity. Yet who wants to believe that? It’s easier to continue to have the South, and the Deep South at that, being the scapegoat for all of the country’s racial and social anxieties and problems.
Who wants to imagine a South where people actually get along? Never mind the fact that the North has seen more than its fair share of race riots once blacks started heading there during The Great Migration. The Red Summer of 1919? Look it up and then say race issues are only in one region of the US.
My mind has grown not because the South stymied my intellectual curiosity, but because it gave me a foundation upon which to stand. I always say I’ll move back to the South, and to my old neighborhood, because even though I’ve traveled the world I haven’t seen anything like what I saw at home.
High school graduation parties were going from Vietnamese, to Filipino, to Ghanaian, to Christian Nigerian, to Muslim Nigerian households (and there was a difference between visiting a Christian Nigerian and Muslim Nigerian’s home because I made sure to cover up more when I went to my Muslim friend’s home).
My friends and I have all left Texas, but we talk at least once a year about wanting to move back to our old stomping grounds when or if we decide to have kids.
No matter where a person lives/grows up I strongly believe it is important to leave your region and live somewhere else even if it’s only for a year. Traveling and living away from home expands one’s horizons. It helps you to separate the wheat from the chaff in your own character. You learn to hold onto your true morals and beliefs while releasing those thoughts you only believed in simply because everyone else around you did too.
Living away from home for a year humbles you when you’re in situations you never thought you’d be in and reacted in ways you never thought you would.
It’s heartbreaking every time I move (I cried almost every school holiday when I had to leave Texas for North Carolina; I cried when leaving North Carolina for NYC; and I bawled when leaving NYC for Venezuela), but it’s necessary for the stage I’m in in my life.
So, I close with this:
My white, Republican neighbor once talked about the importance of increasing teachers of colors’ numbers to serve as role models because everyone needs to see someone who looks like him/her in a position of power.
For me, home is my house and that neighbor’s house. Home is a Southeast Asian grocery store, a Catholic church where masses are held in three languages, and a West African hair braiding shop. It’s blonde neighbors with skateboards, Spanish all around me, and comfort in the midst of it all.
And all of this is in the South. Better yet, it’s in horse riding, cowboy boot wearing, country music playing Texas.
Side note: I do not know how to ride a horse, only owned one pair of cowboy boots in my life, and don’t hear country music on a regular basis.