By Trang-Thu (Mimi) Duong, intern in the office of Representative Gene Wu
The culture that exists in the Texas Capitol gives a new meaning to my understanding of cultural competency (or cultural humility). Being in this building, in a place that I was unfamiliar with and among people with different worldviews than me, has been humbling. All the customs I’m used to – social norms and ways of communicating – are continuously being rearranged. This 85th Texas Legislative Session has been hard, and I’ve learned that the veterans of this building have found their own coping mechanisms.
The Texas Capitol is like wizard chess. Wizard chess is not a traditional chessboard with regular pieces you have to move; it’s magical chess like in Harry Potter, where the pieces move on their own and they have the potential of doing major damage onto each other.
This is relevant because major damage has been accomplished this 85th Session in the name of winning, and I don’t think people realize the potential damage that could inflict. SB 4, the anti-immigrant “show your papers” bill was signed by Governor Abbott. SB 8, the “fetal burial” bill has passed both the Senate and the House. SB 6, the “bathroom bill”, was amended onto an education bill. And children can continue to be shamed for not having enough money to buy a hot lunch. These laws have the potential of doing serious harm, and I don’t think these bad plays understand the consequences.
But then, like in all chess games, there’s a positional moment when you can outplay your opponent, and small wins mean victories. Churches continue to be places of refuge for immigrants, and abortion after 20 weeks is still a thing. We will now have separate but equal bathrooms, but there’s still a chance of keeping our vulnerable safe. There’s a slow roll out of non-government agencies/for-profits taking over Texas, but it’s not an overhaul of the entire system.
This is the coping bravado that exists among the veteran staff of Democratic Senators and Representatives and moderate Republicans. It’s going to get bad, but the game can still be won. There is a beauty to getting up after you’ve been magically hit by another wizard piece, just like there’s a beauty in being engaged in the legislative process again and again
Social workers have an advantage here, whether we’re focused on micro, mezzo, or macro practice. There is a sense of the bigger picture, and the knowledge that things take time to improve. This is a self-awareness that keeps Texas minorities fighting session after session. There is a constant growth and development that keeps us humble and patient to fight another day.
Learning the culture of this Capitol empowers me to share with everyone what it’s like in Texas politics. So that the culture of this building isn’t so unfamiliar to the masses, and so that more of us can be in here to support those that have been fighting for decades.