CNN Special Commentary Part I: Responding to Racism is not Reverse Racism

H. Lewis Smith | 7/9/2013, 10:38 a.m.
On Monday, July 1, 2013, CNN aired the special program "N-word vs 'Cracker’: Which Is Worse?" hosted and moderated by ...
H. Lewis Smith

Don Lemon

Don Lemon

On Monday, July 1, 2013, CNN aired the special program "N-word vs 'Cracker’: Which Is Worse?" hosted and moderated by Don Lemon. The segment stemmed from the George Zimmerman trial, coming as a result of the prosecution’s star witness’ claim that the late Mr. Trayvon Martin told her a "creepy ass 'cracker’" was following him just moments before his life was unrightfully taken. The defense attorney deftly took what Trayvon Martin was purportedly to have called Zimmerman - a "creepy ass cracker" - and successfully turned it into reverse racism. The use of the term "cracker" caused a fast and furious fallout throughout White America, raising the question over which term is most offensive - cracker or nger - and prompting the discussion of what is racism?

In listening to this televised debate, it was realized that some may believe that the word "cracker" is equally as derogatory, demeaning, and dehumanizing as the n-word. Even though arguments were had concerning the racial offensiveness of the term "cracker", the unequivocal and unanimous consensus of the CNN panel was that "cracker" is not on the same plane by any means as the n-word given each term’s history, meaning, and purpose. [To be clear, "nga" was undeniably meant to be racially offensive and dehumanizing, and was not based on the job/authority of the slave whipper (which is the origin of the word "cracker").]

The defense attorney’s ability to take Mr. Martin’s use of the term "cracker" and turn it into a racist comment brought to light the question of whether or not black people can be racist? This question strongly resonated with the American public and has given great cause to address the issue of racism, and its relationship in the Black community.

While it’s clear that when other races use the n-word it’s an issue of racism, deliberate efforts have been taken to refrain from making use of the n-word a racist issue in past commentaries. Instead, diligent care is taken to focus efforts of eradicating use of the n-word by the Black community, and helping blacks see the slights being caused by their own hand within their own community by referring to one another as "ngas". Frankly, Black Americans’ self-internalization of the n-word is an issue all unto itself that must be addressed and fixed if Black America is to stand strongly, united, and effectively to fight the issue of racism external to the community. However, as a result of the CNN special, the denigrating question "which is worse?", and the manner in the discussion even came to be, an exception is being made in this case and racism will be given the attention it warrants.

To raise such a question of which term is more offensive is an invidious comparison and is really a slap in the face to the Black/African-American community. Until the Zimmerman trial, "cracker" was just another word, albeit one that can be contextualized in a derogatory fashion. Redneck, honky, poor white trash are all derogatory terms, but are they racist terms?