Texism in Colorado
Why do Coloradans hate Texans? Ask a Coloradan and he’ll tell you it’s because Texans are loud, arrogant slobs.
The word hate may seem too strong. After all, every region has benign rivalries. Aggie jokes season any Texas barbecue outside College Station. Ohioans call West Virginians “dumb hillbillies.” Even Coloradans find their snoots shortened in Wyoming. But send a Texan to Denver, and he’ll learn soon enough that hate might be putting it mildly.
For most people, a regional rivalry is a joke at the expense of someone else’s ability to change a light bulb. For Coloradans, Texans are dimwitted, high-voltage pain. I know because I’m a Texan who lived ten harrowing years in the Arctic state.
Texans, they say in Colorado, drive recklessly and never have enough coolant in the radiator to make it up I-70’s first big hill. Skiing Texans resemble stampeding cattle. Texans drink too much and tip too little. Texans wear big funny hats over big dumb heads. Substitute any of the other, more commonly maligned groups of people — blacks, Poles, Mexicans, or Jews — for Texan in these descriptions and such views would be immediately dismissed as racism. In Colorado, it is gospel, spread from the valleys of overpriced tourist traps to the mount of every ski resort. A Coloradan smiles pretty for Texas petrodollars, but in his heart burns a bitter resentment.
Coloradans learned about the evils of racism along with the rest of the nation — with this one exception. For that reason, I call Colorado’s fear and loathing of the citizens of this great state, “Texism.”
The original maps of Texas after the revolution show the Republic’s northernmost extent in a narrow panhandle along the Front Range of present-day Colorado. The panhandle reached the latitude of Fort Collins and included Denver and Colorado Springs (though I’m not sure these cities even existed in 1836). Today, at least 80 percent of Colorado’s population lives in this narrow strip at the Eastern edge of the Rockies. Yet the thought that the Texas flag could have flown at the intersection of Broadway and Colfax in the Mile High City is too much for any Coloradan to bear; Texism may date from Sam Houston’s dream borders, but one never dares raise this historical fact in polite conversation.
Between the revolution in 1836 and the time the US government vouchsafed their existence as one of the United States in 1845, there were a lot of discussions about the limbo state and its borders. Mirabeau Lamar, the president after Sam Houston, sent an ill-fated expedition to New Mexico to discuss the territory’s inclusion into the Republic’s territory, and most of the expedition wound up dead or in a Mexican prison.
Then, on March 19, 1840, Comanche chiefs, seeking recognition of their homeland, which would have become known as Comancheria, came to San Antonio to meet in the Council House with representatives of the new Republic. The 12 leaders in the Council House were shot and killed. 23 other Comanches were killed in the streets, and 30 were held prisoner. The Council House Massacre led to years of hostility and violence between the Comanches and the Anglos.
Somewhere near Leadville, Colorado — where the “unsinkable” Molly Brown made her fortune in gold — the interstate cold war annually escalates into Armageddon. Teams of Coloradans and Texans bombard and splatter each other with tons of rotten tomatoes gleefully provided by farmers of the Eastern Colorado plains. The Coloradans always win, but why wouldn’t they? At this latitude and altitude, there are far more Texan-haters than Texans. It’s as if the Denver Broncos were taking pride in defeating a rural Texas high school (something even the Broncos could do unless the game were in the Super Bowl). I have always held the tomato war’s remote setting suspect: A number of Texans, having suffered terminal tomato concussions, may never come out of the mountain-cloistered jousting grounds.
Beneath the tomato war, beneath the Texist comments of Denver television personalities, beneath the bumper stickers that say “Welcome to Colorado, now go home” lies real contempt. The one-finger salute from passing motorists does not mean they think Texas is Number One.
A BMW driver once fought to keep me and my Texas plates off the freeway altogether. I had ten seconds of on-ramp left. I had exhausted the standard means of freeway communication — honking followed by wild gestures and a repertoire of facial expressions that would make Marcel Marceau proud. I urged the BMW into the wide-open fast lane by letting the road warrior have a Coke. On the hood.
But why — other than the occasional hurling of a half-full can of Coke — should Coloradans hate Texans? It could be an innate need to see populations in terms of us and them and then to despise them. Texism being the one socially acceptable form of racism, Coloradans practice it widely.
Texism may be rooted in the Colorado tourist trade’s humiliating dependence upon vacationing Texans. “Why should this yahoo have such a good time,” the fawning Coloradan wonders, “when I have to fetch his toddies?”
Another reason for hating Texans stems from Colorado’s youth as a state. Colorado is an adolescent among states, still dizzy from its centennial. It suffers from a reeling identity crisis. Almost every region of the U.S. has passions that bind its inhabitants into a people and fill its culture with local color. Yet few things uniquely Coloradan have emerged because the new state is sparsely populated and most residents come from somewhere else. Everyone knows what a Texan looks like (at least they know the stereotype), but try closing your eyes and imagining a Coloradan — people in the Rocky Mountain state suffer from the same lack of vision. A distinctly Freudian envy lurks in Colorado’s spite for Texans.
In Texas, the admixture of black, Mexican, Czech, German, Polish, and Anglo cultures, six distinct flags, a history that parallels the American Revolution, and a vast expanse of real estate contribute to a hybrid but singular Texan identity. Shy on customs, Coloradans pale before their neighbors from the big state to the Southeast. Compare the outlines of the two states: Colorado, appropriately enough, resembles the outline of a giant ice cube, while Texas’s shape reflects a diverse history and geography, like a simple pictograph representing a complex sequence of ideas.
Every stereotype has an insidious element of truth. But it isn’t the falsehoods of the Texist stereotype that irks Coloradans — it’s the truths. The stereotype says that not only are we loud, crass, vulgar, and aggressive, but that we are more self-assured, happier, richer, and sexier than most Coloradans. Deep down inside, the Coloradans worry that the stereotype might be true.