CNN, in service of knowledge (and desperate for ratings), is going all out on the Trayvon Martin case and, when it's forced to cover something else, Paula Deen's deeply ingrained racism. But the opportunity to combine the two is manna from heaven for cable news. That's why, almost a full week later, the network is still weighing the testimony of Martin's friend Rachel Jeantel, who said the Florida teenager remarked on the phone that he was being followed by a "creepy-ass cracker." And thus the above hall-of-fame chyron is born: "N Word VS 'Cracker': Which Is Worse?'" The segment was fifteen minutes long.
In an accompanying online column today, Tom Foreman argues, "'Cracker' conveys history of bigotry that still resonates." He admits the history of the term is "murky," but claims "for plenty of rural, white southerners, 'cracker' is a demeaning, bigoted term, and its appearance does nothing to help the prosecutors."
Foreman then implies that Martin could have been charged with a hate crime "had he survived the encounter and Zimmerman had taken the worst of it." Hypothetically!
"To be sure," he cautions, "cracker is not on par with the n-word, but it is nonetheless a sharp racial insult that resonates with white southerners even if white northerners don't get it." One word that does not appear in the column: slavery.
Centuries of discrimination, abuse, and murder do get a mention in last night's broadcast, but then, about eleven minutes in, a white woman says she substitutes a w when she sings rap songs: wiggaaah.
"I always find it remarkable that white people find n-word usage such a complicated puzzle. It's not that complicated: Just. Don't. Use It," explained Columbia professor Marc Lamont Hill, as simply as possible. "You just have to accept that there are some things in the world — at least one thing — that you can't do that black people can. And that might just be okay."
As for the direct comparison, (white) rapper El-P has an opinion:
from @CNN tonight: " N word or cracker...which is more offensive?". probably the one you won't spell out, you fucking hacks. just a guess.— el-p (@therealelp) July 2, 2013