Monday, October 03, 2011

Will Perceived Racism Be Rick Perry's Undoing?

I often note that far right Christianists are closely allied to racism. One need look no farther that Tony Perkins at Family Research Council who has a checked past with white supremacists to make the connection. Or locally, last fall a local GOP official had to resign after circulating anti-black racist "jokes." Now, it looks like Rick Perry has a similar problem as it turns out his family's hunting camp in Texas for many years went by the name of "Niggerhead." What may play well with Texas bumpkins and GOP bigots obviously may not play so well on a national stage. No doubt Mitt Romney is loving this latest mishap for Perry's campaign. Frankly, I am as well. In this day and age it is far past time that people cease to be labeled - and denigrated and stigmatized - based on the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their national origin or whether or not they subscribe to the fear and hate based religious beliefs of the Christian Right. The Washington Post had coverage yesterday on this development surrounding Perry. Here are some highlights:

Paint Creek, Tex. — In the early years of his political career, Rick Perry began hosting fellow lawmakers, friends and supporters at his family’s secluded West Texas hunting camp, a place known by the name painted in block letters across a large, flat rock standing upright at its gated entrance. “Niggerhead,” it read.

There is no definitive account of when the rock first appeared on the property. In an earlier time, the name on the rock was often given to mountains and creeks and rock outcroppings across the country. Over the years, civil rights groups and government agencies have had some success changing those and other racially offensive names that dotted the nation’s maps.

But the name of this particular parcel did not change for years after it became associated with Rick Perry, first as a private citizen, then as a state official and finally as Texas governor. Some locals still call it that. As recently as this summer, the slablike rock — lying flat, the name still faintly visible beneath a coat of white paint — remained by the gated entrance to the camp.

But how, when or whether he dealt with it when he was using the property is less clear and adds a dimension to the emerging biography of Perry. . . . Perry’s version of events differs in many respects from the recollections of seven people, interviewed by The Washington Post, who spoke in detail of their memories of seeing the rock with the name at various points during the years that Perry was associated with the property through his father, partners or his signature on a lease.

“I thought, ‘This is going to embarrass Rick some day,’ ” said this person, who did not want to be named, fearing negative consequences from speaking on the subject.

This story is based on interviews with more than two dozen people, including residents, hunters, ranchers, government officials and others who live in Haskell County, where Perry’s boyhood home of Paint Creek is found; in neighboring Throckmorton County, where the hunting camp is located; and elsewhere in Texas. Ray Perry did not respond to numerous attempts to reach him for comment. The campaign declined a request to make him available. Most of those interviewed requested anonymity because they fear being ostracized or other repercussions in their small community.

Throckmorton County, where the hunting camp is located, was for years considered a virtual no-go zone for blacks because of old stories about the lynching of a black man there, locals said.

“I was just so taken aback that it was so blatant, so in your face,” said a person from the Dallas area who visited the camp once in 1990 or 1991 and did not want to be named in a story potentially critical of Perry. “It was just, ‘whop.’ It was a big rock, big enough to write that whole thing out.” . . . . . We laughed about, ‘Rick’s covering his tracks.’ ”

I hate to say so, but this same type of thing among Virginia Republicans would not surprise me in the least - especially in Southwest Virginia where bigotry against those who are "other" is very much alive and well. It's probably one of the reason that places like Martinsville have unemployment rates pushing 20%. Who would want to locate a business in such a backward, bigoted area?

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