By Miguel Robles
Growing up in the Texas public school system, students are taught what has become the “standard” history of the state. When asked to think of “Texas history,” figures like Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston and events like the Battle of the Alamo are typically what come to mind. While these narratives are important in understanding the state’s upbringing, they no longer accurately represent the diverse populations that make up Texas today. These diverse identities can come in the form of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexuality, or any other way that people choose to identify themselves as. Students may feel that they are often left deprived of the history of those who share in these identities that have become an essential part of the true Texas narrative.
Our #ThisTexan Open Mic Night is an initiative to amplify these stories that are not heard enough. Texans from all types of backgrounds can share what these experiences mean to the way they see themselves as part of the Texas narrative. This allows students and community members to also learn from the various experiences of inclusiveness and exclusiveness that others face on a daily basis.
By not teaching different sides of history, students may lack the feeling of belonging as they do not see that their ancestors are part of the history that defines this state. Texas is home to the most diverse city in the country, yet this diversity is not met by what is taught to our students. Oftentimes this underrepresentation can lead students to overlook the opportunities for themselves that they see in others. While some populations are illustrated as “hard-working” groups that “built” Texas from the ground up, the farthest that some minority populations are depicted is up until they overcame obstacles of oppression. This is not followed by the stories of when they accomplished so much more.
When students in Texas walk through the museums that are meant to be documenting and presenting our history, they may not see themselves in the story that is being presented. Students are taught that African Americans, Latinxs, Asian Americans, and many other groups fought for equal rights and opportunity and how they eventually became integrated into American society. However, this is often where the narrative ends. They do not go on to tell how individuals from these groups soon went on to become leaders in the Texas government.
What does this mean for those students who experience this misrepresentation of the accomplishments of those who share in their identity? When students hear the stories of Texas and notice that they are not included, do they see that the extent of their accomplishments can only go so far as to try to overcome marginalization?
We hope that the #ThisTexan Open Mic Night will address some of these issues of representation and belonging as we move forward in thinking how we can create a more inclusive Texas. Humanities Media Project will video the event to further project these stories throughout our community and spread the message of diversity that one may feel is not always recognized in Texas. Those who did not grow up learning the stories of their ancestors are given this opportunity to tell their narrative and how it has shaped their identity as a Texan.