The Texan Reign of Terror

“And then I say confusion na wetin o? Confusion na wa”

The first lessons American schooling broke down for me were in ignorance and insolence. When I enrolled in Northeast Christian Academy — freshly immigrated to Kingwood, Texas from Lagos, Nigeria — the school body contained less Black students than my hands had fingers. Funny enough, as the children of the other Nigerian family that accompanied us on our travels, our partners in crime stuck as closely to my siblings and I as phalanges could, sure that severance would mean certain doom drowning in a sea of unfamiliar white faces.

Attending private school was pitched with the promise of a first-class education. The fine print of this arrangement conveniently excluded the clause that curricula are closer to carefully contrived agendas than capsules of essential information, and armed generously with child soldiers to carry out their commands. Though, this awareness wasn’t exactly necessary to place how this battle field had prepared its students for people like me and my family.

For one, commercial air travel and common sense were completely foreign concepts.

“Did you ride on Jesus’ back to get here?”

Had I had the words at the time, I would’ve explained that Africans simply had to do a little tribal dance and say their destination three times out loud, and the forces of juju would swiftly propel them there; at least then, maybe, my classmates would’ve regarded me with fear, respect if I relayed it just right, or anything other than the shameless amusement of interacting with a zoo animal that I was forced to stomach.

Going through the Texas school system has afforded me my fair share of similar stories with equally foolish antagonists. If not for them being commonplace, these encounters may have compelled me to cry, but sadness long took the back-burner to my disbelief of the delusions many proudly parade as sound statements. Now, however, as I enter my post-secondary years, anecdotes of life down South have abruptly been swapped for tales sufficient for nightmare fuel and I can no longer laugh to cope with the ludicrous. I’m just scared.

This Wednesday, September 1, 666 laws went into effect to signal Texas lawmakers’ dedication to dragging the state into a devilish spin-off of the Dark Ages. At its most innocent, Texas’ leadership is hellbent on suspending its citizens in a sick world of make-believe, inaccessibility, and increased criminalization. In reality, the Texas legislature has promised to spill blood and gleefully paint its hands with what pours out, making political pawns of people’s bodies as the pinnacle of its reign of terror.

If you propose increased gun restrictions in Texas — which, as seen through HB 1927, will never happen — the ability to purchase arms through the underground market will likely be the rebuttal; criminalization doesn’t stop demand, it simply drives the market elsewhere. With the same mind, Texas governance sat down, penned, and passed SB 8 — a bill prohibiting abortions 6 weeks post-conception and encouraging anyone unable to mind their business to enforce its consequences. To incentivize self-proclaimed bounty hunters, a $10,000 minimum was included for anyone willing to sue doctors, aid funds, rideshare providers, friends, and their choice from a theoretically limitless list of people accused of aiding in an abortion. The preservation of life was touted as the catalyst of this thought process.

Virtue signaling, however, is not a virtue. Contrary to state belief, children are not the rightful punishment for what you believe someone should or should not have done. Having children is a choice to be made when the bearer feels sufficiently informed, sufficiently prepared in all aspects, to nurture a life as needs be — a key aspect of advocating for life that Texas neglects completely. As a result, children in the Texas foster care system — over 30,000 to date — frequently pass nights on the floors of motels, churches, offices, and other unlicensed facilities despite its illegality; suffer physical and sexual abuse, some going missing and others being groomed for sex trafficking; and wrestle trauma and neglect of their physical, psychological, and other core needs in a system that’s continually worsening. Children don’t deserve to be forced into a world that wipes its hands of them immediately thereafter, but the Texas legislature would rather ignore the fact that its attempt at child welfare as it stands is painfully fallible, if not a complete and utter disaster.

Having children is a choice to be made wholeheartedly, not out of coercion, non-consent, lack of knowledge or other choices. Advocating for life is a cop-out in a state with no mandates for teaching adequate sex education. With state laws instead including requirements to stress abstinence “as the preferred choice of behavior in relationship to all sexual activity for unmarried persons of school age” in place of awareness of available contraception.

Child-bearing should not be a death sentence, yet a legislature that claims to care about life hasn’t lifted a finger to remedy a maternal mortality rate four to five times higher for Black and Native women than that of white women. It doesn’t care to connect the dots between the preventability of most pregnancy-related deaths, rampant medical discrimination, and the black and white trends in its most claimed victims.

Advocating for life is laughable at best in a state where no single piece of legislation mandates maternity leave nor continued financial security for pregnant women for the duration of their time away from work. When examined with even minimal effort, the feigned worry of increased workplace discrimination against women falls flat when simultaneously mandating paternity leave exists in the same realm of possibility — a move that would truly fortify the family unit and allow the burden of child rearing to be distributed more equally. After all, babies aren’t brought about by a woman’s actions exclusively.

I don’t want to come up with convoluted scenarios to demonstrate the evil embodied in SB 8. Its damage and intent are painfully self-evident. I don’t want to re-share squares mixing repulsive “what if”s of rape and incest to support my reasoning. The fact that that argument has emerged at all is so deeply sickening. I don’t want to live in a reality that’s constantly so desensitized and disconcerting.

But the Texas legislature couldn’t feign care if its life depended on it, and certainly not when others do. Rather than heeding pained cries to defund the police, the Texas legislature also said fuck the people. HB 1900 was passed to levy financial penalties against large Texas cities that try to reduce and redistribute their police budgets.

HB 3979 was among other agents of chaos, banning the teaching of critical race theory — a heavily thrown-around term that could easily be replaced with “contextual analysis” or “accountability” — and barring educators’ from rewarding students’ civil engagement academically. In its place, HB 2497 marks the beginning of the “1836 Project”, a “patriotic education” initiative meant to celebrate “why Texas became so exceptional in the first place” through a blatant propaganda campaign bent on rewriting history.

HB 1925 could easily be mistaken for satire, perhaps the most insidious example of irony, further criminalizing houselessness by assigning a fine for public camping. Because the clear solution to a widespread systemic issue is further disempowering those that bear the brunt of bureaucratic shortcomings.

And the list is on-going.

The Texas legislature is a bitter reminder that the fight for freedom will always be domestic. Americans have a habit of getting up in arms for other countries, galvanizing one another against human rights violations and atrocities overseas. But a little honestly makes it very obvious that there are far too many problems on the ground to have our noses in the air when we look elsewhere. We’re too big to act like this country isn’t overrun with boogeymen, to constantly outsource barbarism as a foreign concept. Wrapping America in a facade of innocence doesn’t make it the best dressed; it just makes hypocrisy the focal point of its appearance.

Everything’s bigger in Texas and attacks on the people are clearly no exception. The same disconnect that caused petty comments from sergeants in my primary school also manifests as dangerously weaponized legislation. Fortunately, this battle may not have begun today, but the push against its forces will likewise never end. I’ve found the words to cast out demons now, and silence is no longer my friend.

Edited Friday, June 24, 2022

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Ayobami Adereti

Somewhere at the intersection of lending a hand and learning something new, on the aux curating the world’s greatest set through the spirit and “Add to Queue”