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Before leaving for Harvard, my family told me that I’d come to love you, that I would come to embrace my Texan side, that college would instill within me a distinct dignity in connection to my great hometown of Houston. I laughed, made some joke about going to New England to escape the closed-minded culture of the South, and swore I would never tote my “H-Town” upbringing with pride.
I maintained this distance for a while, putting you on the backburner of my identity. I detached myself from trips to Buc-ees, late nights at Whataburger, homecoming mums (apparently these aren’t a thing everywhere?), Tex-Mex restaurants on every corner, delicious barbecues in the sweltering summer heat, the classic and rite-of-passage road trips from Austin to San Antonio to Dallas to Houston, an obsession with HEB grocery stores, long weekends at Galveston, the incessant use of the word “y’all,” and the pledge of allegiance to the TEXAS flag ...
I really did try to bury my past for the lure of Boston’s dark academia, but the harder I tried, the more you seemed like home.
Not many people know your true colors. They see a fat, red state taking up the bottom portion of the electoral map and think they have you figured out. They think of cowboy boots and horses, oil rigs, and thick southern accents. They think Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) spoke for all of us when he abandoned his people in their time of need.
I see something different.
I think of Hurricane Harvey. I remember sitting with my family in front of the window, watching the brown floodwater snake up to our front door, creeping quietly upon us. We got lucky; others did not.
Water sat in houses for days. Rowboats and elevated trucks were the only ways to access some streets and neighborhoods. Wood floors were warped beyond repair, beyond recognition. Cars were destroyed and abandoned. Drywall transformed into mush. Sidewalks were rendered invisible from the trash piled on top. Water refused to recede, coloring the landscape in the muck of a swampland.
But then, your city responded, because, in Houston, tragedy is met with resounding cymbals of love.
I helped clean out a lot of houses, and one day, I was cleaning out the drywall of one of my friend’s houses when three men knocked on the door. We had never seen them before, but they explained how they had grown up in the neighborhood. After graduating from high school, they had joined the military and lived all across the nation, but when they heard what had happened in Houston, they came back. Without hesitation, they returned to their old neighborhood, going from house to house, helping anyone and everyone who needed it. That is my home. When you, Texas, are marred, your people respond with compassionate action.
Outsiders do not see this. They do not see your resiliency, your mobilization, your spirit amid tragedy. Houston may have flooded in water during the days of Hurricane Harvey, but the city overflowed with the relentless service of its citizens in the weeks after. Because that is how you, Texas, respond; you respond with unparalleled loyalty to brotherly and sisterly service to utter strangers.
You deal with another Harvey right now, though now the rainwater has returned as ice. Millions are without power, water, or heat, trapped in a winter storm you were not prepared to handle. My heart goes out to you. You, Texas, and your larger-than-life persona. And while it is easy for Harvard students to pass judgment upon you or send sympathy from afar, I know — as a member of your (let’s be honest) cultish community — you will get through this. Everything is bigger in Texas, and love for one another is no exception. Growing up within your weirdly-shaped state lines means we Texans are sharpened by blades of dogged determination and familial devotion, and it is because of this that I know you can weather this storm.
My family was right. Texas, you are my home.
Ellie H. Ashby ’24 is a Crimson Editorial editor.
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