A Donkey Pissing on a Flat Rock

Even Herman Cain briefly jumped on the bandwagon constructed by the Drive-Bys for the sole purpose of smearing Texas Governor Rick Perry. But then the truth emerged – as it inevitably does in this day and age – and I’m left wondering why the idiot who authored this Washington Post hit piece didn’t keep his powder dry until late October of 2012: it would have made for a helluva surprise. As it is, the “controversy” is not so much a downpour as it is a donkey pissing on a flat rock.

In 1983 – almost thirty years ago – Perry’s father leased a 40,000 acre tract of hunting property that sported the unfortunate and offensive local nickname of “Niggerhead,” painted on a flat rock near the entrance of the preserve. The burning questions, apparently, are: was the Perry family amused by this? How long were they amused by this? Precisely when was the racist moniker painted over? Why didn’t the Perrys cancel the lease to demonstrate how offended they were? Most importantly: why, oh WHY hasn’t Rick Perry dropped out of the race?

Needless to say, the Perry campaign issued a rapid response:

Rick Perry’s presidential campaign said Sunday that his family moved quickly when they found they that the Texas hunting camp they lease was named “Niggerhead,” and painted over the word on a rock next to the camp entrance.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that Perry’s family leased the Texas land starting in 1983.

The newspaper reported that Perry said his father painted over the word in the early 1980s, and that it was eventually turned over to further ensure the word couldn’t be seen. But the newspaper also reported that some other visitors recalled seeing it displayed after the early 1980s.

I read the article and the only individual interviewed who permitted the reporter to use his name could not recall with any certainty precisely when the offensive name was visible, when it was painted over or who visited the camp over the years. Some witness, huh?

Now for some perspective: the preserve did not get that name last year or last decade – it goes back a long time and even the Washington Post acknowledges this bit of history:

“It’s just a name,” said Haskell County Judge David Davis, sitting in his courtroom and looking at a window. “Like those are vertical blinds. It’s just what it was called. There was no significance other than as a hunting deal.”

The name “Niggerhead” has a long and wide history. It was once applied to products such as soap and chewing tobacco, but most often to geographic features such as hills and rocks.

In 1962, the U.S. Board on Geographic Names changed more than a hundred such names, substituting “Negro.”

“Typically these were in areas where African Americans were not all that common,” said Mark Monmonier, a geography professor at Syracuse University who wrote a book on the subject of racially offensive place names.

The federal action still left many local names unchanged. In Texas, Lady Bird Johnson, the former first lady, lobbied to change the name of a mountain in Burnet, Tex., that had the same name as Perry’s hunting spot. In 1968, it became “Colored Mountain.” In 1989, the Texas NAACP began lobbying the state legislature to change many more names, such as “Nigger Creek” and “Niggerhead Hill,” although there has been resistance from private landowners, according to news accounts.

This isn’t to excuse the name but merely to give it historical context. There was a time when the word “nigger” was an acceptable part of everyday speech, especially in the south. But things are different today. Our mores and social sensibilities have evolved since the days of Jim Crow to point where most folks are terrified of the “N” word and will not even say or write it in a non-pejorative conversation.

Gov. Perry made it clear that at some point after the preserve was leased, the offensive name was painted over. Apparently there are a few locals who say otherwise and it on the testimony of these that the entire kerfuffle draws its energy. Perry was a Democrat at the time and if we are going to start nitpicking, it’s worth noting that the Democrats have a far more hideous record when it comes to civil rights for blacks than Republicans do. We could just as easily chalk this up to a Democrat being a Democrat until he came to his senses and became a Republican. But that would be over-complicating the issue.

Bottom line: the story is nearly three decades old and the only ones who care about it are those with a vested interest in knocking Rick Perry out of the running for president.

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One Response to A Donkey Pissing on a Flat Rock

  1. Kurt Epps says:

    Based on his problems with giving illegals in-state tuition rates-and his continued defense of same–, this story will not be what ultimately sinks Perry.