In the aftermath of revelations about the ugly name of Gov. Rick Perry’s hunting lease, some Democrats and pundits, including some friends of mine, are pardoning Gov. Rick Perry on the question of race. I’m not certain how you issue such a blanket pardon to a sitting Southern governor who tossed out the idea of secession or who signed a Voter I.D. law everyone knows is aimed at disenfranchising minority voters.
It’s true that contemporary racism doesn’t look exactly like yesterday’s racism. In many social circles white people no longer use the N-word. Lynchings have disappeared it hate crimes haven’t. We can all eat at the same restaurants and use the same drinking fountains and restrooms. But this self-contratulating myth that we as a generation have magically transcended race is not just immoral, it’s destructive. It blinds us to a racism that continues to have terrible consequences.
Rick Perry’s policies punish people of color. He’s tried to walk back his talk of secession, but he mentioned in purpose multiple times in order to fire up right wing nuts who heard the code for just what it was: a harkening back to a time when white people ruled and people of color were considered less than human.
We are very reluctant these days to brand anyone a racist. Even racists. I suppose there’s some good in that. At least we realize that racism is so evil we shouldn’t toss the word around lightly. Is the name of a hunting lease enough to earn Perry the brand? I don’t know. But the rush to issue a blanket pardon — “Rick Perry is not racist” — seems a bit too much to take. A governor who plays upon racial prejudice as Perry did with his secession comments should not be pardoned for their racial implications.