Adam Cayton-Holland, deep in the heart of Texas

Just look how fat this state is...

To contradict a lame joke I made in a column that all Texans are big and fat, Angelica Huffman wrote me a letter that is, well, big and fat. She pointed out that not all Texans are racist, as I also said they were. In my humor column. Where there are jokes and shit. Apparently these were lost on Angelica, though, and in her lengthy, big, fat screed she questioned whether I have been to Texas – have, five times – and reminded me of my duty as a journalist to be sound, reliable and responsible. In my humor column. Where there are jokes and shit.

If you, unlike my Texan fan, were able to see the forest for the trees and realize that I was actually soliciting nominations for worthwhile regular folk to be honored as part of Denver turning 150, keep ‘em coming. Lord knows I’m not writing about Angelica. Because, as we know, she’s a Texan -- as you'll see from the her letter, which is reproduced below in its big, fat entirety. --Adam Cayton-Holland

Congratulations, you have one more offended Texan under your belt, if you are counting. As a transplant from Texas, I have endured many a conversation -- and unsolicited confrontation, might I add -- about the blatant loathing Colorado natives have for Texans. While I can stand to be somewhat empathetic, having witnessed a complete transformation of my beloved city of Austin by mostly Californian transplants, the stereotypes you have allowed yourself to succumb to, my friend, are both harsh and false.

Racist? Me? Far from the truth, I am afraid. My upbringing, character and education have steered me clear of that. My family, my friends, my co-workers, my professors, my neighbors – all racist? You are walking a fine line of place-based arrogance and bigotry, a downward spiral that is pulling this country further from the cohesiveness that once made it great. Anyone within the borders of Texas is racist? They are lines on a map. You are giving them more power than you ought. Due to your misrepresented and near ignorant comment about Colorado superiority over Texas and all Texans being racist and fat, it is questionable as to whether or not you have even been to the state which you have such a strong opinion of. As a matter of fact, have you ever even met a Texan? And, is it really a competition? How can anything good occur if Americans hate one another?

It has always astounded me that people can form the most insulting and disheartening stereotypes, carelessly lumping 23,507,783 people into one category. An area that covers 268,581 square miles, and you honestly believe that it is one place, one people. You are completely disregarding regional geography, topography, ecology, hydrology, climate, industry, culture and government – all very important while referring to or defining a place. Let us quickly move past the fact that Texas boasts ten distinct vegetative and ecological zones, which clearly divides Texas land and lives into many separate and very different categories.

Shall we then move on to the varying demographics of Texas, which is so intrinsically linked to the culture of another country, and our good neighbor Mexico. Texas has seen an overwhelming Mexican population penetrate its borders and we deal with those issues on a daily basis. However, we openly welcome the flavors, the colors, the music, the language and the art of those that cross legally. Like anywhere in America today, Texas deals with illegal immigration, but Texans time and again work with them, not against them. We would have trouble living without them, to be honest. Racism would stop that incorporation and partnership dead in its tracks. Gracious, generous, welcoming, kind – all characteristics of the Texans that I know.

I am a little confused about the direction of your finger-pointing. Just to be clear, Texas is now the fourth state to have a non-white majority population as of August 2008. So are you suggesting that the 35.7 percent Hispanic population and the 11.9 percent African American population in Texas are also racist? It seems that in a state like say, Colorado, where 90.1 percent of its population is white, they might have a better chance of holding racist ideals. When you take away proximity to, and experience with, I believe you get misunderstanding and ignorance. I’m only postulating here, although I have heard more racist comments and jokes here in Colorado these past five months than I ever did living in Texas.

Let’s now talk tourism. Colorado’s economy is blessed. It is a beautiful place with a multitude of activities that attract both national and international crowds. Let’s face it – it rains money in the mountains. Tourist dollars in 2007 generated an astounding $9.8 billion dollars to the state of Colorado. Denver alone saw a 6 percent increase of visitor dollars in 2007, which brought in a record amount of $2.9 billion dollars to this great city I now call home. Who exactly was coming here to spend their hard-earned money, boosting your economy to record numbers? After California, it would be Texas. I’m sure they would say "you’re welcome." In the same Associated Press report, guess which states Coloradans visited the most in 2007? Let’s see…#1 was TEXAS, and #2 was California. Hmm…are those not the two states in which so much of Colorado’s hatred is directed? An eye-opening report, I must say.

Look, practice your Freedom of Speech, your Freedom of the Press, your Opinion Column slap-happy stories, but let’s also practice a little kindness. Next time you delve into your craft of what should be sound, reliable and responsible journalism, maybe you should refrain from typecasting people into categories in which they do not fall. The cliché is exhaustive. No longer is it clever, and no longer do Texans fit the mold that your stories, jokes and opinions so desperately need them to be in. I don’t believe it is on your agenda, but if you ever get over your fears and actually decide to enter the boundaries of Texas, you will be welcomed with open arms. Texans love Coloradans and they will look past the way they were treated while visiting or living in Colorado. Texas has a lot to offer, as do its people.


Angelica Huffman

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Patricia Calhoun co-founded Westword in 1977; she’s been the editor ever since. She’s a regular on the weekly CPT12 roundtable Colorado Inside Out, played a real journalist in John Sayles’s Silver City, once interviewed President Bill Clinton while wearing flip-flops, and has been honored with numerous national awards for her columns and feature-writing.
Contact: Patricia Calhoun