Let Me Say One Thing about Perry’s Ranch

The only other time I ever heard that phrase was when I lived in Illinois. It was used to refer to the rocks that would get stuck in the dredging equipment on the Mississippi and Illinois (and possibly other rivers, but it was only when I was living by those rivers that I heard it used).

And it was not just obviously racist on the face of it, but everyone knew it was racist. How do I know? Because the fuckers who would use that term in front of black children would not use it in front of their father.

Funny thing, that.

Anyway, I just bring it up because I was reminded last night what a racist shithole parts of the greater Peoria metropolitan area are and because I already see this story is getting a lot of “Well, it’s Texas, what do you expect?” comments from people.

The Butcher and I were trying to explain Midwestern racism to his Kentuckian friend-who-is-a-girl. And it’s hard to really get at, because, on the one hand, when we were growing up we lived in communities that had maybe one black family, if that, in them. So, it wasn’t like you heard people calling black people “niggars” all the time, though people certainly threw it around the way they also threw around “fag,” to mean someone who should be treated like an outcast.

But let’s just take Peoria, for a second. If you went today to Peoria, Illinois and went to a fast food restaurant or a Walmart or a grocery store that wasn’t in a black neighborhood, even though black people make up almost twenty-five percent of the population, it would be very unusual for you to have a black cashier. I’m not saying it wouldn’t happen. But it would be unusual.

Even when I was up visiting my cousins in Battle Creek (18% black), I could drive around town and see black kids at the park or playing in their yards. But no one was serving me at McDonalds.

College was literally the first place I ever met a black person who wasn’t a minister friend of my father’s or the child of a minister friend of my father’s, with the exception of the two toddler brothers of one of my high school friends.

Now, obviously, things are different in the suburbs and the city.

I don’t know what I’m trying to say here exactly, except that, yes, things are fucked up here in the South. But there are also a lot of people who are busy shifting attention to the South and away from their own bad behavior, which is also fucked up.

8 thoughts on “Let Me Say One Thing about Perry’s Ranch

  1. In eastern KY, it is used to refer to medium-sized black rock that winds up carried into flood plains that one then has to pick up and remove or hoe out by hand when one is planting corn. So, yeah, river rock. In New Mexico, it refers to a type of low-grade coal. New England rock formations are sometimes colloquially referred to as “niggerheads.” And yes, this is something white idiots say when they think they can get away with it and they snicker a little because they’ve gotten away with something that ain’t politically correct.

    I think this could be campaign gold in certain circles — Perry did one thing that suggested that he might not be a racist asshat (which is to provide in-state tuition for children of undocumented immigrants) and he is getting hammered for it by the racist right wing of the GOP. This is merely him righting his ship, an indicator that in private, he’s every bit as much of a stupid bigot as the Tea Party would have him be.

    Because I am hugely cynical when it comes to Governor Goodhair.

  2. You know, it might be easier to understand if we weren’t living in a twenty-first century civilazation. I live in the South and I’m amazed at how many ignorant yet well-meaning people seem to think the civil war just ended last spring. Electing someone like this to lead our country may very well set us back a generation (or two) when compared to other nations.

  3. Aunt B.,

    “But there are also a lot of people who are busy shifting attention to the South and away from their own bad behavior, which is also fucked up.”

    Exactly. Why do you think Hollywood continues to crank out major movies set in the pre-1970 South instead of major releases that feature the modern South? Could it be because the South has made considerably more progress than the entertainment industry in the last 40 to 50 years?

    It might be helpful if the South got some credit for the improvements that have been made here rather than people continuing to treat Southerners like cast extras from ‘In the Heat of the Night.’ And it would be nice for people in other parts of the country to be held to the same standards as the South.


    There was, at one time, a rock outcropping on a road in Harlan County KY which had that name. As a child, I remember driving past it many times. I did not know that it had a more general meaning so thanks for telling me that.

    I do have one question for other readers. Mel Brooks is currently on an HBO special with Dick Cavett. In it he makes reference to a Broadway version of ‘Blazing Saddles.’ Should the play feature the dialogue from the movie which uses that word frequently? Would it be ok to use it sparingly?

  4. Oh, lord, Mark, if it turns out you and Bridgett are related, I feel like some black hole may open up and swallow my blog.

    And why wouldn’t the musical’s dialog follow the movie’s? That seems like a strange question to ask here.

  5. Aunt B.,

    Is Bridgett from Harlan County? I think that would be really cool.

    As for the dialogue, it is filled with uses of the word ‘nigger.’ As in the opening when Slim Pickens tells the railroad workers to “give us a ____ work song.” Or when the little old lady on the street tells Bart “Up yours _____.” And on and on.

    The movie has been edited so that all those uses are edited out for television so I suspect that the Broadway version will be pressured to similarly censor the usages. My question is whether others think using it is unacceptable.

  6. I honestly don’t know where Bridgett is from exactly, but I now have my eye on the two of you for family resemblances that might reveal themselves in your writing.

    I know what Blazing Saddles is full of. I just don’t see why it wouldn’t be edited out for television, considering that you don’t just ambush people with that word as they’re flipping channels and why it would be edited out of a musical that everyone going into knows includes the word.

    The point of saying “the sheriff’s a nigger” isn’t because it’s funny when white people call black people “nigger.” Or that it’s funny to transgress boundaries of propriety that the people who’d like you not to cross don’t have enough social capitol to enforce. Brooks’ humor rarely punches down (I’d say ‘never’ but I’m not 100% certain). His point is almost always that the snake you threaten me with is shitting down your arm, metaphorically speaking.

    So, these fucking white supremacists are actually dumb. That’s the joke, that everyone who thinks they’re better than Bart because they’re white is an unrepentant, barely redeemable dumbass.

    Why would you leave that out of the musical? Are the people of Rock Ridge suddenly not going to be barely redeemable racist dumbasses?

  7. Nope, not Harlan. Boyd (by way of Lawrence). But just up the road a piece on 23. And my people do get around, so I am related to most everybody in the coastal southeast by blood or marriage, if you go back far enough.

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