Rick Perry and Race


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.

Author: Glenn W. Smith

Glenn W. Smith has spent the past 30 years in journalism and politics, where he’s made a name for himself as a writer, campaign manager, activist, think tank analyst and, as Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas says, a “legendary political consultant and all-around good guy.” “There’s no one like him,” says author George Lakoff. CNN commentator Paul Begala says, “He has unmatched experience, a graceful pen (or pixel nowadays) and deep insight into the best and worst of us.” Novelist Sarah Bird speaks of his “lucid and lyrical” prose. And, she says, he’s fun. Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington says Glenn writes with “grace and abundant humor” and “uses his colorful experiences in Texas to enlighten us all.”

Smith led Ann Richards’ successful 1990 campaign for Governor of Texas. He worked for former Texas Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby and U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen. Earlier, Smith was a political reporter for the Houston Chronicle and the Houston Post. He’s coordinated national campaigns for groups such as MoveOn.org. In 2004, he authored the highly acclaimed book, The Politics of Deceit: Saving Freedom and Democracy from Extinction. He also wrote Unfit Commander, a book that detailed George W. Bush’s mysterious disappearance from military service.

In 2004, Smith was featured in the film, Bush’s Brain, a documentary about Karl Rove. Smith provided commentary on Rove’s role as then-President Bush’s senior advisor. He has made numerous media appearances with Chris Mathews on Hardball, Joe Scarborough, Brit Hume, and many others. He writes a regularly for top national web sites, including FireDogLake and Huffington Post.

As a senior fellow at George Lakoff’s prestigious Rockridge Institute in Berkeley he studied, wrote and taught on the power of metaphor and narrative in political communications. He also lectured on religion and politics at the Starr King School for Ministry in Berkeley. As a sponsor and organizer, he has pulled together numerous national events with progressive religious leaders. He also organized a celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King at Riverside Church in New York City as well as “Freedom and Faith” bus tours, which was a nationwide campaign for social justice and progressive values.

Smith’s play, Double Play, which explored American Western myths and legends, was held over to sold-out audiences. He’s even written and performed songs in the Americana tradition, such as his best-known song, “Helping Marty Robbins,” a tribute to his hometown, Houston.

Most recently, Smith is the creator of DogCanyon, a political and cultural web site covering state, national and global issues from a Texas perspective. DogCanyon is an exhilarating and unique site that gets the connections between politics and culture and explores both the personal side of politics and the ups, down, craziness and beauty of “life its ownself,” as humorist Dan Jenkins would say. DogCanyon offers heartfelt personal essays, hard-hitting political analysis, and, most importantly, laughs.

As Paul Begala said, Smith writes in “the finest, firmest, fearless tradition of Texas essayists like Molly Ivins.”

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