by: Mary Claire Phillips
photos from: The Texas Democratic Party; Mary Claire Phillips
Big crowds are not my thing. I’ve been to enough Texas State Fairs and high school football games to know that when a large group comes together it usually culminates in discomfort, anxiety, and a level of familiarity with your neighbor’s moisture levels. But lately, I’ve changed my tune. It is no secret the Women’s March was big. An estimated 3.3 million people showed up in the United States, and six hundred cities held protests on all seven continents. But of those huge numbers, my mind lingers on 52,143 – the number of Texans who showed up to the State Capitol in Austin on January 21st. You know what they say- “Everything’s bigger in Texas”.
For perspective, I’m a lifelong Texan born and raised in a stereotypical Dallas suburb. In the 5th grade, my elementary school counselor told my class that being gay only meant you prefer the arts to the sports. It doesn’t take too many personal anecdotes to convey how my conservative upbringing lead to a bleak outlook on progressiveness in my home state. But twenty one years of feeling like the only liberal in a fifty mile radius melted away when I stood alongside 52,143 other angry Texans ready to fight through the Trump years. When I walked up to the Capitol grounds and saw—quite literally—a sea of people, the first thing I did was cry. Because this is the kind of community I was told in my youth only happened in liberal states, never Texas. The kind of community that dared to call out the sugar-coated bigotry that so often goes ignored. The kind of community that loves me no matter whom I love. But most importantly, it was a community dedicated to fighting for the rights of Trans, Black, Latinx, Muslim, Immigrant, and Women’s rights. The sort of community that made Conservative lawmakers shake in their boots as they watched us march right outside their office windows.
It didn’t take me long to find a post on my Facebook feed declaring our little jaunt around the Capitol as a fart in the wind (to use the scientific term). The upcoming Texas Legislative Session will be a battle; there will be many losses and some prized wins. There aren’t enough synonyms for scary to describe the next four years in the Oval Office. By many metrics, there won’t be a lot of wins for progressive politics. But I’m a firm believer all politics are local. The Women’s March was not just a statement to the powers that be – it is a message to my neighbors and loved ones in my conservative hometown of Coppell, Texas. When you vote for a president who vows to strip away LGBT rights, I want you to know you’re not voting against a faceless other – you’re voting against me. Arguably, I’m not all that important. But I attended school with the most fantastic Muslim, Latinx, Black, and Immigrant friends – all of whom are bearing the burden of a presidency that threatens their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I understand there are overarching reasons for a Trump vote that do not directly involve hatred for any of these groups. But many people are scared, and you do not get to delegitimize those feelings with a call for fiscal conservatism.
For the liberal readers, it is not enough to sit and nod in agreement. If you have not marched, block walked, phone banked, voted, testified at a committee hearing, lobbied, volunteered, donated, or made any attempt to do any of the above – you have homework. Action is the only thing that makes true equality a reality, and public opinion polls don’t make history. Don’t know how to get involved? Here is a good place to start! Pick your passions, find your organization, and contribute in whatever way you can. Marches are important, but they are not the end goal. It may not be immediate, it may not be easy, but it is absolutely necessary.
The Women’s March in Austin gave me a second wind, causes to lift up, and a whole lot of hope. Some say progressives in Texas have a snowball’s chance in hell, to those critics I say – you can all go to hell, I’m going to Texas.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Texas Speech team.