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Peckerwood and cross pattée (iron cross) on a T-shirt.

Peckerwood (or simply Wood) is a racial slur 19th century southern Black Americans used to describe poor whites. Blacks saw blackbirds as a symbol of themselves, and the redheaded woodpecker as a representation of working class whites. They considered them loud and troublesome like the bird, and sometimes with red hair like the woodpecker's head plumes. This word is still widely used by southern blacks to refer to southern whites.[1]

In the 1940s, the abbreviated version "wood" entered California prison slang, originally meaning an Okie mainly from the San Joaquin Valley. Recently in jail/prison slang the gang also known as "The Wood Pile". This has caused the symbol of the woodpecker to be used by white power skinheads and other pro-white groups.[1][2] Some white supremacist groups call male members "peckerwoods" and female members "featherwoods".[3] It is usually drawn with a long beak, sometimes drawn to resemble Woody Woodpecker. Sometimes the letters "PW" or "APW" (Peckerwood and American Peckerwood) are used.[1] The peckerwood gangs are concentrated in California, where some trade in methamphetamine.[1] In the East Bay Area of California (Contra Costa County, Martinez, Richmond, Pittsburg, Antioch) the peckerwood gang members are identified by the CO. CO. (contra costa county tattoo, usually in but not limited to the abdominal/stomach region). The tattoo and Co. Co. County "WhiteBoy" gang trails to the prison California gang F.A.M.E affiliates of the Aryan Brotherhood.

"Peckerwood" is referenced in a 1975 Saturday Night Live skit in which Richard Pryor must complete a word association test as part of a job interview, with interviewer Chevy Chase giving increasingly inflammatory words as prompts.[4] The term is also used in the 1985 Robert Zemeckis film Back to the Future as a rebuttal to the opposing epithet "spook."[5]

See also


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