top of page

Our Culture in Middle America

By Andrew Petiprin


At the corner of Spring Creek Parkway and Coit Road in Plano, Texas, in the heart of conservative America, there is a branch of the Patel Brothers grocery store chain. Its slogan stands out in large white letters against a green background: “Celebrating Our Food…Our Culture.” As much as I enjoy Indian food from time to time, I know that I am not included in this first-person plural. Rather, “our” speaks to the 18,500 Indian immigrants that make up 6.5% of an overall 25% Asian population of the city.


Plano is the largest city in Collin County, and the fourth largest city in the Dallas-Fort Worth urban area, commonly called the Metroplex. When my wife and children and I moved here in 2020, we bought a modest home in one of Plano’s oldest neighborhoods, built in the mid-1970’s when the Dallas commuter base expanded north and east. Big oak trees line streets flanked by three- and four-bedroom ranch-style bungalows, with alleys running behind the houses to conceal unsightly garages from public view. Our area is one inspiration for the setting of the long-running Texas-based cartoon King of the Hill, created by sometime Plano resident Mike Judge. Notably, amid the many humorous moments in King of the Hill, there are hints detectable in the frustrations of the conservative protagonist, Hank, that places like Plano are in flux. Whatever Hank’s culture has been, it will not be his son’s.


Plano is regularly rated one of the most desirable places to live in the United States, with major employers including JP Morgan Chase, AT&T, Capital One, Toyota, Frito-Lay, and various health care giants. As a result, there is high demand for tech work here, and Plano, along with neighboring Frisco, Allen, and McKinney, are racing to build cookie-cutter houses in new labyrinthine neighborhoods, increasingly dominated by Patel Brothers’ clientele.


This expanding group’s cultural impact on north Texas goes well beyond food. To cite one example, Plano is the home of the corporate headquarters for the movie theater chain Cinemark, which has more than five hundred locations throughout the Americas. In Plano and the surrounding suburbs, Indians do more than their share of business there. As I write this, I have my choice of multiple films in Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, and Hindi at Plano’s three Cinemark theaters, including the chain’s flagship near the swanky Legacy West district. If I venture to another large chain theater location, the AMC at the Stonebriar Center just across city lines in Frisco, ten of the of the thirty-two films currently playing are Indian.





Now, the challenges and opportunities of cultural diversity – depending on one’s perspective – are not surprising for much of America today. But at a glance, one would assume suburban Dallas would still be above the fray. The entire city of Plano, along with most of Collin County, is in Texas’s Third U.S. congressional district, which has been a Republican stronghold since 1968. In 2022, incumbent Representative Van Taylor, a Harvard-educated Iraq War veteran widely regarded as a Republican-in-Name-Only, was very nearly primaried out of his seat before ultimately giving up his re-election bid when it was revealed he had had an extramarital affair. In his place, voters elected a more populist county judge named Keith Self, who won in a landslide over a self-described “first generation immigrant” named Sandeep Srivastava.


For many who prefer living in Texas precisely because it tends to resist the globalist annihilation of local custom and sovereignty seen elsewhere in the country, Self’s election was welcome. Nonetheless, it may prove a short-lived victory. Self and Srivastava will likely face each other again in November; and while flipping the district remains an unlikely prospect for now, things are changing. Trump won the district 55-45 here in 2016, but only by a hair’s breadth in 2020. And for the first time ever, the city of Plano flipped Democrat not only on the presidential ballot in 2020, but also on the gubernatorial ballot in 2022.


Some may ask: as long as business is booming, who cares? And besides, Indians and other Asians arrive legally, they work hard at jobs that need their skills, and they demand little. A few of them are even Christians, and the majority Hindus are non-proselytizing. Their young people are succeeding in precisely the way we imagine the American dream can become reality. Only a fool would begrudge them for wanting to come here, especially when the median household income for everyone in the area is over $100,000.


But holes in the stretched social fabric are becoming harder to cover with prosperity.


In August 2022, a fifty-eight-year-old Plano woman named Esmerelda Upton was arrested on charges of assault and making terrorist threats after an altercation with a group of Indian women outside a local restaurant. A viral video from the incident shows Upton, who appears clearly impaired, shouting, “I hate you f***ing Indians…. We don’t want you here.” When police arrived, Upton reportedly told them that she had a gun in her car, a fact which would not have been worrisome in Texas, except that she also yelled, “Don’t f*** with me. I will blow your f***ing curry.” Naturally, the mainstream media used the incident as an emblem of the deplorability of half the nation.


