Lil Nas X isn’t an anomaly — black people have always been a part of country music (Vox)
The myth of the all-white American West contributes to the erasure of black cowboys, musicians, and settlers.
By Nadra Nittle, Vox, June 5, 2019
When the writer and activist James Baldwin took part in a Cambridge University debate about America’s race problem in 1965, he invoked the trope of the Western film to argue that the American dream had indeed come at black people’s expense. For all of their contributions to the United States, African Americans existed on society’s margins.
“It comes as a great shock around the age of 5 or 6 or 7 to discover that the flag to which you have pledged allegiance ... has not pledged allegiance to you,” he said. “It comes as a great shock to discover that Gary Cooper killing off the Indians, when you were rooting for Gary Cooper, that the Indians were you.”
The nearly all-white Cambridge audience chuckled at Baldwin’s recollection of this epiphany. They may have been English, but they viewed the “cowboy” to be white because American pop culture had made that idea global. More than 50 years later, that perception still holds. Most things country-and-western, including cowboys, music, and fashion, are widely linked to white men, from John Wayne to Johnny Cash.