Today is Texas Independence Day.
As a student at UT Austin, I remember celebrating this day with all the pride I could muster.
Today, years later, I’m thinking about what I didn’t know then, what I do know now, and the significance to all of us Texans today.
If like me, you took “Texas History” in the 7th Grade…
And especially if, like me, you are a White person trying to come to terms of our state’s true racial history…read on…
At the church I am proud to serve, Kessler Park United Methodist Church we seeking to learn about our city, state and nation’s racial history. At an event last night, one of our members briefly brought up the book “Forget The Alamo,” which was the subject of “controversy” in some circles in 2021.
So, what do certain people not want you to know about our history?
What do so many White Texans *still* deny today?
- The don’t want you to know that many of our Alamo heroes were actually enslavers.
- They don’t want you know that Mexico’s government was far more progressive in terms of outlawing slavery than the “Texians” who were leading the creation of independent Texas.
- They don’t want you to know that the enslavement of black people was, part and parcel, crucial to “The Republic of Texas.”
- And, finally, they don’t want to know that it’s all there for the world to see, in the very words of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas itself.
Let’s be clear, the “Texas Declaration of Independence” —the one we celebrate today on March 2nd every year— was modeled on the US Declaration of Independence. And it is indeed full of lofty and soaring language about the rights of humans.
If you take it out of context (meaning: just read its words, and stop there) it sounds like it was written by the very same kind of freedom-loving, tyranny fighting, patriots we like to pretend wrote the US version. I mean, yeah, as a stand alone document, it’s a bunch of nice words.
But, again, not the whole story…
Just a week after issuing this “declaration” —while they all still assume the Alamo defenders were patriotically defending that structure— the Texas Constitutional Convention entertained a motion concerning slavery. While the motion introduced on March 9th was subsequently tweaked to some extent, the gist of what was proposed was eventually adopted into the Constitution of the Republic.
As you can read with your own eyes, the screenshot below shows how the Republic of Texas was actually *harsher* toward enslaved humans and people of African descent, than certain parts of the United States at the same moment:
Not only was enslavement formally legalized in the Republic of Texas Constitution, but an enslaver could not legally free their enslaved persons without permission of the legislature.
But! Read it again….the very line next to this says that Congress will not have the authority to free slaves!!
(Did your head explode too?)
Further, as you can read, it was not permitted for free persons of African descent to live as “citizens” in the Republic of Texas. To remind you again, this is harsher law than existed in either Mexico or some states of the US, at that very moment. The writers of the Republic of Texas constitution considered this language AT THE SAME TIME they believed the Alamo was under siege!!
What we White Texans have done —for almost 200 years now– is mythologize beyond recognition the Battle of Alamo, and deny and suppress the truth of who the original White Texans were, and what they wanted Texas to be.
Our gaze falls on that old mission church, and an allegedly mythic battle; while we simultaneously look *away from* that convention room in “Washington on the Brazos” to see what White Texas forbearers actually believed they were fighting for.
Sure, they wanted it to be a place of freedom…for White men. But they had absolutely no desire to be a place of freedom for people of African descent. They literally wanted a nation of free White men.
Let me ask you, White Texan friends, did you ever learn in school about how Mexican law was more progressive toward slavery than the Republic of Texas’?
Yeah…didn’t think so.
You see, *this* is a major part of why the book is titled “Forget the Alamo,” and why this causes so others just want you to “forget the book” instead.
If you are a modern day African-American or Latinx Texan, I apologize if any of this info is traumatizing.
I am writing this mostly for myself, and for all other White Texans.
I’m glad there is a place called Texas.
I am still proud to be a Texan.
But Texas’ future, like America’s, is as a multi-racial democracy. And the truth matters. If you’re a White person with plans to whoop it up, here on Texas Independence Day, I merely ask you to consider the whole story, not only the feel-good myth.
For me, I’m not whoopin’ this year.
I’m writing this instead.
Creating a hopeful Texas for our future means acknowledging the truth of our history too.