Face facts: When the star witness for the prosecution in a murder trial characterizes an alternate theory of the crime advanced by the defense attorney as “real retarded, sir,” you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. And when that witness testifies that the victim told her he was being followed by “a creepy a** cracker,” you figure the prosecution is in trouble.
But if you’re Salon’s Joan Walsh, you don’t bother yourself with facts. In a post that attempts unsuccessfully to rationalize away Rachel Jeantel’s damning testimony yesterday at the George Zimmerman murder trial, Walsh comes up with an interesting theory of her own. It goes something like this: (1) Because Jeantel insisted (no doubt disingenuously) that cracker is not a racial epithet and (2) because Walsh has used the term herself, albeit in a wholly different context (“I have been known to say, ‘Jesus Christ on a cracker,’” she confides) and (3) because it carries so much less racial baggage than slurs directed at blacks, anyone who would see it as a racial slur is himself a racist. The teaser to the column reads, “Who cares if Trayvon Martin called George Zimmerman a ‘creepy a** cracker’? White grievance-mongers, that’s who.”
Among the “white grievance-mongers” Walsh assails are “the Breitbots,” “smaller right-wing shriekers,” and “Twitter trolls everywhere,” all of whom, she submits, are “less bothered by the fact that Martin allegedly used the term, than by Jeantel saying it wasn’t a slur.” (For the record, kindly number the present “right-wing shrieker” among those who take offense at the term cracker as well as at Jeantel’s fatuous insistence that it is bereft of racist intent.)
Walsh explains, to her own satisfaction, that “’cracker’ has never had the same power to demean, or to exile, or to sting. No social order has ever been devised whereby African-Americans oppress people they deride as ‘crackers.’” So the measure of effectiveness of a racist epithet resides in how much pain it inflicts. How sad for blacks as a community (and for their liberal cheerleaders like Walsh) that they have been unable to devise their own equally stigmatizing name for whites!
Walsh further devalues cracker’s power to demean with this gem of an observation:
We don’t even really know where the term comes from. I’ve seen it suggested that enslaved black people invented it because of the ‘crack’ of the slavemaster’s whip, but it was used by planter class elites to describe the hardscrabble Scots-Irish dating back to the late 18th century. (Both meanings could be true.) If it’s demeaning at all — and some white Southerners have embraced it — it derives from white-on-white snobbery. But like most discussions of white class distinctions in this country, this one will be preempted … because [sic] black racism!
So knowing the origin of a term is another metric of the racial angst it causes. Walsh is probably aware that the N-word derives from the Spanish and Portuguese word negro, meaning “black.” But can she explain why or how the distorted from of that acceptable ethnic term came to have such an offensive connotation? Is she aware that it wasn’t viewed as pejorative until around 1900? Does she care?
At one point in her self-righteous diatribe, an exasperated Walsh throws up her hands and takes the lord’s name in vain: “My God, don’t these people get tired of themselves?” Good question. Doesn’t Walsh?
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