Friday, April 5, 2013

The Case for Change

I use to say I can’t wait to move out of Texas. I would complain about how I hated the homophobic culture and government here. I would say that I was sick and tired of living in a red state with backwards thinkers. I use to say that I will move to Vermont. Vermont, a progressive state with Bernie Sanders and the very first state in the United States to legalize same-sex civil unions, before any state had taken any measure regarding the protection of same-sex couples. I would move to northeast with all the happy good liberals. But then I realized, that I would miss my family, Mexicans, Mexican culture, tex-mex food and yes-even Texas culture. Most importantly, Texas is my home. I grew up in Fort Worth and 80% of my immediate and extended family still lives there.

I then decided that I couldn’t and wouldn’t be driven away from the place I’ve called home for so long because I owe it to myself and to my community. I can’t leave and expect a few brave people to take on the challenge of making this state a more progressive one. If its not me then who? And what about those who can’t leave? I am writing about this because I hear this “I can’t wait to get the hell out!” or “That’s Texas for you!” way too often. Is it problematic? Yes I think so, that person is choosing to run away inferring that Texas is unchangeable and inherently backwards. We lose the power of democracy when we run away and we devalue organizing and all the hard work local and statewide non-profits are doing to move us forward.

We owe it to our community. Someone once told me not to be a  “revolutionary tourist”, meaning not to go around preaching social justice in different places all my life. If we want social change and justice we must start within our own communities. For one we know our community best and two, if and when change does happen the results of all your hard work will be right in front of you. Social justice work may be exhausting but that may keep us going.

So what are some issues facing Texas’ communities today?

A more local issue just took place a couple of days ago. I’m referring to the Texas A&M “The Religious Funding Exemption Bill,” that passed 35-28 on Tuesday. Which by the way the name of the bill was changed from “GLBT Funding Opt Out Bill” to “alter the bill’s discriminatory, anti-gay intent.” The bill allows students to opt-out of providing funding for the LGBT centers, specifically, for religious reasons and asks the university to refund their money in order to protect the students’ “religious conscience.” When this was going around on social media, many people responded with, “Not surprised that’s A&M for ya!” As if this behavior could possibly be expected and then accepted at any institution. I myself go to University of Texas at Austin and have no desired affiliation with aggies but these comments are not encouraging. They are not encouraging for the majority of the student body that opposes this bill and it does not send out a true message of support for the people at A&M standing up against discrimination.

In addition, this is not just an issue College Station is facing this is a statewide issue. Just yesterday Texas Representatives voted against a bill that would cut funding for Gender and Sexuality Centers in public universities. According to Rep. Zedler from Arlington these centers encourage and promote behavior that lead to HIV/AIDS and other STDs. (WHATKJ ASFJLS;KDJFDKLS;FJLS;KDFJKL;SDJ!!!, I KNOW) We were lucky that this bill did not pass, but what if it would have? What if, all of us who cared, and who are directly affected by this bill, had not picked up the phone and called or emailed their representative to tell them why they should vote against this? Would we be sitting down in despair claiming well that’s Texas? Some of us would probably just say, “I can’t wait to get out of here!” But what about those who can’t leave?

My point is that we cannot and must not accept bigotry anywhere. We, the people, must hold our representatives accountable. After all they are supposed to be representing us. Every time we run away we leave it to fewer people to stand up against discrimination and we make it harder for the people who don’t have a voice to defend themselves. Democracy can seem so cliché, but we have to remember this is our democracy, we are living in and it is up to us to defend it. Texas politics will not evolve all of a sudden. The people of Texas, those who work for social justice, will help make Texas more progressive. So please don’t leave and give up on your home, please don’t run away, please join the movement in any way you can. When you stay you help.

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