Still Dancing With Who Brung Me


I n New York, I often get “the look” when I talk to people I don’t know well. “Oh!” they say. “You’re from … Texas.” Their eyes sweep over me, as if they’re examining the contents of my mind and heart. “Texas,” they repeat and nod. “Well. Texas.” Yes, I’m from Texas. Being a Southern female of a certain age, I’m polite and tactful. I can’t shake those qualities. Truth is, I don’t want to shake them. So I don’t say what I’m thinking. Which is: Isn’t it odd that the last acceptable prejudice in this country is toward white Southerners? Isn’t prejudice of any kind unacceptable in the 21st century? Precisely how much time have you spent among us, the ones who talk slow, can’t drive on ice, threaten to secede, and keep our white sheets clean for late-night cross-burnings?

But wait. Now I’m sounding defensive. Nothing’s worse than being defensive. It shows how insecure you are. God forbid.

The fact is, if you’re a Texan, New Yorkers are easy to impress. All you need is a little subject-verb agreement, a smattering of knowledge about culture and current events, a wardrobe with lots of black, and most of your teeth. They’re enchanted and dazzled. They hint that you, too, could become one of them. You could, as I’ve been assured, “escape from Texas.”

How do I convince them I don’t want to escape? How do I explain my stubbornly rooted love for the place and the people—the broad horizons; the scraggly mesquite trees; the flat, familiar drawls; the sense of identity; the insanity of the politics; the color; the food; the music; the friendliness, the ridiculous pageantry of football games; even the swell of organ music playing Amazing Grace in churches when I’m a certifiable agnostic? I can’t explain it. I can only think of George Patton musing about war: “God help me, I love it so.”

You can’t choose who you are or what you love. Let’s say you’re an irreverent, educated liberal who likes to read books. For some reason, you’re in love with a conservative, religious state where people believe in Adam and Eve, original sin  and bad apples. And where people tend to be born more than once and vote Republican. If so, you and your beloved are in for a life of conflicts. Love, hate, anger, amusement, outrage, yin and yang—everything but boredom and indifference. If you want tranquility and a love object that mirrors you, you can always move to Massachusetts or the Bay Area. Good lord, that sounds dull.

Recently my husband and I went to see part-time Austinite Sandra Bullock’s movie, The Blind Side. The plot is the true story of a rich, white Memphis family that takes in a young, poor black kid and changes his life. He succeeds in school and becomes a sports phenomenon and professional football player.

It’s a nice, feel-good story that left the two of us talking about our lives and values and how we needed to be doing more work for the community we live in. Maybe it’s a little simplistic, but so what?

Then I read some of the movie’s criticisms by the New York and national media. “The Blind Side the movie peddles the most insidious kind of racism, one in which whiteys are virtuous saviors, coming to the rescue of African Americans who become superfluous in narratives that are supposed to be about them,” said the Village Voice, adding that “Bullock’s facile Good Christian Materialist Southern Woman is part of The Blind Side’s desperate cynicism …”

Typical, I thought. The South and Southerners and their religion can never catch a break in the national media.

Then my husband and I watched the tragic BCS Bowl, Colt McCoy’s injury and UT’s defeat. McCoy, who speaks about Jesus Christ like he was on a Longhorn scholarship too, raised his eyes to the stadium lights and said it (The game! The injury! The defeat!) was all part of God’s plan.

Oh, great. Just another good old Texas boy hand-delivering the rest of the world another reason to laugh at us, to give us “the look,” since we all seem to think God spends his days and nights planning the outcome of college football games.

I mean, doesn’t Colt know? God, in his infinite wisdom, is a college basketball guy.