Rick Perry's 'N-Head' Problem and the Fourth Estate's Hypocrisy
"N****r go home."
So read the ugly note. It was left in the mid-'70s on the desk of a young black woman -- a college intern.
Where did this happen? Not, to be sure, in the Deep South, nor in the part of West Texas where Gov. Rick Perry grew up, during a time when the Lone Star State was segregated. It happened in sophisticated and liberal Boston -- and at a mainstream newspaper: the Boston Herald American (now the Boston Herald).
The young black woman claiming to have found the note was Gwen Ifill -- now PBS NewsHour's senior reporter and news anchor.
The mainstream media and fellow travelers in the lefty blogosphere have a hypocrisy problem -- one underscored by the Washington Post's recent race-hustling piece on Gov. Perry: "At Rick Perry's Texas hunting spot, camp's old racially charged name lingered."
In her disingenuous article, young reporter Stephanie McCrummen cleverly suggests that Perry suffers a potential character deficiency: he grew up in a "segregated era" and "mostly white world."
Even worse, she writes, his family has a sprawling hunting camp in West Texas that some locals once called "Niggerhead" -- a name that even used to be painted on a rock, though Perry's father had the rock painted over when he joined the property's lease, according to Gov. Perry. He told the Washington Post that "Niggerhead" is "an offensive name that has no place in the modern world."
Interestingly, the Washington Post notes the name "Niggerhead" is not unlike many names of other geographic sites across the U.S. in years past -- sites named long ago with variations of the "n-word" that were renamed over the years.
However, the Washington Post fails to stress that this underscores that the word "nigger" has undergone various metamorphoses over the years. It has meant different things to different people at different times, as Harvard law professor Randall Kennedy notes in his book, N****r: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word.
The Washington Post nevertheless hints at this during an interview with Haskell County Judge David Davis. He looks out a window and says of the hunting camp once called Niggerhead: "It's just a name. Like those are vertical blinds. It's just what it was called. There was no significance other than as a hunting deal."
So what to make of the "niggerhead" scandal that's casting Perry as a something of a racist? Well, it's really "much ado about nothing," says Wallace Jefferson, the first black chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court -- and a Perry appointee.
Jefferson, during an interview with the Texas Tribune, said that Perry "appreciates the role diversity plays in our state and nation. To imply that the governor condoned either the use of that word or that sentiment, I find false."
Yet the white liberals at the Washington Post, together with other liberal race-baiting journalists, are nevertheless uncomfortable about Perry having grown up in a "white world."
This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. After all, when Perry was growing up in a "white world," America's mainstream journalists worked in overwhelmingly white newsrooms. Indeed, up until the late 1980s and early 1990s, it would have been hard to find many blacks and Hispanics in newsrooms -- a fact that changed in the late 1990s due to aggressive affirmative action efforts by the nation's major news organizations, which had grown embarrassed over their lack of diversity. Yet even today, not enough integration has occurred, according to diversity advocates.
Liberals and conservatives debate the reasons for the problem of "whiteness" in the newsroom, as one journalism professor snidely put it in an article in trade magazine Editor and Publisher. (Many conservative media analysts contend that it's due to a lack of qualified blacks and Hispanics in a highly competitive field.) But one thing is certain: if you use the standards that liberals themselves use, you have to conclude that the reason the nation's newsrooms are mainly white (in the past and even today) is because they are, well, racist. Or at least racist in the way that liberals now define racism -- that the ethnic and racial composition of America's newsrooms fails to reflect the communities they serve -- that there is not, in other words, appropriate "diversity" in them.
Even the Fourth Estate's aggressive affirmative action and "diversity efforts" have failed to resolve this "problem," although they have brought into newsrooms people like journalistic huckster Jayson Blair, the disgraced former New York Times reporter.
In the mainstream media's Perry-is-a-racist narrative, a contradiction emerges. It's a case of do as I say, not as I do. In the mid-1970s, newsrooms were overwhelmingly white. Yet while America's journalists worked in white worlds, that definitely was not the case with respect to Rick Perry and the world he inhabited.
In the mid-1970s, Perry left behind the "white world" of West Texas. After graduating from Texas A&M University, he was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force -- an institution that like other branches of the armed forces was integrated to an extent that America's newsrooms were not integrated -- and are still not integrated.
A friend of mine is a former Air Force F-16 senior pilot and captain. He flew nearly 15 years, including during about the same time that Perry was an Air Force pilot. In an e-mail to me, he provided these observations about racial integration in the Air Force:
It's very fair to say that at least a quarter of the entire USAF manpower was made up of African-Americans. You had to look long and hard to find a true blue racist among us. And when you did, he usually stuck out like a sore thumb. This went both ways. When it became apparent you disliked someone merely because of the color of their skin, your circle of friends shrank dramatically, as did your chance for advancement.
So how did Perry distinguish himself in the Air Force, an institution far more integrated than most of the nation's newsrooms have ever been? He was, according to a recent article in the Austin American-Statesman, regarded as a good pilot and officer, one with a "magnetic personality." After five years, Perry left the Air Force with the rank of captain. The Statesman's article was based on interviews with six men who served with Perry. If Perry had any major character issues as an officer, it's likely the Statesman would have dug them up.
As Texas' governor, Perry also distinguished himself in another respect. He appointed large numbers of blacks and Hispanics to top positions on state commissions, courts, and colleges and universities. And according to an interview Perry gave to an African-American newspaper, these appointments were based on merit -- not on "the color of your skin or the sound of your last name." On the other hand, skin color and ethnicity are the criteria used by many newsroom editors in their hiring decisions -- a fact explored by William McGowan in his book, Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism.
"Perry's appointments of African-Americans are significant and in some ways ground-breaking, and they can and should be applauded," a black-oriented website called "ThyBlackman.com" grudgingly acknowledged.
The mainstream media has a double standard. It finds racism where none exists with respect to Rick Perry; yet during Sen. Barack Obama's presidential run, it failed to vet candidate Obama's curious relationship with racist preacher Rev. Wright. Now, it's ignoring another emerging scandal: Obama's relationship with the New Black Panthers that was recently revealed by Andrew Breitbart's Big Government website.
Speaking on Fox News Tuesday morning, black presidential candidate Herman Cain clarified earlier remarks about the controversy over "niggerhead." It's a hateful word, he said, and has nothing to do with who Rick Perry is.
If history is anything to go by, expect the Washington Post and others to engage in lots more race-baiting of Republican presidential candidates.