Cracker (1766- ), or cracka, is an American term for a white person.
- Standard American English – an offensive term for a poor white person.
- Black American English – mildly derogatory term for any white person. It can be used as mere description – as when Trayvon Martin called George Zimmerman a “creepy-ass cracker”.
- White use in Georgia and Florida – a positive term for a white person whose family has lived in the region for many generations.
White use: In 1718 Britain’s prisons were bursting to overflowing. Parliament passed a law to send prisoners, against their will, as convict labour to the Americas. In the 1700s rich White Americans called them “crackers” as well as “scum and dregs”.
Earl of Dartmouth in 1766:
I should explain to your Lordship what is meant by Crackers; a name they have got from being great boasters; they are a lawless set of rascalls on the frontiers of Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, and Georgia, who often change their places of abode
“Cracker” here is seen as coming from the Scottish word “crack”, meaning to boast. You see that use of the word in the expression “not what it’s cracked up to be”.
They were still seen as scum over a hundred years later:
Theodore Roosevelt in 1889:
… a large influx of people of people drawn from the worst immigrants that perhaps ever were brought to America – the mass of convict servants, redemptioners, and the like… Many of the southern crackers or poor whites spring from this class, which also in the backwoods gave birth to generations of violent and hardened criminals, and to an even greater number of shiftless, lazy, cowardly cumberers of the earth’s surface.
Black use: Blacks mainly used the term from the 1860s to 1940s, particularly in Georgia and the Carolinas. It was generally applied to poor whites but could be applied to any white person, like a policeman. It seems to have made a comeback since the 1990s.
Malcolm X in 1964:
It’s time for you and me to stop sitting in this country, letting some cracker senators, Northern crackers and Southern crackers, sit there in Washington, D.C., and come to a conclusion in their mind that you and I are supposed to have civil rights. There’s no white man going to tell me anything about my rights.
Nowhere near as bad as the N-word: It cannot be. Blacks did not enslave whites for hundreds of years, lynch white people, bomb white churches, bomb white businesses, keep whites in ghettos, flood white neighbourhoods with drugs, underfund white schools, racially profile white men, send whites in huge numbers to prison and base their self-image on looking down on whites. If anything, black opinion of whites is way too high and their opinion of themselves is way too low, like in the White Doll Experiment.
The main N-word among blacks is the N-word and they direct it at themselves!
Whites who think “whitey” or “cracker” is “just as bad” as the N-word have no idea how asymmetric American racism is.