I am a first-generation law school graduate, viral content creator and member of the anti-hate and discrimination council in Dallas. I wear many hats, but for the past year I’ve worn a sparkly one. For the past 365 days, as Miss Texas, I have spent my time teaching about the importance of diversity and inclusion, fighting directly against our state’s current political agenda. I am the very first Asian American to win the title in the 85-year history of this scholarship competition. I took my platform “Y’all Means All” on the road, giving more than 250 keynote speeches across the state and around the world, making history once again as the most well-traveled Miss Texas.
If our politicians continue to shut out, ignore and oppress marginalized and minority Texans, the state will never become the socio-economic and political powerhouse it wants to become.
And I did all this because I love my home. But I also know that if our politicians continue to shut out, ignore and oppress marginalized and minority Texans, the state will never become the socio-economic and political powerhouse it wants to become.
I was born and raised in McKinney, a not-so-small-anymore town north of Dallas. My mother is a Filipino immigrant, and my father is a fifth-generation Texan and Cherokee Indian. I attended school in the Prosper Independent School District, where I was one of only two students who looked recognizably Asian American for almost a decade. I was shy, and embarrassed of both the way that I looked and the financial circumstances I came from.
But that shy Asian kid is finally finding her voice. I have had the honor of watching Texas grow, and change, solidifying its status as a majority minority state. As a first-generation college student at Southern Methodist University, I witnessed the strength and power of this cultural shift firsthand. I started seeing a new side of my state, a Texas that is home to one of the country’s largest South Asian communities, a thriving Black music industry, generations of Latinx and Chicano cultures, and some of the best Vietnamese food this side of the Pacific.
And yet, so many of the leaders of my state are living in denial. Rather than celebrating this diversity and the ways it makes us stronger, they are trying to smother it.
The Texas Senate recently passed S.B. 17. This bill bans diversity equity inclusion departments in public universities, spaces dedicated to historically underrepresented communities such as mine. And this is just one of the state government’s recent attacks on Texas minorities. Every child, from Plentywood, Montana, to Brownsville, Texas, deserves to feel at home in their community and to see themselves reflected in the world — regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability or religion. The United States is and has for more than a century been a nation built of immigrants and rooted in mixing cultures. Texas is no exception. If anything, we should be leading our fellow states as a shining example. Instead, we risk becoming a national embarrassment.
I wanted my tenure as Miss Texas to really mean something. This is about so much more than the stereotypes of beauty pageants or yes, beauty queens. It should go without saying, but I am more than just a pretty face. I wanted to hold up a mirror to the lived experiences of every American, not just Texans. I wanted to show young people that they do belong here, and can find role models that look like them and believe in them.
Legislation that protects minority communities isn’t simply “woke” liberal propaganda.
But I worry that without DEI departments and policies in our universities, we will ostracize our most vulnerable populations and open them to discrimination. Legislation that protects minority communities isn’t simply “woke” liberal propaganda. These efforts are necessary to ensure the futures of our young people, and lay the groundwork for Texas to reach its truest potential. They should be considered bipartisan efforts, not divisive wedges issues used to score cheap political points.
I became Miss Texas to advocate for the people of color, immigrants and LGTBQ people who hold up every community from Galveston to Waco. Now more than ever, it is crucial to hold our leaders and institutions accountable. And I think most Texans agree with me. Whether you vote red, white or blue, the colors of our flag come together to symbolize the simple, human desire of belonging to something bigger than ourselves. And if Texas truly desires to be “bigger and better,” Gov. Greg Abbott and state leadership must cease its assault on DEI policy and focus on improving the economic and social livelihood of all of us.
Averie Bishop is a first generation law school graduate, viral influencer and political activist based in Dallas. She was Miss Texas 2022, and second runner-up in the 2023 Miss America pageant.