As a result of the Paula Deen scandal, offensive words are in the news these days. One of those words is cracker. It appears that some white folks are as offended by that word as African-Americans are by the word nigger. Quite a few progressive folks find that laughable. But, is it really? In a piece for his blog titled “Dear White People Offended By The Word “Cracker“, Travis Mammone feels that way because, as he says, “…there’s no ugly history associated with the word “cracker.” Well, not exactly. A look at the etymology of cracker shows multiple origins of the word. Some say it came from the cracking whips of white overseers, others from the cracked corn that was a food staple of poor white southerners. The one most probably correct says the name came from the whips used by North Florida/South Georgia cattle drovers. Going by origin alone, it’s not all that offensive. But, that doesn’t tell the whole tale. You see, cracker means something specific to southern white people. A cracker is ignorant, redneck white trash. It dates back to a time of dirt poor, uneducated sharecroppers and subsistance farmers who were considered a (very) short step above black folks in rural southern society. Calling a white person cracker is a tremendous insult you to a southerner. So, is cracker as much an insult as nigger? Of course not. It may carry negative connotations, but nothing like the ones attached to nigger. But, these words have one thing in common: they divide us. As Paul said in his letter to the Galatians:
“You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Not only are these words offensive, they are unbiblical. And, that’s a phrase I never thought I’d use. I believe that both words are offensive and should be stricken from our lexicon. If we are ever to be the Beloved Community Dr. King spoke of, we must lose this false dichotomy and truly learn to view each other as the brothers and sisters Paul proclaimed us to be. As long as divisive language exists (on either side of the equation), that’s not going to happen.