A few years ago, I was approached to write a "comprehensive" book about Texas political history. To do it for a general-interest audience. To maybe even put my own voice, of all unlikely voices, in a work of long-haul history. It seemed insurmountable, and I wondered if these were really the best approaches to something so profound.
I started by focusing the revisionist research on unsung women and people of color—folks whose lives told us about the long-running themes I had decided would dominate the book: racism, the deep-rooted Confederate legacy, and violence against people clamoring for basic freedoms.
Those were my choices, deciding who and what to put in and who and what to leave out. For years, I wondered if I was on a sanctimonious white-guy mission. But then, during the summer of George Floyd, the headlines began aligning with this book I'd started long ago, especially the whitewashing of history.
Before that summer, I had wondered if anyone would "get" my book. Maybe folks would be turned off by the focus on less-than-famous people fighting for fairness. Maybe a reader, instead of lingering with the stories about Black and brown men burned at the stake in Texas, would blink at my very occasional personal stories designed to telegraph that the book was fashioned through a very subjective prism.
Some called that summer a great reckoning, a time to meditate on how our own experiences shape our politics and view of each other on planet Earth. It seemed like a good time for writerly introspection, for an honest admission of subjectivities, and to put my voice, in tiny ways, in a work of history. At the last minute, I asked the editors to change the working subtitle. It had been "A History of Politics in Texas." It became a "A History of Politics and Race in Texas."
Given that I have failing eyesight, it is the last book I'll ever write. I finished it knowing there might be a reader or two more concerned with my small, illustrative appearances than with the stories of legislated and unofficial nightmares aimed at crushing women and minorities.
I'm not sure, but I also suspect there are readers made uncomfortable by any mention of the dark moments from the past, particularly in a book that piously claims to offer an alternative, in all senses of that word, history of Texas.