Rick Perry’s N-WordheadGate Reminded Everyone About Racism in Texas

By
Rick Perry with gun.
Rick Perry with gun. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

At least a few uncomfortable conversations have arisen since the Washington Post reported that the hunting camp Rick Perry frequented was once called Niggerhead. But beyond the literal whitewashing of a rock in rural Texas, the episode has drawn attention to the fact that the Texas governor grew up very, very white. And racism is everywhere, even today:

[Perry], who often waxes nostalgic about his small-town roots, grew up in an almost all-white rural area where many referred to slingshots as “niggershooters.” One elderly black resident recalls being introduced by her boss at a party decades back as “my maid, Nigger Mae Lou,” while just four years ago, a black high school student found a noose in his locker.

Perry is given points for appointing a black judge to the Texas Supreme Court and signing hate crime legislation, but the past can't really be painted over: "Even without a controversy like this one, a Southern or Texan candidate has a threshold to get over for a national audience," said one presidential scholar. "You have to reach out and make sure people understand the culture you grew up in does not restrict you."

A white native of Perry's home county doesn't exactly make the most compelling case for progress:

"We weren’t integrated nearly as rapidly as the North," she said. "But we’ve always had a different relationship with our blacks than the North has, too. It’s often been said, and I think it’s true, we love them individually and kind of distrust them as a group, whereas in the North, they don’t want to get too close to them individually but they embrace them as a group."

However, the governor has someone to vouch for him personally: "If he doesn’t like black people or finds them to be 'less than,' he certainly hasn’t shown it to me," said a black college friend of Perry's, who even sang at the presidential candidate's wedding. No word on whether he was ever invited hunting.

For Perry, Texas Roots Include Racial Backdrop [NYT]