Texas Gov. Rick Perry got himself involved in a little racial imbroglio this weekend when The Washington Post ran a story on some rural West Texas property managed by his family that contained the name of "Niggerhead Rock." Perry contends his family painted over the rock with the problematic name shortly after acquiring the old hunting grounds and cattle land, but visitors to the ranch say, "Nuh uh." And no matter what, people in the area who hunted on the land seemed very aware that the place had just always been called "Niggerhead," a slur that, at one point in American history, was commonly used to describe everything from streets to brands of tobacco.
But, is anyone surprised? (I used to live in West Texas, Midland, to be precise, so I'm just going to say, "No. No you shouldn't surprised.")
Perry's "Niggerhead" controversy was a great way to further bludgeon an already weak candidate on his way down ahead of next year's primaries. If you were looking for a reason to bail from the Perry Bandwagon, you now have permission to flee for the exits. Herman Cain is already ordering pizza and Rick Santorum is setting up cheese and cracker trays in hopes you'll stop by. But not Mittens Romney. He's just adding names to that list of people who won't show up to support him until late in the game so he knows his enemies from his friends and can make your life a living hell of 20-something Mormon missionaries knocking on your door all day and night, trying to convert you after all this is over with.
Not that the Perry leased a ranch named "Niggerhead" controversy isn't offensive and people shouldn't be offended. But this is one of those annoying moments where Perry supporters will start to qualify why changing an obviously offensive name wouldn't necessarily be all that high on the priority list while other people who don't own land with the word "nigger" written on it will pretend like they've never had any racially problematic anything ever happen to them.
But it's all crap. This is America. America has a lot of racial drama, past and present. This name did not happen in a vacuum. Upstate New York finally remained its own "Nigger Road" and "Nigger Lake" This June. In 2011. (Did I mention this was NEW YORK?) I wish when things like this would happen it would become a "soul searching" or "healing" moment where A) some good ol' boys in Texas get some sunlight shined on their latent racism and learn how even something offensive, yet passive (like naming your land "Niggerhead") is what leads to horrible things NO ONE LIKES, like the murder of James Byrd. Therefore even old racist stuff shouldn't tolerated. Then upon this reflection B) people in other areas, rather than using this as an opportunity to dump on the South and just ignore the rest of the country's racial woes, would look to themselves and think of all the lazy, passively racist stuff going on in their backyard, then vow to clean house, hold dialogues and work to make their communities better for everyone, no matter their ethnicity.
But that never happens. Who wants to have a grown-up conversation about race in America? Barack Obama's campaign for president proved nobody wanted to do that, later causing Attorney General Eric Holder to describe us being a "nation of cowards" when it comes to discussing race.
Nope. We're just going to get what we always get -- "j'accuse!" and pearl-clutching. Herman Cain, pizza man and the sole black guy running for the GOP ticket, used this opportunity to grab some nearby pearls and call the "Niggerhead" rock controversy "insensitive."
"There isn't a more vile, negative word than the 'n word,' and for him to leave it there as long as they did is just plain insensitive to a lot of black people in this country," he said during an interview on "Fox News Sunday."
Of course, Cain probably still thinks most black people are brainwashed into hating him because they think all Republicans like to go hunting at Niggerhead and don't find the name that problematic. Like this guy quoted in The New York Times:
Wallar Overton, the son of Mr. Perry’s scoutmaster in his home county of Haskell, said the hunting camp had always been known by that name.
“It’s just what it was called from Day One,” Mr. Overton said. “I personally am not offended by the name, and I don’t like the word.”
“That’s just what people call it,” he said.
That said, how dead is Perry's campaign? Dead dog dead or Ding-Dong-The-Witch-Is-dead dead? I mean, you can avoid a lot of racial stuff by just saying "I didn't say the N-word, so I'm not racist!" Really. You can be blatantly racist. Openly hate people. Just don't say that word and someone will defend you and say you couldn't be racist. But this story involves the N-word in all its problematic glory.
He's going down.