Post's Hunting-Camp Story Unfairly Loads Southern Baggage on Perry's Shoulders

Categories: Get Off My Lawn

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Well, pardon me for making myself important, but I feel like I do bring a certain perspective to the Rick Perry N-word story. For one thing, I just finished a long stretch of reporting on Perry. I have a story coming out his week in the newspaper that's pretty much a deconstruction of his "Texas miracle" narrative.

My other credential is this: I am, as my wife calls me, a certified "Yankee carpetbagger." She's a Dallas native. Apparently "Yankee carpetbagger" is one of the few slurs that's still political correct, in my house anyway.

We're talking about The Washington Post story revealing that Perry and his father had a hunting lease on pastureland referred to by locals in the Paint Creek area as "Niggerhead." At some point in the past the entrance to the lease was marked by a slab of rock with that name painted on it.

Perry says his family had the rock painted over and then moved to hide the name. Nobody in the Post story says they ever heard Perry use that name.

But the story goes on at some length to engage in what I always think is a dangerous journalistic practice -- painting a narrative. Nowadays in the journalism schools they teach "narrative writing" as a good way to get readers. Maybe. I know it worked for Harper Lee. But in news stories too often it's a way to push conclusions that you can't prove.

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Via.
As context, Post reporter Stephanie McCrummen (who may be a Southerner, for all I know) says of Perry: "He grew up in a segregated era whose history has defined and complicated the careers of many Southern politicians. Perry has spoken often about how his upbringing in this sparsely populated farming community influenced his conservatism. He has rarely, if ever, discussed what it was like growing up amid segregation in an area where blacks were a tiny fraction of the population."

Well, yeah, but a lot of the reason the American history of racism complicates the careers of Southern politicians more than it complicates the careers of Northern politicians is because the complications derive from a certain narrative. It's the narrative that's the problem.

I was a little kid in supposedly liberal Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the 1950s. Nine years ago I wrote an essay for inclusion in a book edited by Bernestine Singley, called "When Race become Real," in which I recounted my memories of rigid, mean-spirited racial segregation in Ann Arbor. The point of my essay was that even though Ann Arbor was racist and segregated as hell when I was a kid, Ann Arbor believed that segregation and racism were the exclusive sins of those bad people in the bad South, like you see in Sidney Poitier movies. But that just meant that Ann Arbor and Poitier movies operated on a narrative that was bullshit.

The part of the Washington Post Perry narrative that sticks in my craw is the suggestion that n-word place names -- or racial segregation or racism -- were Southern. They were not. Those were all national and had to do with white people, not Southern white people.

When I was a young man, I worked as a researcher of historic sites for the state historical commission where Mitt Romney grew up, in Michigan. I was familiar with the old maps. In the 19th century and well into the 20th century, Michigan was heavily dotted -- chicken-poxed -- with geographic features whose names incorporated racial slurs, many of them the n-word.

So back to the Perry deal. When I was a young man in Michigan, Romney's father was the governor. He was a pretty cool guy. I interviewed him after he retired from politics. He had a hell of a narrative.

I don't know if the Romneys hunted, but if they did, and if it turned out that one of the places where they hunted once had a racial slur place name, what would the narrative have been for the Washington Post? Yankee moderate Republicans in Great Lakes area hunting on land once named with racial slur? I don't get a big buzz from that. I don't think the Post would have, either. The Perry story only has legs if you marry it to the bad South narrative.

Am I saying the South wasn't bad bad? Oh, hell no. It was. I'm just saying the North was too. Where race is concerned, we just don't have a lot of white people in our history, north, south, east or west, with lot to brag about. (Oh, sheesh, I know this is going to lure the all-caps commenter out of his hole to defend white people. But there you have it. The word, white, is a kind of dirty slur in and of itself for what it implies about not being white.)

