BLACK COWBOY CULTURE FROM A TO Z

September 17, 2019

The current yeehaw moment has officially reached peak performativity – with the
innocent over-use of the cowboy emoji devolving into what reputable fashion magazines
call the “Black Western Movement.” As someone from the suburbs of California with
roots in the South, I can confidently say that “movement” isn’t the right word. Mass
fashion media will lead you to believe that people are just now starting to reclaim their
ROC (roots of color) in cowboy culture, when the reality is that cowboy culture IS Black
and brown. Those identifying with it aren’t the ones being represented in what has been
dubbed the “Black Western Movement,” which places sole importance on the
postmodern edginess of mixing canonically urban Black and “Wild, Wild, West”
aesthetics together rather than the people who invented those aesthetics, and how the
assumption of a racialized cowboy is incorrect all together. The “Wild, Wild, West”
doesn’t even exist – the idea was invented by Hollywood to create and sell the genre of
“the Western” which invented the commercialized cowboy we know now from
stereotypes of Southerners to tell stories about Westward migration. As you can
hopefully tell by now, there are many intersecting ideas present in the “Black Western
Movement,” so with that said, here is my A-Z list of Black/POC Cowboys.


A – ATLANTA
From Outkast to literally every strip club ever, Atlanta is a Southern hub. Much of the
canon of Blackness comes from the South as it where slavery was primarily enacted in
America (see: plantations). Many Black Americans such as myself find our direct
lineage traced back to the South as the origin – obviously it would go further back, but
colonization ensured that our ancestors’ records were destroyed. Atlanta is what I would
consider an emblem of the South, with both its modern and contemporary cultural
history.


B – BLM
No, not Black Lives Matter. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is a part of the
United States Department of the Interior that manages 700 million acres of US land.
Created in 1946 by President Harry S. Truman, the BLM was an extension to the
Homestead Act of 1862 which provided public accessibility to Western land for
homesteaders heading west
. There’s a lot happening right now with the BLM and Tr*mp
– deffo give it a look.


C – Cowperson/Cowthey/them
A gender-neutral term for our gender non-conforming (GNC), genderqueer, genderfluid,
non-binary and trans folx! This term gained traction during what you may call the
present “Black Western Movement.”


D – Dale
My favorite character from King of the Hill. A homegrown rider from Texas, Dale is my
favorite Libertarian.


E – Egg and Spoon’ing
A cowboy competition in which you and an opponent mount your horses with an egg on
a spoon and attempt to successfully master the horse’s gait without dropping the egg. I
feel like I read about this in a children’s book once…

 

F – FILLY
A female horse and/or a young single woman. #fillygirlsummer


G – GIT
“Go’on nah, GIT ! We don’t taking kindly to your folk ‘round these here parts!” – several
of my vague ideas of white cowboys


H – HEN FRUIT
Eggs !


I – INDIANS
Ethnically/nationally incorrect name given to Native Americans by European colonizers.
There are several debates surrounding the use of this word, all of which place the
autonomy of Native American populations at the forefront. Definitely worth the research!


J – jethro d. jeterson
My alter ego. He enjoys Miller High Life out of a champagne flute and potato chip
chicken. No, I don’t know what that entails either.
 


K – KINERO
American appropriation of an unknown Spanish word signifying early North American
Latino herdsman. Once these herdsmen took to horseback, the term ‘kinero’ fell off.
(SEE: VAQUEROS/AS)


L – LIL NAS X
The man, the myth, the mystery. You can consider Lil Nas X as the nucleus of the
critical mass situation that yeehaw culture has become with the controversy surrounding
his multi-platinum song, ‘Old Town Road,’ and whether or not the trap fusion invalidates
the work from the country genre, even though there are more country music influences
than there are trap influences from a sonic point of view. The assertion that this sonic
invalidation doesn’t happen turned into the insertion of contemporary Black culture into
the canon of “yeehaw” and “country” that white people were desperately trying to keep
nice and mayonnaise-y. In the end, the only winners were corporations who are now
able to capitalize on the postmodern assertion of Black cowpeople (though we know the
truth.)


