Why the Term “Cracker” Is Not a Racial Slur

Disclaimer: This article is not warranting the use of the word “cracker” whatsoever. It is simply indicating that “cracker” can be taken as an insult, not as a complete racial slur.

A racial slur is defined by Dictionary.com as “a derogatory or disrespectful nickname for a racial group, used without restraint,” like the N-word. Racial slurs are used typically to put down or personally attack someone from a particular racial background, and the use of such a term is disgusting.

The term “cracker,” a term used to describe a white person somewhat offensively, has had multiple controversies as to whether it is a racial slur or not. Well here, we are going to put the record straight: “cracker” is NOT a racial slur, but simply an insult. Let’s tell you why in a short list:

  1. The term itself does not even have a “derogatory or disrespectful” meaning. The term has multiple meanings, but these are the most intriguing: the first definition of “cracker” means something along the lines of a poor white person. The second definition, probably more true, was used by slaves around the 1800s to describe the sound created when white slave-owners would whip the slaves’ backs. Regardless of either definition, the term “cracker” is not a racial slur because it is not disrespecting a racial group. If the definition regarding the poor white person is applied, then that is simply just using a term that may not properly describe someone. If the definition regarding the noise made by slave violence, then the term is not a racial slur whatsoever; in fact, that definition justly calls out the bigotry of white people in the past for the injustices they enacted upon slaves. Some definitions of “cracker” indicate Celtic immigrants coming to the United States while other more tame usages of the word have been used in school names and roadshows. Overall, though the term has taken some insulting usages in modern times, overall the roots of “cracker” are in no way “derogatory or disrespectful.” If you called a white person a Celtic immigrant, I’m positive it would not elicit the same response as calling a black person the N-word.
  2. The term has multiple meanings with multiple connotations. The definitions above (1: poor white person 2: and sound made when slave owners would whip slaves) generally have negative connotations (though they should not), but depending on where you are in the United States, “cracker” may not be just a racial slur. It could also be a major compliment. In Florida, the term is prideful, having to do with Florida’s pre-Civil War history and cattle herding skills. Not to mention, “cracker” is also the name of a popular snack around the globe. With true racial slurs like the N-word, which has only one meaning to disrespect a racial group, “cracker” truly cannot be a racial slur because it has multiple meanings. If you look around and actually analyze racial slurs, you’ll see that their only purpose is to disrespect. With words like “cracker” that barely disrespect white people and even can be a source of pride for others, it can not be a racial slur – but, still some definitions of “cracker” that could be aimed at white people are definitely insults; but in general, the word’s meaning and connotations are primarily positive.
  3. The term wasn’t extremely relevant until 2012-2013. The term had its resurgence when George Zimmerman had murdered Trayvon Martin. Rachel Jeantel, Trayvon’s friend that spoke at the trial, called Zimmerman a “creepy-a** cracker.” Since then, the term has been discussed more frequently. Comparable to other slurs like the N-word, “cracker” just hasn’t had enough social relevance for it to be an institutionalized racial slur. CNN cites a study by Bill Harris from the University of North Carolina by saying:

Initially, cracker was not a pejorative term, but Ferris says it has become one, the equivalent of redneck. Its meaning and intensity as an insult depends on who is saying it and who is listening.

Sure, it definitely is not a racial slur, but it can be merely an insult to some people. This article is not designed to give people 100% freedom to call white people “cracker,” but this is just clarification for a controversy that needed to be cleared up. Always be cautious of people’s feelings, and if they aren’t comfortable with being called a “cracker,” then just leave them be. Never use words that make those uncomfortable, and in fact, just stay away from this word entirely.

Besides, there are hundreds of other insults you could use, if you choose to. Kindness and happiness will always be the most effective remedies to issues, however.



Have your say!

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Sameer Khan
Written by
Having an interest in politics and societal issues through his school Speech & Debate team, Sameer has a true love for expressing his thoughts. When he's not writing a powerful article, he's probably listening to Ariana Grande's music, scrolling through Twitter, ranting about Donald Trump, or eating cookies!


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