In a fiery, verbal onslaught last week, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) viciously berated the Tea Party, indicting them of being the “same white crackers who fought the U.S. civil rights movement.”
“It is the same group we faced in the South with those white crackers and the dogs and the police. They didn’t care about how they looked. It was just fierce indifference to human life that caused America to say enough is enough,” Rangel continued. However, Rangel’s comments would not go unanswered, of course.
Donald Trump and Fox News host Gretchen Carlson called into question the political correctness of Rangel’s comment that the Tea Party were the “same white crackers.” But rather than just arguing against the “correctness” of what they called a “racist rant,” Trump said that “If Charlie or whoever it was was a Republican and they made that statement, they’d be resigning from office right now.” Trump was basically asserting that if he or any white Tea Partier or Republican had used the N-word, they would get skinned by the media. And he’s right.
What Trump and the Fox News people vastly overlook is the political context in which Rangel said “same white crackers.” The crackers are indeed what Rangel said they were during the civil rights movement. They were the ones who supported segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate but equal. They were the sons and descendants of the Ku Klux Klan. And the ones who sprayed the early black civil rights activists with fire hoses, beat them in the streets, and set dogs on them.
The term “cracker” is derived from “whip-cracker,” as in one who cracked the whip; more specifically one who cracked the whip on African-American slaves. It’s a word used to describe one who oppresses. In the context, no, “cracker” has nowhere near the amount of offense and gravity as the N-word, which is what Trump and the hosts of Fox and Friends seem to assert.
If they were to use the N-word within its original context, they would invoke oppression, torture, cruelty, and death. So if these white crackers were to use their version of Rangel’s “racial rant,” they would most certainly be burned at the stake, and rightfully so.
Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.