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Rick Perry and the Curious Case of 'Niggerhead' Ranch

Courtesy of a great story in the Washington Post, Rick Perry and his advisors are going to have a hard time observing their sabbath as a day of rest this Sunday.

When we awoke this morning to read in Politico's Playbook that the phrase "Niggerhead" will now always be associated with the Perry campaign, we initially wondered if it referred to something else.

Had Perry bought a lake in upstate New York? Afraid it might upstage his own, was he in-artfully referring to the Chia head of Barack Obama? Had he found an even more politically incorrect name for those chocolate-covered European candies known as "Negro Heads"?

Or, perhaps, was Perry's campaign offering the crudest possible caption for just exactly what he was doing to that corn dog?

In reality, what the name referred to was worse than any of these absurd possibilities. "Niggerhead," the Post reports, is the name of a hunting ranch the Perry family has leased since the 1980s.

Now to be fair, the word "Nigger" was used for hundreds of geographic places in their official government names across this country for centuries. Post reporter Stephanie McCrummen writes about how the U.S. Board of Geographic Names had changed many of these en masse 50 years ago (although, hilariously, they'd often just change "Nigger Creek" to "Negro Creek," "Nigger Mountain" to "Colored Mountain," etc.) New York State just got around to renaming "Nigger Lake" on government maps this past summer.

But the "Niggerhead" sign on the Perry property was a private sign, painted in large letters on a large rock. Perry used the property as a gathering place for his politicos, and he's running for president. So he's got some explaining to do.

To hear Perry tell it, according to the Post, as soon as his family started leasing the land in 1983, he ordered "the offensive word" painted over; he believed the rock was eventually turned upside-down.

But McCrummen writes that she spoke to over two-dozen people for her story, including "seven who said they saw the rock [and] said the block-lettered name was clearly visible at different points in the 1980s and 1990s. One, a former worker on the ranch, believes he saw it as recently as 2008."

One who saw it, "a retired game warden who began working in the region in 1981...said he guided three or four turkey shoots for Rick Perry when Perry was a state legislator between 1985 and 1990" and found that the sign "Kind of offended me, truthfully." (Italics ours.)

Rick Perry is between a rock (with a racial epithet painted on it) and a hard place. He's the governor of a border state with an enormous Latino population, and his efforts to not demonize all of them as potential illegal immigrants have already left him castigated by the Tea Party. If he comes out too strongly in disavowing that sign, the Tea Party will tar and feather him as a weak-kneed, politically correct RINO incapable of standing up for private property and the freedom of white people to call land they own "Niggerhead" wherever they damn well please.

But he's also running for President of the United States, against the nation's first African American president, and there is some delicacy required here. With or without a "Niggerhead" sign along the way -- not to mention making pit stops to chat up secession and getting an experimental stem cell procedure while opposing stem cell research -- the road to the White House going through the Tea Party first is not going to be an easy one for him.

Related: How does Rick Perry's 'Niggerhead' Ranch compare to Michael Jackson's 'Neverland' Ranch?

Via the Washington Post.

sthrasher@villagevoice.com | @steven_thrasher Previous: White America Has Lost Its Mind President Obama Finally Immortalized as a Chia Pet


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