Boycotting the South

Heading West

A couple of weeks ago, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law a piece of legislation that allows adoption agencies to deny couples adoption on the grounds of “sincerely held religious beliefs.” In other words, gay couples can be denied adoption because of, well, being gay.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra responded by adding Texas to a list of states that state employees are banned from travelling to. Essentially, California is restricting state funding for travel, including employees connected to the UC and Cal State systems.

But don’t worry, the possibility for sports teams to travel has been left open.

I am not surprised, for one. “Liberal” states have been doing this since the North Carolina bathroom bills. But how much does this actually punish the states? This kind of travel ban is supposed to punish bad states by hurting their economies.

It may hurt some, but not Texas, a state that catapulted off of California’s collapse in the late 2000s. Texas’ economy is pretty massive, so I doubt this will strike a huge blow. Meanwhile, sports teams may continue to travel, so it isn’t going to affect that huge cultural facet of the state.

And that’s the whole problem: this form of punishment by liberal states further isolates these parts of the country that already self-isolate. I can personally assure you that it is an unbelievably massive source of pride for Southerners to be misunderstood and unknown by outsiders. Southern culture is centered on the belief that the South is better than literally everywhere else. Stunts like this further restrict those state residents’ exposure to anyone or anything that is different from them and perpetuates both sides’ superiority complexes.

I get it, I do. When Californians hear about all the controversy the South generates, the bills being passed, the suppression and the oppression, it is easy to assume that those actions represent the sentiments of the majority of the South. But there has been a long history of gerrymandering and voter suppression, quite literally dating back to the years immediately following the passage of the 15th Amendment. The historic ruling class of the South is really quite small there were far fewer plantation owners than slaves so the South has spent centuries building an infrastructure that bends in favor to that ruling class.

That’s what is so frustrating, I think. The people perpetuating this oppression are not hurt by these bans. They don’t care about other states, so it doesn’t matter if those citizens stop coming.

Listen, I don’t know how states should respond to the passage of these authoritarian religious laws — oh, I’m sorry, “religious freedom laws.” I certainly don’t like the laws either. I’ve considered adoption, and yeah, it would kind of suck if I went into some office and they told me no because I was married to a woman instead of a man. But I do know there are a lot of marginalized and invisible citizens of the South who feel very, very alone.

I’ve watched Texas go red every single election of my life. I’ve watched one terrible governor be replaced by someone even more heartless and cruel. Ted Cruz is the real, actual senator for my home state. I’ve watched all this despite knowing that there is a massive community in Texas that faithfully works to try to turn the tide and change the outcome of these elections. It could get really discouraging sometimes, because I didn’t feel represented in Texas. Then I came to California and endured professors making fun of Southerners, exclaiming over my lack of an accent or outright asking who I voted for.

Maybe I don’t have a lot of ground to stand on, as someone who left Texas, to say that states should not write off these supposedly conservative bastions, but in some ways that’s the whole point. I was able to leave. Some of that was privilege, and some of that was luck. But all of it was born of the knowledge that I could, that there were places out there that would be different. I went to every single college information session I could. I talked to admissions officers, went to alumni events, did interviews. And with these actions by the attorney general, those events might stop.

Maybe I would have ended up here regardless. Maybe I didn’t need to have met UC Berkeley admissions officers in person, but maybe I did. And there might be a kid out there who is watching this legislation rain down and needs desperately to know that there are people out there that are different from the oppressive Texan political leaders with megaphones and too much power. And how can that kid know that if that diverse perspective stops showing up?

Danielle writes the Thursday column on finding your home. Contact her at [email protected].