Perry and the N-head controversy: At least a chance to learn geography

The controversy over the seemingly offensive name of a ranch leased by Gov. Rick “Goodhair” Perry’s family has brought at least a little interest in U.S. Geography.

A media search for “Niggerhead,” while unsuccessful so far, has not lacked in intensity. Huffington Post reports news folks scoured the area near Paint Creek, Texas — where Perry grew up — all wanting to score the first “interview with a rock.” The boulder-sized object was painted with the words which was an object of offense to a fellow Republican seeking the GOP nomination for president. That candidate is Herman Cain, an African-American businessman best known for founding Godfather’s Pizza. The stone is is now likely hidden on the ranch, perhaps rolled away by angels. Why not? Perry seems in need of all his base he can gather right now.

The Perry side says the rock was there when they leased the ranch in the early 80s. I take their word for it. A lot of folks in different parts of Texas weren’t very sensitive about a lot of things back then. That is about the most I can say, even though I think Rick Perry is perhaps the worst thing to happen to Texas since Gee Dubya Bush became president.

But at least the awareness of geography from all of this unattractive hoopla is one bright spot. When I speak of an interest in geography, I mean media such asThe Daily Show” pointing out a number of places and land features in the U.S. with names now seen as culturally incorrect. One mentioned on the Jon Stewart fake news show was near where I live in Southeast Texas.

As I have related here before a road was named in our own, rural Jefferson County, for the Japanese rice farmers who settled that particular area. It was once called “Jap Road” but eventually Japanese-American citizens found that name offensive and eventually applied enough pressure that the county’s commissioners changed the name.

Still, plenty other spots exist in Texas and elsewhere with names which might otherwise smack of racial or cultural insensitivity. One place comes to mind when I think of such places — the tiny community of Nigton, in Trinity Countyeven though it was settled and named by former slaves.

Nigton is the proverbial crossroads town at the intersection of Farm to Market Roads 2262 and 2501. Nigton was about 20 miles from where I once ran a small-town newspaper in the early 90s. I went through Nigton a few times although I can’t remember why. I wasn’t surprised as maybe I should have been, I suppose, that the community was populated by African-Americans.

Former slave and civic leader Jeff Carter suggested the name for the town after it was settled in 1873, this according to the Handbook of Texas Online. At its peak, Nigton boasted a sawmill, churches and a school along with a population of about 500. Fewer than 90 people lived there in 2000.

The name Nigton and how it suggests cultural relativity leaves me about as confused as does the moniker for the Perry hunting lease. Still, past surveys have found high numbers of young Americans geographically illiterate so I suppose us at least talking about places in our country is something positive. Maybe someone can relate to that.