Sure, racism and segregation had a formal legal structure of enforcement in the South, less so elsewhere. But does somebody think the North wasn't segregated? Or racist? That kind of thinking, a distortion born of the outcome of the Civil War, is all about the victors writing the history. And in the longest view, victors are worse at telling truthful stories on themselves than the vanquished. Tell me the name of the Yankee Harper Lee.

Anyway, the Rick Perry n-word story so far is a Yankee carpetbagger narrative trying to make Perry out for a bad guy because of where he comes from, without any proof whatsoever that the offending term ever departed his lips. With the same set of facts, the Post would not have written his about Romney.

It's those damned narratives, man. They're quicksand.

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JimS
JimS

Same set of facts: 1) Perry grew up with racists, never said n-word himself according to people around him but had a racist word on the rock, therefore probably is a racist. 2) Perry grew up with racists, had word on rock, but never said word, therefore is man of fortitude who did not give in to racist peer pressure. Same facts, two diametrically opposed stories = bad facts.

Thomas Fullerton Hooper
Thomas Fullerton Hooper

While not a Perry Fan, I wonder how much space or writers were used by the Washington Post in a story about then candidate Obama's relationships with the Rev. Wright. a number of years ago. I am a little tired having to apologize for being a Texan at times for no reason other than what Mr. Schutze brings up. 

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

All baby-boomers in Texas were "raised in a segregated South," by default, not choice. Even after laws were overturned, court decisions were enforced and all that, the separations remained. People seem to forget that real change takes time.

To me, that is what the story --if there WAS a story here---should have been about. WHEN wasit painted over? Who painted it over? That is the answer. If the Perry's did it, kudos to them, since it is not their property. However, you have to wonder, how many people would have even KNOWN about a rock bearing a slur in the middle of nowhere?

The ONLY good thing about this Post article is how it can be shown that anything is fair game: your hunting lease, your speaking voice, ---or your birth certificate or the church you attend....Yes, the real issues should be covered, but joblessness is not sexy. Mortgage defaults are not titilating. This stuff is.

But it must be also put out there: He leaves himself open to all aspects of Texas culture. He brags about running with a gun, mistreating Bernanke, etc... Well, not all in Texas was great, well-done or even fair. When you talk out your hat, be prepared, partner.

Rangers100
Rangers100

"All baby-boomers in Texas were 'raised in a segregated South,' by default, not choice"

And many have chosen to stay in the same white-run burbs, instead of attempting to move back into the core areas of small towns and cities, in order to work towards fixing the problem they were handed.

ChellG
ChellG

And still vote for people who think it is the right of private institutions to segregate, i.e, Ron "the Racist" Paul! Why would they fix the problem? It has worked very well for them for several centuries.

Sammy
Sammy

You would have to be over 55 to really remember segregation, separate but unequal, etc - unless you live in the Park Cities.

James the P3
James the P3

This reminds me of the brief kerfuffle during the 2000 campaign about the fact that George W. Bush's North Dallas home had a restrictive covenant in the deed. 

Of course it did.  Every residential property in a white part of town that was subdivided before 1970 had a restrictive covenant in the deed.  And not just in Dallas, but in most (if not all) major American cities. 

And even if Bush ever noticed it--and why would he, since nobody reads the deed to their house (that's what title insurance is for)--have you ever tried to change your deed?  It's not easy. 

Sharon Boyd
Sharon Boyd

Really impressed with your fair-minded stance.   My family owned some farm land near Telephone TX, and we leased some acres to area farmers.   We went up there less than 3 times a year.   Whenever we walked the property, we always found something we hadn't seen before -- even areas close to the main entrance to the land.   People who live in town have no concept of rural, undeveloped land -- or even land that has gone back to wild due to lack of activity. 

There are sections of Dallas that were deed restricted to Whites only at one time.   Does that mean that if you buy or lease any of that property later that you are a bigot? 

Jim, thanks for pointing out the obvious in this story -- much ado about nothing.

