Race Marks the Spot: Geography in the 21st Century

Photo Courtesy of DJ Holla website

A hunting camp previously leased by the family of Gov. Rick Perry was the center of controversy this past week when a report showed that a portion of the camp was known as “Niggerhead.” A rock with the offensive language was reportedly found on the camp grounds before Perry’s father decided to paint over it some years ago (the number of years is disputed).

The Washington Post reports:

“But the name of this particular parcel did not change for years after it became associated with Rick Perry, first as a private citizen, then as a state official and finally as Texas governor. Some locals still call it that. As recently as this summer, the slablike rock — lying flat, the name still faintly visible beneath a coat of white paint — remained by the gated entrance to the camp.” (source)

Whether you are offended by the name or not, the hunting camp raises awareness and concern around the use of racial pejoratives as geographical markers. Hundreds of places throughout the country are reminders of the racially-charged history of the United States.

Slate Magazine reports that government mapmakers have been working for decades to clean up the toponyms:

“It’s impossible to say precisely how many offensively named towns and geographic features remain within the nation’s borders. State lawmakers don’t always agree with the federal government on geographical labels, and people have varying levels of sensitivity.” (source)

Even as the year 2011 begins to wind down, it may be difficult to unite citizens in efforts to change these names. Many citizens may disagree on the meanings or implications behind these names, while others may view them as reminders of their community’s history.

For those interested in working to make changes, Slate reports that you must contact your state boards.

“State boards of geographic names typically welcome petitions to change controversial map labels, as long as you can suggest a suitable alternative. If you have, say, a relative with a strong connection to the area who has been dead for more than five years, you might get the naming rights.” (source)

Comedian Jon Stewart addressed the recent controversy on The Daily Show.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Amazing Racism
www.thedailyshow.com
http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:398767
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

 

Stewart also tackled race as a geographical marker in his parody, “The Amazing Racism: Geographical Bigotry.”

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Amazing Racism – Geographical Bigotry
www.thedailyshow.com
http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:item:comedycentral.com:398768
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

While I am not shocked by the stone found on the hunting camp, I can say that I was offended by the language. I think as race and diversity become an integral part of the fabric of this country, we must be aware and sensitive to racially-charged language. We must learn from our past faults so that future generations may learn from our mistakes. Racism isn’t something we can brush over with a paint brush, we must confront it head on.

Please share your thoughts…

What do you believe, if anything, should be done about these racially-charged labels? Can the U.S. continue to address issues of race without confronting these geographical markers? 

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About kaileylatham11

Alumna of The Ohio State Univ., Graduate Student at Arizona State Univ., and an aspiring journalist.
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One Response to Race Marks the Spot: Geography in the 21st Century

  1. Pingback: Political Plantation: Ann Coulter Loves Her Blacks |

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