An Outsider

The Texas Story Project.

Eating gulyás, riding my "land surfboard" (a ripstik), and, other than sports shoes, only having a pair of flip flops, I realize that although I was born in Texas, I have no Texan blood. My parents are from Hungary and California.

I may not be descended from cowboys, but I am still a proud Texan. As I reflect on some comments and questions that have been directed towards me, and how my claim to "birth ground" has made people raise an eyebrow and look at me differently, I realize that although Texas is a melting pot, I speak for all Texans.

Like I said, I have "foreign" blood in me, and I speak Hungarian fluently without an accent. Every summer, my family travels to Hungary to visit my cousins. When I walk around in Hungary, to most people's first glance—until I tell them I am Texan—I just seem like one of them. Because of this, I used to be hesitant to tell people I was a Texan, and I had a good reason. Once I told people I was a Texan, they saw me as someone different, an uncivilized boy with dirt-caked skin, ratty hair, and a sunburned face. And while none of that was true, people would still ask me, "Doesn't everyone have a gun?", "Don't you ride horses to school?", and "Do you know what a phone is?" As a child, I hated this.

Although they seemed to know exactly how Texas worked, it must have been a different Texas, because the Texas I live in has a booming economy with skyscrapers, mansions, and electric cars. No, we're not all cosmopolitan, but it's still not the "Wild Wild West." And, sure, there are still cowboys living on farms and herding cattle, but they are most likely on their ATVs honking at the cows, not chasing them on horses. As for me, I don't even own a pair of cowboy boots.

Then I realized, what is really so bad about being seen as a Texan? What's so wrong about being loud and having a big appetite and saying "y'all"? No one likes to be seen differently or to be the odd one out—in this case "the uncivilized one" because of stereotypes. I don't ride horses to school, I don't have a gun, my giant city of Houston is more of a swamp than any desert (and it probably has ten times as many people as most cities), but even though these stereotypes aren't true, I have come to the understanding: there is no erasing stereotypes.

I have started to accept these stereotypes, not as fact, but as things that will be in this world: You can't stop them, only change them. But in the meantime, I will be a loud Texan, a proud Texan, but most importantly, I will never put ketchup on my barbeque.

Tomas Spencer is a student at St. Catherine's Montessori School in Houston. He was born and has always lived in Houston with his parents and two siblings.

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