Catbird
Catbird

I agree with Ms. Boyd. This really builds your credibility Jim, though I still believe Perry would be an awful president...sorry.

ChellG
ChellG

When it comes to racial profiling based on skin color...every brown skinned person is presumed terrorist on any flight in this country. Forget the fact that Indians are Hindoos, dont like moslems and many dont eat meat. They are still considered potential terrorists because of skin color. Similarly, blacks are considered criminals and robbers, and they make no distinction between a black person from DC or Minneapolis. In the same way all Hispanics are presumed illegal until they can prove that they are legal at least in Arizona. Arresting officers let the black and white Hispanics go, while detaining the brown skinned Hispanics. Actually the brown skinned ones were the US citizens while the white skinned one was illegal.  At least people are considerate when it comes to white people. They only categorize the sub-group of white people, ie., southern whites. So be thankful. Someone once told me that when brown skinned people stop running a plane into buildings they will be treated better. Similarly, I would suggest that when southern whites stop murdering the English language, assimilate into America by not waving the confederate flag, stop dragging black people behind trucks or run them over with trucks, perhaps they will be treated with less of a suspicion by others. Until then please be thankful that unlike white people who make no distinctions between a Hindu or a moslem, white people are not stereotyped unitl they are clearly identified as southern. God bless the USA and all folks who fought to preserve our great country!

RTGolden
RTGolden

Ironic, I think, that someone who writes a long, drawn out post demonizing stereotypes, applies a single stereotype to all white people throughout the post.I think you should rethink your suppositions.  I, as a white person, am asked for legal, state issued identification all the time; by the police, by the water company, by the library, at the movies (when I was much younger), at 7-11.  When asked, most of the time I comply.  I might ask what it is needed for and then decide whether or not to produce it.  However, if I feel being ID'd is some slight against me, I have no recourse.  I cannot claim racism, profiling, or harassment, simply because I am white.Do I agree with the Arizona law? Not entirely.  I hope what it does is get the country to produce some sort of functional, enforceable immigration policy that preserves the dignity and rights of all our people.  Do I agree with racial profiling? Again, not entirely.  Profiling is a place to start, based on statistics and probabilities.  It hasn't proven effective and is probably the least probable way of spotting a terrorist or criminal.  But it is fair.  For instance, the first profile that pops up in child abuse, kidnapping, and molestation cases is that of a middle aged, white, male most likely in the lower middle class financially.Like all other social issues in this country, we need to tackle race with rational thinking and humanitarian aims.  What we don't need is emotional, spiritual, or ideological principles mucking things up.

ChellG
ChellG

One more thing...I am all for National ID. People traveling by air should be able to get a replacement ID at any place within the country. As far as immigration is concerned, a guest worker program without path to citizenship and a skilled and entrepreneur migrant program I will support in addition to training Americans willing to get an education!

ChellG
ChellG

Nope not all white people. I am making a clear distinction among white people in America..white southerners and perhaps folks in the sunbelt versus other whites. White people in Seattle, Minneapolis and Boston are different from white southerners. So, no all whites cant be racist as some black people claim. Most white southerners probably are. But, ask most white people and even black persons like Juan Williams, the reporter, all people who look like Moslems (Arab and South Asian moslems) are intending terrorists. That is why they hauled a few Brahman vegeterian Hindoos involved in anti-moslem organizations back in India on suspicion of being an Islamic terrorist in Detroit on september 11, 2011. I am at least willing to say that not all white people are the same.

DuckDuckGoose
DuckDuckGoose

"every brown skinned person is presumed terrorist on any flight in this country" ... care to rethink that generalization, friend?

ChellG
ChellG

Not my generalization. That is what many white people think, and in particular, white southerners think. As I said, not all white people are the same.

primi timpano
primi timpano

So what happened about Cheney hanging out at the Koon Kreek Klub?  Sounds like a place Rick Perry might visit.

