Rick Perry is attracting heated criticism over the controversial former name of his family’s hunting camp. The West Texas retreat, which the Perry family began leasing in 1983, was long known by the controversial name “Niggerhead.” The pejorative name is painted on a rock standing at the entrance of the property; although it has since been painted over, the name is still visible under the thin coat of paint.
Perry claims that the rock has been painted over since he and a friend complained about the offensive name to Perry’s father in 1983 or 1984; he’s also argued that the “offensive name that has no place in the modern world.”
Perry’s account has been disputed, however; seven people told the Washington Post that they recalled seeing the rock with the name unobscured during the years that Perry has been associated with the ranch. One retired game warden claims that the name was visible through at least 1990, and one former ranch worker believes that the name was displayed as recently as 2008.
Perry’s rivals have been quick to jump on this embarrassing revelation. Herman Cain, the only black candidate vying for the Republican Presidential nomination, has accused Perry of racial insensitivity.
“Since Gov. Perry has been going there for years to hunt, I think that it shows a lack of sensitivity for a long time of not taking that word off of that rock and renaming the place,” [Cain] told ABC’s “This Week.
“Yes, it was painted over,” he said. “But how long ago was it painted over? So I’m still saying that it is a sign of insensitivity.”
At the end of the day, no matter how eager some critics are to paint Perry as a bigot, this embarrassing incident does not prove that Rick Perry is a racist. The simple fact of the matter is that Texas has a checkered past with regard to racism. It’s not necessarily Perry’s fault that his family’s hunting camp was a part of that troubled history.
What it does prove is that Perry’s political handlers made a huge error in allowing the sign to remain at the ranch, only partially covered by a thin layer of paint. Given that every miniscule detail of a presidential candidate’s private life is examined under a magnifying glass during a campaign, someone should have seen this coming.
It also suggests — perhaps unsurprisingly — that Governor Perry doesn’t have a lot of diversity in his inner circle. Something tells me that, if Perry had ever brought a black friend hunting with him in the past two decades, a sign emblazoned “Niggerhead” wouldn’t still be standing by the entrance of the family ranch.
Copyright 2011 The National Memo