By any account, Upton’s behavior was totally unacceptable; and yet, we may regard it with pity as much as condemnation. It does not come from nowhere, and if I had to assign an underlying motivation to Upton’s actions, I would guess jealousy rather than hatred. Indians who live in Plano go “home” to the subcontinent for a visit every other year or so. But where is Esmerelda Upton supposed to go to find a more authentic version of home? What does “our culture” mean now to everyone else?


Sadly, we return to the corner of Spring Creek Parkway and Coit Road for answers. Here, the shopping opportunities may be the extent of culture for most Plano residents of all races and creeds. A maddening fact. The other establishments in the vicinity of Patel Brothers sum up the Nothingness that fuels rage for want of religious meaning or a sense of belonging: Walmart, Chick Fil-A, Jiffy Lube, Dollar Tree. The Spanish etymology of the city’s name suddenly begins to signify something more than its original geographical meaning: “flat.” This is just a place to consume.


A mile south of Patel Brothers, there sits a brand-new Catholic church, a replacement of the previous brutalist box that had served Plano’s Catholics since the 1970’s. It is built in a traditional style, but it has no pipe organ, the stained-glass windows are cartoon-like, and the unremarkable painted drywall is just like what one would find in the houses of the new subdivisions. The church conveys impermanence rather than the basis of a renewed Western culture capable of integrating outsiders. Erected in less than two years, it is surely not meant to last any longer than what was there before – fifty years or so. It is just another building on a busy corner that also includes a mosque, a McDonald’s, and most significant of all, the Chamber of Commerce.


Our culture,” alas.


Andrew Petiprin is the Founder and Editor at the Spe Salvi Institute.

 

14 Comments


Steve Hedrick
Steve Hedrick
Apr 26

Last thing and I'm done- I am surprised that you think I'm "reading something into your article." Just below this one in the "Recent Posts" is a link to your article "Islam and the West? The dilemma of Young Ahmed" (a particularly disturbing piece) where you say this- "What is left of the once great Christian societies of Europe and her progeny is simply an impossibly poor fit for Islam. It is us or them." US or THEM. You have a pattern of writing inflammatory and racially insensitive articles. And I engage with your work in these incredibly rare instances because I think these articles are harmful both to the populations that they paint as the other who can't possibly…

Like
Riverman84
Riverman84
Apr 26
Replying to

“The "us or them" is just an observation.” East vs West. America and Europe and Christianity vs Islam and the East. Zero sum game. Only one can be victorious.


What an unbelievably incendiary “observation”! Nothing to it! Nothing to see here. Neither here nor there. Just a modern Crusade… but also just an observation.

Like

Riverman84
Riverman84
Apr 25

My sympathies lie with the Indian (or Indian-American) people who were going to work or eat at a local restaurant, not with the person who assaulted them and threatened them with murder while shouting hate speech. In this essay, you psychologize the later and provide an imaginary explanation for her actions while in no way empathizing with the former … a truly baffling position especially for a Christian to take. Indeed, you frame the argument as us (people like the racist terrorizing women) vs them (Indian immigrants).


But to clarify, I wasn’t actually the one engaging with your essay (although I objected to it deeply). I objected to the fact that your website removed valid criticism from your comment section,…

Like
Riverman84
Riverman84
Apr 25
Replying to

Nice try, but that is not the essay you wrote. I suppose we could imagine infinite other essays (past-counterfactuals are fun!), but the evidence you presented was about Indian immigrants, not the Amish. Racism was clearly central to Upton’s crimes that make up the incident you discuss, so “removing racism from the equation” is bad faith. Furthermore, the Amish do not fit with your celebration of “resist[ing] the globalist annihilation of local custom and sovereignty seen elsewhere in the country.” It is quite obvious to whom that applies!

Like

Riverman84
Riverman84
Apr 24

*Flattery only. No critical feedback allowed. I’m reposting this as it is well-reasoned, specific criticism, backed up by evidence. This is a public forum and that invites discussion and feedback. While it will inevitably be removed, it shouldn’t be. -Buddy Hedrick


"By any account, Upton's behavior was totally unacceptable; and yet, we may regard it with pity as much as condemnation. It does not come from nowhere, and if I had to assign an underlying motivation to Upton's actions, I would guess jealousy rather than hatred. Indians who live in Plano go "home" to the subcontinent for a visit every other year or so. But where is Esmerelda Upton supposed to go to find a more authentic version of home?…


Like
Andrew Petiprin
Andrew Petiprin
Apr 25
Replying to

Thank you for your interest in my work. My focus in this article is with culture, or the question of what a group of people organize their lives around. I do not assume there has been any uniquely American culture in the past. I am concerned, however, that the marks of cultural cohesion in America these days lack metaphysical significance, and provide little basis for human flourishing. Race is of no consequence to me on these questions, and I am both surprised and grieved by what you have read into my article.

Like
bottom of page