Renegade
Renegade

DAMN YOU, JIMS!  GO BACK TO YOUR WHITE HOLE!

pak152
pak152

10, maybe 15 years ago a story like the WaPo one would have been accepted as the gospel truth since the only way folks had to protest the story was via letters to the editor. now though with Alg's internets debunking can take place within hours if not minutes. no wonder so many liberal/progressives want to have some sort of fairness doctrine applied to the internets

Anonymous
Anonymous

funny. conservatives thing the paper is liberal and liberals think the paper is conservative. I guess the point is that everyone hates the media

Guest
Guest

Most people hate the truth because it challenges their deeply held but entirely untested beliefs. 

Michael C
Michael C

And it's easier to write a story like this than one that explains all the ways Perry has destroyed Texas.

I don't think there's enough Barnett Shale $$$ in the ground for Texas to recover from the decimation of public education, public lands, health care, etc. I'm afraid that the next couple of decades could be pretty bad for us, as all these chickens come home to roost.

Facebook User
Facebook User

Thanks for this post. I agree completely. I would hate to see Perry in the White House, but I hate it when these sort of stories gain traction. Much like the whole Next Gingrich telling his wife he wanted a divorce as she lay in the hospital with cancer - these sort of narratives (despite the fact they aren't the least bit true) never seem to die.

Tom L (No, Not That L)
Tom L (No, Not That L)

I, for one, hope we can get past this "N-word" story and get back to what's important. Namely, the fact that Rick Perry has Fantastic Hair. And what could be more important in selecting the next president?

Montemalone
Montemalone

Is that why Obama won? The closed cropped natural? Too bad he's going gray already, it might have helped him win again. Maybe Reagan's barber and his magic comb are still somewhere in the White House.

Tom L (No, Not That L)
Tom L (No, Not That L)

This is precisely why Obama won in '08. He had better hair than McCain.

At least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. ;)

John Neely Bryan
John Neely Bryan

The title of this post says it all, there were a lot of words in that Post article but not much substance. That being said, when you see something that isn't right and at the very least express some outrage that is genuine leadership. Perry did not demonstrate racism or leadership in this situation.

Rangers100
Rangers100

"Am I saying the South wasn't bad bad? Oh, hell no. It was. I'm just saying the North was too."

Sure, but the South was much worse on the issue.  Let's not pretend it wasn't.

http://www.slaverybyanothernam...

But I agree with the point others here have made. Rick Perry is a terrible human being.  There are plenty of far more substantive things that demonstrate this.  Let's stick to those.

Jpotrammell
Jpotrammell

What you tend to forget is racism usually exists when one group is threatened by another group. The reason why you saw it more and there were actual laws in the South was because after the Civil War was over, most of the states in the deep south were majority black. The whites were outnumbered. More than 95% of backs in the United States lived in the South. That was the same reason why South Africa had thoses laws as well. Blacks started moving to Chicago and Detroit in the early to mid 1900's you had the same problem there, whites in south and west Chicago saw themselves in the minority and were just as hostile as anyone in the South.  The difference was that there were few blacks that lived outside of big cities in the North.

Rangers100
Rangers100

"whites in south and west Chicago saw themselves in the minority and were just as hostile as anyone in the South"

Just simply not reality.  Sorry.  But it isn't.

Some ugly white behaviors in the North?  Of course.  But 7 million blacks in the 20th Century didn't uproot their entire lives to start over in the North despite the two places being equal in regards to their treatment of blacks.

http://www.amazon.com/Warmth-O...

The North was far from perfect.  But the white South was a brutal, brutal place towards blacks. We've been handed a bunch of utterly bogus "To Kill a Mockingbird" type myths about the place.  Fortunately those are being reconsidered by many today:

http://www.slaverybyanothernam...

pak152
pak152

you are aware that the minimum wage was passed by Democrats to help the unions and to stop the hiring of poor blacks during the Depression dont'cha? who can forget the friendly Boston Irish faces when bussing was introduced to the Boston school system

Rt76209
Rt76209

Take care in laying racism too heavily in the South......"For his part, Lincoln denied the charges, saying, “There is a physical difference between the two (races), which in my judgment will probably forever forbid their living together upon the equal footing of equality . . .” He would repeat this theme throughout the debates. Lincoln is even reported as using the word “nigger” twice..."

