Rick Perry’s Culture Problem

This weekend, The Washington Post published a story about a ranch presidential candidate Rick Perry and his family owns in west Texas. Stories like these are usually about how much the land is worth, how much it costs to buy, or bloggers arguing the candidate is not like most Americans they want to represent. But this time it was about what the ranch used to be called: “Niggerhead.”

It was on a rock that greeted all the visitors that entered the ranch which the Perry’s have owned since the 1980’s. The campaign told the Post that once Rick first saw the rock at a Fourth of July barbeque he asked his parents to paint over the “offensive rock.” Of course we do not know if this is true or not, and the article speaks to people who say there was no paint on it. But does it matter? The real question is why did they keep the rock at all?

But as it remained in plain sight to everyone who walked by, the rocks contents and its meaning, could not have mattered to the Perry’s. This is land the Perry family has owned for over forty years, and for some reason, it never bothered them that the rock was there. It could not have been covered up well either, considering the reporter who visited the ranch could still see it, and if paint was used it must have been worn off but no one thought twice to cover it back up.

Rick Perry has talked how growing up in Texas shaped his views on life and politics. That can be said about anyone, but what does this epitaph say about Perry’s values? He wants to become President of a country where thirteen percent of the population is black. How can he say to them that he understands them and can represent their best interests? Black people in the U.S. have seen their unemployment rate double since the beginning of the recession, and it was not great before 2008 either. How can he now say to them his ideas will help them when he is thoughtless about their feelings?

What also struck me was how much information the Perry campaign had about the ranch. The article is 5 pages long and there is no way the journalists could have gotten all that information in such a short amount of time. No one could have. While they talked to neighbors, the campaign may have been ready to feed information to journalists knowing this story would eventually come out. There were specific as to when Rick had his name on the lease, the people who currently work at the ranch were not allowed to talk to reporters, and Perry is also quoted as saying they stopped using the entrance where the sign is located in the 1990’s.

Whatever the circumstances, Rick Perry knew this was going to come out and he was arrogant enough to think this sign would be OK. Perry knows there is a black population in Texas, as he likes to remind people in his stump speech, but it did not matter to him that the rock was in such plain sight while he was a state Senator or Governor representing the minorities in Texas.

I guess it is also surprising that it took this long for this story to arise since Perry has been Governor for almost twelve years. If Perry is serious about wanting to be President of the United States, he needs to fully explain why he had such a divisive phrase in the place where he took his friends, and where his mother and father still live.


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