There was a time, not too terribly long ago, when I would gladly refer to myself or my fellow white people as “cracker.” Sometimes I might use “whitey,” or “honkey” and if I knew any other euphemism for white people used by PoC I might have used those. I believed, in my heart of hearts, that I was mocking white outrage at those terms. That I was showing love as an ally toward PoC. After much meditation on this I have come to the conclusion that I was a complete and utter wanker.
I do not believe this because I have decided these words are just as damaging as the various racial epithets thrown at non-whites. They are not. We are the default in this country. Most people, including unfortunately many men and women of color, view being white as inherently good. So no, these words are not really hurtful to us when you think about it. Too many of the gleefully white supremacists would react to being called a cracker with a proud “damn straight.” So it is utterly useless when dealing with them, though still useful for the legion of latte liberals out there who whine when their privilege is pointed out to them.
It occurred to me, embarrassingly recently, that using those words was appropriating the experience of people of color in general and the black community in particular. Even in doing so as an act of so-called defiance against white supremacy. I was reclaiming a word that, unlike PoC with a certain “n” word, I have no right to. If I want to use “tranny,” “fag,” or (no matter what Cathy Brennan says) “dyke” I can because those are words that others have used to lash out at me. I can take those words and a claim them as my own to steal the power from them.
I do not, however, have the (moral) right to reclaim a word that the powerless have used to give themselves just a bit of power. While it has never bothered me in the past, I realize it would probably bother me now to hear a straight friend refer to themselves as a “breeder” or cis friend using “cis scum.” I am sorry, you don’t have the right to the words, and we white people, no matter how well-intentioned we may say we are, have no right to “cracker.”
I want to make it real clear, I expect no cookies for this. No one deserves accolades for not being a jerk and if anything, I deserve a healthy dose of derision from PoC for only just realizing this, though that is not really my call. Dropping “cracker” and “honkey” on myself and other white people was no different from the suburban white kid who thinks he gets black people because he listens to hip hop. It was stupid, selfish, and short-sighted and while I know they are not worth a tinker’s damn, I offer up my apologies.
Because as a member of an oppressed group, I should have known better. I know what it is like to have the privileged swipe away what little you have in our society. I know what it is like to have someone claim to have my back and then pull some cis sexist crap on me, and how much it hurts, even if, especially if, they do not realize. I can only hope that I do not take so long to recognize my foolishness in the future, and that other privileged folk, regardless of which privilege we are talking about, learn from my screw up.
- Front Page News: When is it Okay for Black People to Use the Word “Cracker”? (somethingawful.com)
- Why ‘Cracker’ Will Never Compare to the N-Word (theroot.com)
- The Origins of the Term “Cracker” (racefiles.com)
- Why Every White Person You Know is Worse Than Farrakhan (beyoungandshutup.com)