When the name 'Texas' pops up in your thoughts, what do you imagine? Country music? Cowboys? Guns? Or maybe it’s SXSW, Franking BBQ, and the Tech Startups in Austin. Do these worlds coexist?
The prevailing narrative suggests a clear division between lifelong Texans and the wave of progressive newcomers. Yet, my recent journey into the heart of Texas tells a different story altogether.
I flew to Texas to speak at SaaStock, a Europe-based startup conference that chose Austin as its first US destination, and then, I embarked on a 500-mile road trip across small-town Texas. Austin is the single city in the US with the highest immigration per capita (most coming from California). This contrast seemed like the perfect basis for one of our Tech Nomad videos.
It was clear to me that Austin was a startup hub, from Tesla’s gigafactory to a growing number of startups and venture funds setting up shop around the city, but I had real concerns about stepping out of Austin: I am black and Hispanic, and so many of the stories I collected before flying in painted a picture of Texas that I don’t want to discredit, but that was massively different from what I experienced.
Speaking to locals was a slap to my misconceptions: people who welcomed me, willing to have deep conversations about our differences, people who welcomed immigrants, and considered them part of their communities.
I realized that so much of that (misguided) came from mainstream media, painting a picture of a divided Texas with a strong conservative slant. Despite its strong Republican leanings, Texas's political views aren't one-dimensional, and it's crucial to remember that supporting a party doesn't mean aligning with its every tenet.
While I may not see eye-to-eye with everyone, sharing a drink and discussing differing viewpoints reminded me that we're more connected than divided. The challenge, then, is for us to step outside our bubbles, engage in authentic discussions, and bridge the gaps that media and biases often amplify.
This journey through Texas served as a potent reminder that by reaching out and engaging with diverse voices, we can work towards a more united and inclusive society.