M – MEG THEE STALLION
The second horseman to the apocalypse. Kidding! Sister Meg is a Texas baddie WITH
a degree serving us her cowboy roots on a very hot platter. I am in love with her.

 

N – NAG
An old horse exhausted from years of work. Also another term for women – this time
instead of being unmarried, she’s just annoying. (see: Marmeladov @ Katerina
Invanovna)


O – Old West
All American states West of the Mississippi River, beginning with the in-betweener
states of Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Louisiana.


P – Pahtnuh
“Pahtnuh, pahtnuh, lemme lemme upgrade u,” – Beyoncé


Q – QUENTIN TARANTINO
He made a “Spaghetti Western” once. If you asked me who I would dub the supreme
ruler of aestheticizing aspects of cowboy energy in shallow Hollywood fashion, it would
be Tarantino.


R – ROPE

You can use it to make lassos, you can use it to fortify your caravan, the possibilities are
endless.


S – SOLANGE
Southern mama from good ole’ Texas. When I Get Home (2019) exemplifies her
yeehaw heritage in an odd mix of brutalist architecture, black cowboys/rancheros
and…normcore? The album still makes me feel some type of way, but we will question
even Queen Solange’s implicitly harmful impact via the zeitgeist.

 

T – TEXAS
An odd place! Texas is the largest state in the USA, and is the easiest image-word
association to the idea of the Southwest. While during Westward expansion in the late
19th century, Texas was considered a part of the West. In today’s contemporary moment
we consider Texas to be the south, which can be seen culturally in differences from
Texan culture and dominant Western culture, that is an appropriation of many Southern
aspects.


U – UPSCUDDLE
A ~cowboy~ word for fight! I think of it as akin to how we use the phrase “squabble up”
in SoCal.


V – VAQUEROS/AS
Latino/a herdsmen/women. Their culture is based on the Spanish colonization of México
in the 16 th century, when ranches with Spanish livestock were installed by the
conquistadors. Thus the vaquero was born! It is said that vaqueros only got off their
horses to dance with lil mamis at the function – which is ultimate badassery. It is also
known that a lof of the aesthetics we associate with Hollywood’s “Wild, Wild, West” are
appropriations of vaquero garb. In other words, fuck Clint Eastwood – I’m tryna get that
vaquero drip.


W – WESTERN (genre)
A genre of film focused on the late 19th century Westward migration based in ideas of
freedom, settlement, opportunity, and of course, toxic masculinity. Hollywood’s
glamorization is inevitable, however certain appropriations of Latino horseriding culture
(vaqueros, gauchos) were lifted as to aestheticize and erase the brown populations who
invented what Hollywood turned into our modern notion of a “cowboy.” I still love
Deliverance though. (Yes - I know it’s technically a thriller, but I regard is as a Western
solely because of the banjo).


X – X
Illiterate populations would use an X to signify their names on documents. As you can
see, this presents problems for the subjugation of the illiterate, but hey. America.


Y – Y’ALL
Conjunction of “you all.” Often used today, as a part of Southern culture that bled into
the mainstream.


Z – ZEITGEIST
Google defines a zeitgeist as “the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history
as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.” When I mention the postmodern, this is
what I mean to attribute to the zeitgeist. I believe we have an idea of what the future is
going to look like, and it is a look based on hybridity and diversity that feels
revolutionary in how it challenges the status quo, but dangerously proposes a uniformed
flavor of diversity that is more homogenous than we like to think. The fact that people

genuinely use the term “Black Western Movement” is proof of this – on the outside, it
looks like accessibility, and feels revolutionary in that it challenges the Hollywood notion
of the White cowboy by aesthetically asserting Blackness, but what is actually
happening here?

 

Let’s remember to be critical of what might look like a positive stride, especially when the main weapon used to challenge an existing system of oppression is aesthetics. By that, I mean that being Black and putting on a pair of cowboy boots doesn’t mean you’re challenging anything, and the only thing changing with those boots
is the larger capitalist machine, which just learned that Millennials/Gen Z are more
inclined to buy something if they can sell it as a tool to align oneself socially.

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