We are now on the second week of watching the state of Texas be hit hard by an unprecedented winter storm. Temperatures dipped below freezing and the state, which is usually tens of degrees warmer this time of year, was left devastated. Roads remained unplowed, stores were out of food, millions were left without power and at least 58 have died due to issues in storm-affected areas. I have a family member who moved to Texas less than two months ago for school, and while I was scouring social media for tips and resources to send their way, I saw a few folks voicing their true thoughts on the matter. Many went along the lines of, “Congrats, Texas, you voted for this.”
This was upsetting to see because, no, they didn’t. The most recent bill that was meant to deregulate the Texas electrical grid and make sure it would remain separate from the rest of the nation, to avoid certain regulations, was passed nearly 20 years ago by the Texas Senate. There’s a pretty sizable chunk of Texas that didn’t vote for this. Texas missed the percentages to vote for Biden by just over five percent. Nearly half the state did not vote for this. One of the youngest victims of this horrific event was just 11 years old — the family lawsuit claims he died of hypothermia in his mobile home. He clearly did not vote for this.
I am absolutely not a fan of all the “unity” talk that many have been preaching following the 2020 election. I don’t want to hold hands with the people that think the Capitol insurrection was justified. Forsaking accountability so that we can “all just get along,” or pretending that everything is fine because Biden won the presidency, is the wrong course of action. Criticizing this administration as heavily as the last and stepping up to fix the damage that’s been done is the only way things will change.
The accountability of this should fall on the leaders of Texas, and them alone. I don’t think it’s an outlandish thing to think that no one should be freezing to death in the “greatest country in the world.” My sister was unable to boil water for safe drinking while Ted Cruz was flying to Cancún. I spent time calling hotel after hotel to try and find shelter for those I love, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott blames wind turbines rather than his shoddy, privatized electrical grid. This comes less than a month after he signed an executive order to keep Texas energy away from federal oversight.
Reducing the people of any state down to their political majority is dangerously oversimplifying things. This mindset erases the efforts of countless activists, local politicians and organizations that have dedicated their time to register voters and turn the tides. Many of these red states we so often rip apart during moments like these also face the most intense voter suppression, leaving many disenfranchised. We paint these caricatures of places like Florida or Texas without thinking of the people who fall outside our idea of their “norm.” We forget about the low-income individuals, Indigenous communities, the many people of color and more who live in these states and want things to change. We put the pressure on them to change their own neighborhoods as they fight an uphill battle. Just because they weren’t as successful as those in Georgia at changing their state’s votes doesn’t mean they should be written off as a lost cause. This mindset also makes the assumption that blue states are oh-so much more perfect and morally superior than their red counterparts. We’ve got a plethora of flaws and shortcomings up here, too. I hope that disasters like this, and the countless preventable deaths, are a reminder that we have to fight for change for the benefit of all, even if they live in a state that thinks the opposite.
Elizabeth Short is a senior majoring in English and is Opinions Editor at Pipe Dream.