TEXAS IS THE NEW CALIFORNIA.
When you think of Texas, “progress” is hardly a word that comes to mind for most, but I can’t seem to get the association out of my head. I see my Californian friends scrunch up their noses and furrow their brows when mentioning the potential for progress in Texas, but I think that’s mostly because they focus on the now, as opposed to the how.
California wasn’t always a bastion for liberal politics — it is, after all, the place that gave birth to Nixon and Reagan — as a matter of fact most recently as the 1990s the state saw a wave of anti-Latino politicking that would rival Arizona’s most recent efforts.
Texas, I would argue, is in the same place, historically speaking. Recent spurts in voter ID policies, women’s health issues and education spending cuts in Texas are, to my eye, akin to the type of frenzied last stand that people make when they know they are about to lose power.
Just like California saw in the 1990s. I grew up in Los Angeles during that time, the era of anti-immigrant Governor Pete Wilson, anti-bilingual education Ron Unz and a general anti-Latino malaise that swept a state on its way to radical transformation.
A few decades later, Antonio Villaraigosa was elected to govern the city that served as the site for so much protest, California will be majority Latino in 2014, the last few assembly speakers have been Latinos and the lieutenant governor is a marriage equality advocate. Sure, you also saw Prop 8, and poverty and imprisonment rates in the state still disproportionately affect non-whites, but the last time someone heard of Pete Wilson was when he threw his support behind Mitt “Self-Deportation” Romney, only to be pushed out of this role because of the backlash.
Which is to say, California has changed a lot since I was marching in the streets of downtown LA holding protest signs against Prop 187 — albeit there’s still much work to be done. I remember the outrage and the amazement of activists at the time, that the state could so brazenly target a group of people who were integral to the economy and culture of the place. People everywhere were organizing, whether it be in education or politics or immigration, and everyone wanted to make change happen, somehow.
In Texas there is a similar energy these days. There are official routes, such as efforts by the state’s Democratic party to make inroads with Latinos. There are unofficial ones; people are starting blogs and organizations, networking with each other to build coalitions. People are talking to each other, trying to figure out ways to make Texas their own — or at least a state that doesn’t so blatantly target a group of people who are so integral to the economy and culture of the place.
So, when my beloved Californians wrinkle their noses when I mention Texas, I often take the time to explain this to them. Remember the ‘90s in California? How do you think we got to where we are today? The unexpected result of these bitter last stands on the parts of mostly white conservative power brokers is that people get organized, activated — and ready.
California already saw this change, and now Arizona and Texas are en route to a different destiny, partly because demographics are their own destiny, but also because political actions meant to disenfranchise people have the inadvertent side of effect of organizing them, too. Texas, and Arizona, will change and become Latino-friendly in the next few decades, but there’s no doubt it’ll be a rough ride.
Copyright 2014 by Sara Inés Calderón
la vida es dura, pero es bella