What Does It Mean to Be a Texan?

Texan Question MarkI had a discussion (argument) with a good friend about what it means to be a Texan. I said that, after 7+ years of living in Dallas, I felt I could call myself a Texan. She said that you have to be born in Texas to be a Texan, and that I could never be one even if I lived here the rest of my life. But that made me start wondering about other scenarios. What about someone who was born elsewhere but moved here as a baby? Is that person a Texan? What about someone born in Texas, whose ancestors date back to the Alamo, but who lives somewhere else? I think that this is a question with deep philosophical implications.

Texan by Birth

Though many people act like it is, Texas is not (currently) an independent country. Legally, there is no such thing as a citizen of Texas. You can be a resident, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about calling yourself a Texan, in the cultural heritage sense. I know many people who have lived here their whole lives, but there are tried-and-true Texans who have left and come back. Are you still a Texan if you went to a Yankee college? What about if you’re born to Texans outside of Texas? Is there a certain percentage of your life that you have to spend in Texas? These are all non-rhetorical questions with no clear answers.

Texan by Culture

Suppose you accept that being Texan is a state of mind. If you think you’re a Texan, you are. That brings about my next point. How much of the traditional Texas heritage do you need to share? Do you need to buy a cowboy hat and a pickup truck? Do you need to go to church and vote Republican? If so, then the whole city of Austin isn’t truly Texan. There are probably people who think so. But we can’t take such a narrow view of Texas culture.

Despite the anti-intellectual rhetoric of our most conservative politicians, there is a huge amount of science and technology in Texas. Think NASA and Texas Instruments. And Big Oil’s contributions to science are overlooked by liberals, but just as groundbreaking (no pun intended). And while Texas is nowadays known for its right-wing politics, this is the state that gave us Lyndon B. Johnson, who ushered in an unprecedented amount of social safety net programs. The truth is, Texas is too big and diverse to pin down to any one culture or ideology.

In the end, I can see my friend’s point of view on the matter. I’m not Texan in any of the traditional ways. I was born in Missouri and grew up in Michigan. I’m a non-religious liberal who speaks with a northern accent. I don’t own a pair of cowboy boots and I don’t listen to country music. But I do like Whataburger and breakfast tacos. I do like bluebonnets and drinking Texas brews on the river. And I do consider myself a Texan, despite what anyone else thinks.

So what do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Steve Lovelace

Steve Lovelace is a writer, photographer and graphic artist. After graduating Michigan State University in 2004, he taught Spanish in Samoa before moving to Dallas, Texas. He blogs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at http://steve-lovelace.com.

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6 Responses

  1. Joe Schibi says:

    I am a native born Texan from San Antonio, and I will have to disagree with your friend’s definition of “Texan”. Here is a refined view point for you to consider about what it means to be truly Texan, Texican, Texian or even Tejano. All of these titles share a common belief of unity and an acceptance of heritage and history good or bad under the Lone Star. A Texan has a clear understanding of why we were proud of being mexican citizens until Santa Anna gave us little choice. And why it was necessary to revolt against his tyranny. A Texan will never accept that level of tyranny from anyone else including our current government, (if they behave in that way) ever again. From the massacre at Goliad to the siege of the Alamo a true Texan believes implicitly that we will never surrender for what we stand for nor will we condone that kind of lack of integrity. A Texan has learned to be straight and direct with his beliefs (no matter what they are) so there is never a question of where he/she stands. Then there is the entrepreneurial spirit that drives a Texan to create his his own freedom and not leave his fate in the hands of anyone other than himself. If you believe these things down to your implied cowboy boots, then you are a Texan no matter where you were born.

  2. Nathan Bickle says:

    I was born a rocks throw from Arkansas, but it was on Texas soil. Many Arkansans are born in Texas and they have that birth right no matter where they live. While they can claim to be Arkansans and shout pig sooie, they have a birth right that cannot be taken away. Likewise you can be born anywhere outside of the sate line and you will never be a Texan. No it’s not citizenship, it’s a brith right and you don’t have it. It cannot be passed along though a birth line either, it is simply where you are born period. Juris Birth only. Also you seem to have deeper issues than being a want to ben Texan, you might want to start there. Paul said that the toe cannot be an eye, same thing here, no liberal logic will save you.

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