By guest contributor Macon D., originally published at Stuff White People Do
Most of the time, I’m like just about everyone else in at least one way — I don’t much care who occupies the position of “Alabama Agricultural Commissioner.” In fact, I didn’t even know such a position exists. But then I saw a couple of ads for Dale Peterson, a current GOP candidate for Alabama Ag Commish. Peterson’s ads immediately register as very, very “white” to me, and now I’m trying to count the ways.
Among the most obvious appeals to conservative white voters here is the nostalgic evocation of the Independent (White) Cowboy Myth. If you say “cowboy” to most white Americans, they’ll immediately think of a hat-wearing, horse-riding white man. And yet, as Mel at BroadSnark explains (in a post on “White America’s Existential Identity Crisis”), real cowboys weren’t actually all that white, nor all that independent:
There is a certain segment of the American population that really believes in the American foundational myths. They identify with them. They believe that America was built by a handful of white, Christian, men with exceptional morals. Their America is the country that showed the world democracy, saved the Jews in World War II, and tore down the Berlin wall.
These people have always fought changes to their mythology. They have always resented those of us who pushed to complicate those myths with the realities of slavery, Native American genocide, imperial war in the Philippines, invasions of Latin American countries, and secret arms deals.
And we have been so busy fighting them to have our stories and histories included in the American story that we sometimes forget why the myths were invented in the first place.
No myth illustrates the slight of hand behind our national mythology quite like the myth of the cowboy. In this mythology, the cowboy is a white man. He is a crusty frontiersman taming the west and paving the way for civilization. He is the good guy fighting the dangerous Indian. He is free and independent. He is in charge of his own destiny.
Peterson’s follow-up ad is even, um . . . better? Continue reading