I really don’t care what most people have to say about Rick Perry and his ilk (and by “most people”, I mean Perry’s apologists, and others who would affix some sort of pseudo- reasonable explanations for how Niggerhead got there.) From my thirty something year old Negro woman perspective, I’m tired of playing professor to well-meaning folk who feign disbelief at why Niggerhead would be considered offensive.
While it is true that the etched on offense was painted over, it is just as true that the languid nonchalantness that allowed Niggerhead to remain intact well into the 20th century gets at why many African-Americans are suffering from race fatigue. The more we teach sensitivity, the more conversations we have about diversity, the more we’re reminded that it’s not about us. It’s about them. It’s about choice. People choose whether to engage or not, whether to understand history or not, and whether to give life to bias or not.
In many cases, convincing people to adopt your perspective – or a similarly rational or empirical one – is a fool’s errand. I’m not being cynical, just acknowledging that these broad conversations on race, although culturally enthralling, aren’t reaching the people who require a refresher course on beating back segregationist inspirations.
You can attempt to coax the good ‘ol boys into this conversation all you like, but they ain’t comin’. To them, and to those who think like them, Niggerhead wasn’t a blemish on Perry’s record so much as an indictment of overwrought African Americans (we are “grumblers” and “criers”, remember?) and the increasingly PC media that gives voice to us. Perry sympathizers are wrong, of course, but when has that ever stopped them?
Don’t misunderstand me, we should do all we can to purge these folks from our midst. Racism and bigotry should never be tolerated. But more and more, I get the feeling that racists are toying with us, using dialogue and conversation about race as a stalling tactic. The “just teach me again for the 10,000th time so that I can better understand you” excuse just doesn’t fly anymore. I’m tired of being played, or should I say, sitting idly by as some white people play the white race (befuddlement) card.
So if you seek understanding, I’ll point you in the direction of some really great authors. There are shelves upon shelves of them. This ‘ish ain’t new.