What’s Wrong in Texas?

The first thing you notice about Texas in 2014 is there are some new sheriffs in town and they’re not male or Caucasian. Electorally speaking, they’re female and/or Hispanic. Women and Hispanics may not have been beating down the door for the role because they were busy as bees, making inroads, building careers, bringing home the bacon, raising kids, etc., etc. But a nefarious assemblage commonly referred to as the ruling class (or Good Ol’ Boys Club) has kicked the proverbial beehive one too many times and now it’s likely to pay.

Truth be told, it’s been a long time coming.

For all the bitching and moaning about the Mexican-American element in Texas, white conservative male tightwads couldn’t stomach paving their driveways without the cheap labor it provides, and their fair-haired grandkids are being challenged in terms of aptitude and usefulness by the average day laborer’s sons and daughters every day. And for all the Texas white male’s drawled braggadocio about treating women with the respect they deserve, conservative white male politicians have doubled down on treating women like 2nd class sex objects that can’t be trusted with decisions about their reproductive rights. Breast implants are fine, but a brain functioning beyond or despite the institutional chauvinism that was implanted in young Texas women’s brains over the last century or so—no, that’s not acceptable.

Unfortunately—for conservative white males—they hardly have a grasp on acceptability, tolerance or social justice. The last time I thumbed through a book on Texas history, I’m pretty sure I saw that white males didn’t build this state alone or in a vacuum. They had women, wives, sisters and daughters right alongside them all the way. And lest we forget, of the estimated 189 men who died at the Alamo, only six were native Texans: their last names were Abamillo, Badillo, Espalier, Esparza, Fuentes, and Navatwo. And the signatories of the Texas Declaration of Independence? Only two were native Texans. Their last names were Navarro and Ruiz.

The days of Anglo-male entitlement are about as fresh and relevant as Colonel Sanders, and he kicked the bucket just before the Miracle on Ice in 1980. For decades conservative white guys have fancied themselves champions of all things Texan and the progenitors of all the cures to the maladies that ail Texas citizens. But the fact is, the conservative white guy has become the chief malady that ails Texas.

Thanks to conservative white males, Texas is home to the highest percentage of uninsured folks in the nation, enjoys the highest number highest carbon emissions, is first in high school drop-out rates, first in lowest voter turn-out, is the biggest producer of hazardous waste and, thanks to a pasty-white, testosterone-slicked fortune grab, Andrew’s County is now home to a nuclear waste dump designed to house radioactive refuge from up to 37 other states.

The owner of that new 14,000-acre nuclear waste dump in West Texas? You guessed it. A conservative white guy from Dallas (Harold Simmons, recently deceased) who was last presidential election’s third-largest Republican donor and the largest contributor to Karl Rove’s conservative super-PAC, American Crossroads.

But I digress.

We must also pat conservative, white male backs for a few things.

There are twenty states with lower average IQs, nine states fatter and six states that rank lower in child well-being.

I am a white guy and I know white guys are used to telling folks how to vote, who to vote for to be right with Baby Jesus and who to vote against to keep us from being overrun by Kindle-toting Socialists who want to put fruit and granola in our high school cafeterias and literacy and science in our classrooms–so I won’t tell you who to cast a ballot for in 2014. But I do have a useful historical note.

The year 2014 is an important anniversary for any Texan who isn’t male or white.

White male conservatives in Texas kept women from exercising full suffrage until 1918 and minorities from voting without hindrance or intimidation until the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Not small feats, to be sure, but 2014 marks the 60th anniversaries of Hispanics and women gaining another arguably equally important right under American law, that being the full and unfettered exercise of due process.

Prior to the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Hernandez v. Texas, Hispanics were entitled to a so-called fair trial, but not to a jury that had any other Hispanics, much less other persons of color or women. Justice was almost invariably meted out by white men, white juries and white, almost exclusively male judges. Women and minorities weren’t entitled to an actual jury of their peers and nothing was done about it for the first 118 years of the republic/state’s existence.

Conservative white males had a big head start and it’s no wonder that they still harbor a hefty sense of entitlement around these parts.

But it also explains a lot about what’s wrong.

Fort Worth native E. R. Bills is the author of Texas Obscurities: Stories of the Peculiar, Exceptional & Nefarious and Tell-Tale Texas: Investigations in Infamous History. Read other articles by E.R..