we have a problem
we have a problem with our image. Our "Lone
Star" icon has gotten a little tarnished
as people around the world seem persuaded that
Texans are a belligerent intolerant breed of
shoot-from-the-hipsters. Our image hasn't been
this low since 1963 when half-witted folks in
Dallas cheered after they heard that President
Kennedy had been shot.
the 80's and 90's it seemed that the entire
world was in love with the image of Texas and
couldn't get enough of Texas qualities like
courtesy and friendliness, fierce loyalty, straightforwardness,
and optimism. Newcomers to the state were quick
to tell their friends the popular refrain: "I
wasn't born in Texas, but I got here as fast
as I could."
we are saddled with the burden of having a Texas-led
administration that boasts with "muy-macho"
bravado and revels in ignorance of foreign affairs.
While the Bush, Delay, and Rove troika swaggers
around the nation's capital, Texas has become
the butt of negative editorials and jokes the
not that Texans are thin skinned - we are used
to humorous jokes that
play on our mythic pride - but the attacks have
become much more vicious since entering the
war in Iraq. Phrases like "Texans are from
Mars, Parisians from Venus" (the Age, Australia)
and antiwar slogans, "somewhere in Texas
there's a village missing an idiot," are
only the tip of the iceberg of distrust of Texas
and those who claim to represent the state.
week I received an email from a young woman
in Canada who has been invited by a friend in
Corpus Christi to visit their family during
Christmas. She wrote, "
but I have
a question I did not dare ask them. I always
wanted to visit Texas but the fear of being
attacked or mistreated because of the color
of my skin is always present. My friend is white
and her parents raised her the right way, she
doesn't discriminate. (However,) I hear things
about the KKK down there and that scares me."
replied to her that while there is racism in
Texas it isn't any more than she would find
in New York or Chicago, cities that she was
already familiar with. I mentioned that her
fear is understandable since many Texans also
seem to fear the residents of countries where
they have never visited. I also added, as I
frequently do to non-Texans that the Texas State
Motto is "friendship" and welcomed
her visit to us soon.
peace activities have taken me to many places
around the world during times of conflict that
I would indeed consider dangerous (Bosnia, Iraq,
etc.) but I've never felt unsafe "where
the stars at night, shine big and bright."
But, it's no wonder that folks outside of the
state might have a negative image.
week the Parish High School Band gave us all
a black-eye, and challenged our senses by waving
a Nazi flag while playing Adolf Hitler's anthem
"Deutschland Uber Alles" during a
football game against Dallas' Hillcrest High.
And if this wasn't intolerable enough, it occurred
on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and start
of the High Holy Days.
we don't have a problem with our image
it's something deeper and more insidious.
to the Intelligence Project of the Southern
Poverty Law Center (SPLC) Texas is home to over
37 identified and organized hate groups. Even
liberal Austin isn't immune. It is home to groups
ranging from black separatist to racist skinheads.
Plenty of Texans can tell you real and prevalent
stories; Arabs and Muslims, Vietnamese shrimpers,
the African-American community of Tulia, and
immigrants in every part of the state have felt
too often the sting of outright and subtle racism.
Texas has a problem. We've forgotten our roots
and the challenges of the past that brought
Texans together to help one another during times
of need and adversity. We ignore that fact that
we are part of the international community and
have had many flags fly over this rich land
including those of France, Spain, and Mexico.
We have let "Don't Mess With Texas!"
supercede "Drive Friendly" in our
minds. And, we have let a relative few tell
us that we should replace our ol' fashioned
qualities of honesty, integrity, and helping
one another with up-by-your-bootstraps -trickle-down-greed.
get back to what made Texas such a great state
'cause we ain't done yet.
Jackson, is a sixth-generation Texas bid'nessman
and founder of Texans for Peace www.texansforpeace.org