Race in Fort Bend County, TX: Place-History as Discipleship Praxis (Pt 2)
In the last post, I shared about the lesson’s and development happening from reflection on my story next to what I’ve learned about God and race. Tied to my on-going romance with the concept of “place,” this journey is leading me down an additional road that seems increasingly significant to growing in a holistic life of discipleship.
My story began in a particular place: Fort Bend County, TX. I lived there from birth until I moved away to college — about a 100 miles north up the Brazos River — and continue returning there to see family. The history and peculiarities of that place made up my immediate formative contexts.
If we’re to be people who cultivate places of shalom, we should know how the places we’ve called home fell short of that standard, what prejudices and idolatries they may have cultivated within us, and how they continue to reproduce those historical evils.
So, I’ve been slowly working to dig into the history of race and racism in the place I grew up.
Fort Bend was among the first settled by the Old 300, the colonists led by the Austin family to settle Tejas and, I’m starting to grasp, quickly wrest it from Mexican hands to ensure the expansion of slavery. This exploration led, thanks to my Dad, to hearing about the Jaybird-Woodpecker War for the first time: an ill-named, successful attempt by white people to crush growing Black political representation during Reconstruction.
I found out that Kendleton, a poor village down highway 59 from us, was a Freedman’s town. I learned about discarded Black cemeteries in the woods near the soccer fields I practiced on as a kid. The ties between the county’s largest city of Sugarland, the old sugar plantations, the large swaths of prison land, and the vast amounts of wealth gained from housing development on those same grounds have started clarifying.
It made me notice for the first time that, through Richmond, a stretch of road we call Avenue H or Old 90 is called Jackson St (and wonder if it was named for Tail of Tears Andrew, Confederate general Stonewall, or someone innocuous)? The statues, unprotested, around our County Court House honoring men who fought for white supremacy.
How much deeper do these holes go?
It’s making me ask:
- How many people were lynched in Fort Bend? (4 according the an EPI study)
- What Jim Crow laws would people have faced there?
- In the past and present, percentages of land in the country were/are owned by different races?
- What are the levels of wealth and income inequality? Education inequalities?
- How have race and racism morphed in successive waves of immigration — first Latin American, now East and South Asian?
- When was my school district (Needville ISD) integrated? And how did that go?
And I think this is just beginning to scratch the surface.
If we want to participate in God’s cosmic redemptive mission (which means undoing a lot of sinful activity that came before), we need to interrogate our places and understand how the geographies and ideologies we grew up in were shaped by racism.
So folks, let’s dig in.