On Saturday, the Washington Post ran a story chronicling Governor Rick Perry's relationship to a hunting ranch in Throckmorton County, near his childhood home. The title of the camp in the past was “N***erhead,” and according to some, the name was still on the welcome-rock in front of the ranch well after Perry started bringing supporters to hunt there.
The responses on the part of the Perry campaign have been pretty predictable, and perhaps enough to make people wonder if it's fair for them to associate Perry with that slur. However, there are three things that I find interesting about the whole media feeding frenzy.
The first is that though Herman Cain quickly criticized Perry for his insensitive remarks, Barack Obama remained aloof. David Axelrod commented on the issue, but said nothing about race. He merely noted that “campaigns are like an MRI for the soul.” Has Obama decided that he should keep race at arms length until it touches him directly? Think back to how he got involved in the Skip Gates controversy, embroiling him in an issue many think he should have stayed away from. Is it possible also that the Obama team thinks it is wiser to wait for more details before criticizing Perry (or at the very least filing this incident away for later use)? This caution could be one consequence of the Jared Loughner episode, where many Democrats rashly blamed Republican rhetoric for what happened to Gabrielle Giffords.
Second, what about the charity that actually owned the land that Perry took people hunting on? Without jumping to conclusions, it seems that the Hendrick Home for Children could have renamed the property, though Perry said the camp did try to appeal to federal authorities for a name change. To me, the lack of coverage of the charity itself shows that the interest people have in the story is not about the possible racism involved, but in the fact that the racism might involve Rick Perry, the governor of Texas (of course this isn't anything revolutionary; this story is getting read because of who it's about). In my mind, it's a matter of priority.
Third, without passing judgment on what actually transpired in terms of when the property was named what, and by who, why does it matter whether the word on the rock was visible? The camp was named in an offensive way, and Perry traveled there with friends. If he knew that it was named that, then why not just go somewhere else? Again, I don't know if Perry knew the name, or if the name was just a nickname, but if it comes out that Perry did know the name and decided to have hunting trips there, wouldn't that be weird? I assume it wouldn't have been hard to find another ranch not named that.
In my mind, it's a matter of priority. Some people are content to not say racist things, and other people go out of their way to combat it and to refuse to participate in it whenever possible. If Perry were the latter type of person, he would not have had hunting trips at a place like that.
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