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Peckerwood is the inverse of the word woodpecker. In most parts of the country where the word originated, the woodpecker is considered to be a pest and or nuisance. Like other words sharing a similar context (a nuisance, bother, pest etc.), it quickly became a common retort in most social circles and groups of friends. It is a derogatory term referring to southern whites, similar to "rednecks".

In the 1940s, the abbreviated version "wood" entered California prison slang, originally meaning an Okie mainly from the San Joaquin Valley. 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 or Mr. Horsepower. Sometimes the letters "PW" or "APW" (Peckerwood and American Peckerwood) are used.[1]

Street gang[edit]

The term peckerwood has been adopted as the name of a street gang. 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. County (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.I.M. (Family Affiliated Irish Mob) affiliates of the Aryan Brotherhood.[citation needed]

Under Peckerwood law, members are required to physically harm any other white person who has had a history of child molestation. On May 4, 2013, Charles Gaskin, who was a member of the gang according to his probation report, was sentenced for 26 years to life for the murder of registered sex offender Neil Lee Hayes.[4]

On March 27, 2013, Tobias Dustin Summers, an alleged member of a Peckerwood street gang, kidnapped a 10 year old girl from her home in Northridge, Los Angeles and repeatedly sexually assaulted her. His accomplice, Daniel Martinez was caught on April 1, 2013, while Summers fled to Mexico. Summers was caught in a rehab clinic in Mexico on April 24, 2013. Summers has been charged with 37 felony counts—one of kidnapping a child, one of burglary, one of kidnapping to commit another crime, and 34 counts related to sexual assault against the kidnapping victim.[5][6]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The term also appears in The Right Stuff, in a scene with Pancho Barnes declaring that "Some peckerwood's gotta take the beast up, and some peckerwood's gotta land the son-of-a-bitch. And that peckerwood's called a 'pilot'."
  • In the television show Sons of Anarchy the term "peckerwood" is used throughout mainly as slang for members of the Aryan Brotherhood.
  • The character played by Mark Wahlberg in Shooter (2007 film) intimates that he is not a threat by stating, "I'm just a peckerwood who lives in the hills with too many guns."
  • The character played by Samuel L. Jackson uses the phrase in the 2012 film Django Unchained to describe a group of paid plantation workers in an 1850s setting. Additionally, the character played by Don Johnson, a plantation owner, uses the term when attempting to explain to one of his slaves the proper way to treat Django, a free black man; "Big Daddy" explains to his slave that Django should not be treated as a white person would, but rather as a "peckerwood" boy from the town nearby.
  • "Peckerwood" is the name of the southern plantation owned by Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside in Auntie Mame.
  • In The Mask of Zorro, Three-Fingered Jack calls Don Montero "peckerwood" before his failed attempt to kill Montero, who doesn't understand the term.

See also[edit]