Texas Gov. Rick Perry came out swinging at Mitt Romney in Tuesday night's GOP presidential debate in Las Vegas, but he struck a more jocular tone with Herman Cain. "Herman, I love you, brother, but let me tell you something," Perry said before criticizing Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan. Then, a moment later: "I'll bump plans with you, brother, and we'll see who has the best idea." Cain is the only black candidate in the GOP race, and the only candidate who got the "brother" treatment from Perry. The Texan called Romney "sir" several times, though in a somewhat disparaging way (watch video below). Perry spokesman Ray Sullivan insists that these nicknames have nothing to do with race, and that Perry is simply "a friendly fellow. He uses that kind of language." But what does it mean that he only used that "kind of language" with Cain?
Perry was just being cynical: Perry wasn't trying to create a race flap with his "brother" talk, says Al Sharpton, quoted in the New York Daily News. He was trying to fix one — namely, the controversy over his family's "Niggerhead" hunting camp. On Tuesday night, Perry "was openly trying to befriend the only black man on the stage." That's certainly a "cynical" way for Perry to try and improve his image after the "Niggerhead" flap — but hardly racist.
"Rick Perry calls Herman Cain 'brother'...: Racial dig or friendly gesture?"
"Brother" is a southern evangelical thing: People will view this very differently in the North and the South, says Nia-Malika Henderson in The Washington Post. People will view this very differently in the North and the South. And remember, Cain and Perry are both religious southerners. Perry has publicly called white churchgoers "brother," too, because "it is a Sunday morning greeting that both Perry and Cain, a preacher, have likely extended and routinely received before and after church service." It's a "term of endearment, shorthand for 'brothers in Christ.'"
"Rick Perry called Herman Cain 'brother.' Why?"
Regardless, Perry shouldn't have called Cain "brother": "Maybe it was a Christian dog whistle" on Perry's part, says Frank James at NPR. But plenty of other GOP candidates are also "well known for their Christian faith," and Perry didn't call them "brother." Fair or not, Perry's language set people's "nerves on edge" because "when a white man calls a black man 'brother' and if they are not actually brothers (think adoption), or in a Greek-letter fraternity, or soldiers... many a brotherized black man will immediately feel condescended to."
"Rick Perry 'brothers' Herman Cain and sets some nerves on edge"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Here comes the Pentagon's newest space plane
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 3 horrific inaccuracies in Homeland's depiction of Islamabad
- Extreme haunted houses: Inside Halloween's most terrifying new trend
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Let us now praise Billy Joel
- The simple trick to making better decisions in every aspect of life
- How 1,000-year lifespans could remake the economy
- How foreign aid screwed up Liberia's ability to fight Ebola
Subscribe to the Week