Being Fort Bend County’s first-ever County Judge of color has always been a huge point of pride, both for myself and my community. Because no matter where we come from, most of us want a safe, prosperous community where everyone can thrive. But recently – it has become clear that some people do not share these values.
Over the past few weeks, our office has been on the receiving end of hateful, racist and xenophobic speech. People have sent threatening messages against myself and my family through social media, emails, and even phone calls to the county. These hateful messages don’t just impact me, they impact everyone in our community. Particularly on the eve of an election, where people of color may see and hear hate speech and feel that they are not safe or welcome, I felt compelled to speak out.
Fort Bend has been called the most ethnically diverse county in America, with a population that comes close to an equal distribution of the nation’s four major ethnic groups – and every single group deserves to feel like they are safe, welcome, and able to make their voices heard, no exceptions.
I am proud to call Fort Bend County, Texas home. As an immigrant from the Southern Region of Asia, I always tell people that I got to America as fast as I could. I grew up in an isolated village across the world where my father was a truck driver earning only a couple of dollars a day. We didn’t have electricity, so I had to complete my homework by the light of a kerosene lamp and learned English as an adult.
As a school kid, I remember we used to get wheat and packaged milk delivered to our school, and on each of those packages was written in bright-red letters, U.S.A. I remember thinking, that is a country that cares about people. From that time, I set my sights on coming to the United States of America.
When I share this story with my three children, they have a hard time imagining that kind of world. They have been afforded many opportunities that I could have only dreamed of having. I am happy that my wife and I have been able to provide them with the opportunity to grow up with all of their essential needs provided without a second thought.
When my family and I moved to Fort Bend County in 1999, it was much different than it is today. The population was a little over 330,000, with various developments and many new communities springing up. By 2010, the county’s population grew exponentially, exceeding 500,000 residents and becoming the second-largest county in the greater Houston area behind Harris County.
I believe we are doing something right, as our county continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Fort Bend has grown to nearly 900,000 people, and projections estimate the county will exceed 1 million residents by 2027, and by 2050, Fort Bend County is expected to have 1.8 million residents.
It is my hope that our growing community can be united across our racial differences. I am an American by choice with a deep abiding passion for the values and opportunities that make this the greatest country on Earth. America is stronger for having hard-working immigrants, who contribute meaningfully to the experiment of democracy and freedom. America is and has always been a land of immigrants striving to realize an incredible vision of liberty and prosperity.
Every time we get these attacks, I refer back to my bookmarked verse from 2nd Timothy: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind.” I know that of the almost 1 million residents of Fort Bend, one of the country’s most diverse and fastest for our communities, I’m elected to represent everyone and make decisions for the best interest of all, including those that send hateful messages.
There is no need or place for hate messaging, xenophobia, hate-motivated behavior, or intimidation tactics in the democratic process. In this last stretch of the election, as County Judge I will continue to do as I have always done – ensure that Fort Bend county residents are not just able to cast their ballots freely and equally, but that they feel safe and secure to do so, regardless of their race or background.
KP George is Fort Bend County Judge and is on the Advisory Committee of Texas Right to Vote.