The above is from an examination of the Linclon/Douglas debates.  The "North" was certainly not exempt.

RTGolden
RTGolden

You really think that racism and segregation and deplorable servitude in the '40's - '60's was only in the south?  Take a look at some of the mining towns in Appalachia or the West.  Look into some of the factory towns around the Great Lakes and the Northeast.Maybe that was too subtle of a discrimination for you, since it wasn't always white/black, but often had to do with have/have not.  That doesn't make it any less atrocious than what was seen in the south.Having grown up in the West, I'd have to agree with Schutze.  There is certainly a 'Yankee narrative' when it comes to racism.  Take desegregation, for instance. For years, the cosmopolitan northeast thumbed its collective nose at all the 'racist peckerwoods' for having to have the Feds enforce desegregation, all the while ignoring their own heavily segregated neighborhoods and schools.

Rangers100
Rangers100

"You really think that racism and segregation and deplorable servitude in the '40's - '60's was only in the south?"

You might want to actually read what I posted.  I simply said that the two regions were not the same on the matter.  I get why white Southerners (of which I'm one) like to pretend that they were... but this is simply myth-telling.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G...

Granny
Granny

THANK YOU!  There's enough rope out there for Perry to be hanged. No need for fancy-schmancy "narratives."

Metroplexual
Metroplexual

Jim,Nice job and good narrative.  Maybe she wrote that while watching the Redskins' game..But that's a horse of different color...

Justin Julian
Justin Julian

Amen, Schutze.  Love this piece.  The Post story smacks of desperation, a need to derail Perry's campaign with -anything- they can find.  The DMN's story yesterday, above the fold, about Perry's campaign using a bank that took bailout funds?  Yeah, even more desperate and shameful.  Next thing you know, he'll be caught driving a GM car, which we all know is Government Motors, which means he's NOT A CONSERVATIVE!!!11111oneone

Keith Craker
Keith Craker

On the mark. I'm a Liberal with a capital "L," but I'm also a native Texan, and that's just how we named crap down here since before Texas was spelled with an "x." Go after him on that bogus "Texas Miracle" or laying off thousands of teachers - there is no story here.

pak152
pak152

great piece, now you'll be drummed out of the liberal media for exposing the Post story for what it was, a hack job

space2k
space2k

"Yankee Carpetbagger"? Are you talking about Romney? This story undoubtedly came straight from one of his fellow Republicans.

Seriously, there's nothing the imaginary "liberal" media would rather have than a Obama vs. Perry matchup.

Justin Julian
Justin Julian

For that to be the case, man those libs sure are up in arms over him.  They must spend a lot of time listening to Republican propaganda or something.

Real journalism
Real journalism

Watch out. The narrative writing mafia is coming to get you.

Travis Rex
Travis Rex

Yeah..I would much rather the press hammer him over the joke that is public education in our state. This story is just residue from him growing up in a redneck and far from important news.  So his dad knew some good old boy who had a good piece of hunting property.  They leased it....the word was there already.  It was removed.  No rednecks were injured in its removal. Done.

BTW, usually one doesn't go around changing much on a piece of leased property, lest you find yourself without that lease the next hunting season.

Jay
Jay

Give McCrummen a break JimS. This is fly-over country, she probably wrote that piece traveling at 600 mph and at 40,000 feet.

pak152
pak152

assuming she even left the beltway's confines

SteveT
SteveT

Thanks, Jim.  Perry has enough legitimate issues to investigate and report on; this one sounds  like at best a reach, at worst northern snobbery/hypocrisy.

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