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When did "redneck" become a racist word?
Old 10-21-2008, 01:31 PM   #1
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When did "redneck" become a racist word?

I was raised in Florida and the reference to long-time Florida residents was "cracker" which referred to how Florida cowboys, back in the day, rounded up cattle with the crack of a bullwhip. I have since heard cracker referred to as a term used to describe a racist. How did that happen in only a generation?

Similarly, the term "redneck" was used to describe a country boy/girl in the south that may or may not have much of an education. Now, if I understand it correctly, redneck is also the term for a racist. When did this happen?

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Democratic Rep. John Murtha said Monday some of his constituents in western Pennsylvania are "rednecks" and the entire region just five to 10 years ago was "really redneck."
The comments come one week after he called his own constituents "racist" in an interview with his local newspaper
Rep. Murtha Clarifies 'Racist' Remark, Calls Western Pa. 'Redneck' - FOXNews.com Elections
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Old 10-21-2008, 01:44 PM   #2
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"Redneck" may not always be racist in my experience, but it is almost always derogatory. "Cracker," on the other hand, is often spoken with a certain amount of feistiness or even pride by the folks I have met; in another context it is used much like redneck. Compared to "redneck," it is much more variable.

I've met many people in my referral practice from all around the state and if I inquire about where they live, or lifestyle issues they might spontaneously volunteer that they are "good old crackers and proud of it."
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Old 10-21-2008, 01:53 PM   #3
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Around here, "cracker" means a white person. It has negative connotations. It can be used as an insult. As in "you is a white cracker you ugly a$$ beeeotch". However, not being a 13 year old anymore, I haven't heard this particular taunt on the playground in quite some time.
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Old 10-21-2008, 02:00 PM   #4
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People ascribe a whole host of meanings to the sort of words you describe.
I was born in Europe and always thought of Yankee as an insulting name for all Americans as it was often used in phrases like "Yankee go home". Imagine my confusion when I first came to the US to find that people south of the Maison Dixon line were not Yankees and that they used it as a derogatory name for Northeastern Americans and that those same Northeasterners liked the name and used it with pride in terms like "good old Yankee common sense" etc. Heck there's even a Yankee magazine
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Old 10-21-2008, 02:02 PM   #5
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Sounds like Sen. Murtha is doing the "Joe Biden School of Public Relations" proud. In fairness, PA is pretty much Philly in the east, Pittsburg in the west, and rural Alabama in the middle.
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Old 10-21-2008, 02:06 PM   #6
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Red Neck originated as a derogatory term used on white, predominantly irish, slaves in America in the 1600's who had to work in the fields without hats which is murder on irish skin. No matter how many days they spent out in the sun They would always end up with bright red blistered necks.
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Old 10-21-2008, 02:10 PM   #7
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Well, it's up against the wall, redneck mother, mother who has raised the son so well, so well............
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Old 10-21-2008, 02:19 PM   #8
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Well, it's up against the wall, redneck mother, mother who has raised the son so well, so well............
He's thirty-four and drinking in a honky tonk...
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Old 10-21-2008, 02:31 PM   #9
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Old 10-21-2008, 02:46 PM   #10
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He's thirty-four and drinking in a honky tonk...
Just kickin' hippie's asses and raisin' hell.........
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Old 10-21-2008, 04:52 PM   #11
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I see that it is time, again, to educate some of you'all on a neglected part of American history.

The term originated in Scotland when Scots were in one of their many battles with the English - this one over religion. The English were trying to force the Episcopalian Church of England on the Scots, and they weren't having any of it. A red cloth worn around the neck was the sign of an anti-episcopalian.

Some of the Scots wound up in the Ulster Plantation, they were known as the Ulster Scots in Ireland, many of whom got tired of warring with both the English and the Irish and came to America in the very early 18th century. There, they were originally just called Irish, but when the real Irish started showing up about a century and a half later, the Scots-Irish took pains to make clear the difference between the two groups.

The English Colonial establishment neither like nor trusted the Scots-Irish but appreciated their warrior nature. Leaders like Cotton Mather invited them to live along the border to secure the frontier. It fit the bill because all of the land along the coast was too expensive and already settled, and after centuries of fighting the English, Irish, each other and whoever else came along, border fighting with Indians and French would just be a change of opponent and scenery.

The Scots-Irish were independent, isolationist, incredibly stubborn and distrusting of any centralized authority. Although they settled in many places in America (including Maine and New Hampshire), they were used to moving frequently and seizing and clearing land. Many of them wound up in the rugged Allegheny Mountains and similar areas in Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Carolinas. They became the original Hillbillies, a term which is believed to have originated in Scotland and Ireland.

As time went by the Scots-Irish tended to stay to themselves in the hills, where they lead a tough life. Redneck, Hillbilly, and Cracker were all terms used to describe them. Cracker, by the way, did not come from the term for cracking bullwhips, or cracking corn.
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The true history of the name, however, is more involved and shows a shift in application over time. Linguists now believe the original root to be the Gaelic craic, still used in Ireland (anglicized in spelling to crack) for "entertaining conversation." The English meaning of cracker as a braggart appears by Elizabethan times, as, for example, in Shakespeare's King John (1595): "What cracker is this . . . that deafes our ears / With this abundance of superfluous breath?"

By the 1760s the English, both at home and in colonial America, were applying the term to Scots-Irish settlers of the southern backcountry,as in this passage from a letter to the earl of Dartmouth: "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." The word then came to be associated with the cowboys of Georgia and Florida, many of them descendants of those early frontiersmen.
While the Scots-Irish had always been called names like Redneck, the names began to spread to all poor whites in the South after the War of Northern Aggression. The Yankees subjected the South to great economic deprivation and many families and communities fell into a state of poverty that lasted for decades. There was a rejection of the whole class of poor southern whites. Eventually names like Redneck, Cracker, White-Trash and Peckerwood came to be applied to anybody that was a poor white Southerner.

Eventually the people, just like any rejected underclass, became the object of ridicule. The terms to describe them, and the image that those terms brought to mind, became derogatory when used by outsiders.

I have been called, and have called many others, Redneck, Cracker, White-Trash, Peckerwood, etc. The way in which it is used, and who is using it, dictate the reaction. Said under one set of circumstances it is just friendly banter. Said under a different set of circumstances, it is, as we Rednecks say, time for somebody to get an ass whupping.

As for Murtha. The most polite thing I can think of to say about the man is that he as a senile old windbag who runs off at the mouth without much thought. Haditha Marine prepares to sue Murtha over smear
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Old 10-21-2008, 05:03 PM   #12
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Heh, funny that you reference the gaelic "craic." I knew what it meant having grown up in a neighborhood that had lots of recent (including illegal) Irish immigrants, but I was more than a little surprised last month to hear one of my neighbors (and Englishman translplanted to Joisey) use the term. When I asked how he knew what it meant, it turned out that he used to work and socialize with a lot of Irishmen and so picked up the term.
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Old 10-22-2008, 03:04 AM   #13
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I did not know that calling someone a redneck was equated to calling someone a racist. I never thought it had that meaning. I thought redneck was used to describe the sunburned neck of a southern manual laborer... sometimes a person who worked on a farm. However, the term redneck is derogatory. The person using the term could probably correctly be called a racist if they were of a non-Caucasian race. White folk who refer to people that way are simply rude and insulting. Redneck is a stereotype. Cracker is about the same... often used to refer to poor lower class white people. Both are just about the same as calling someone white-trash. It is an insult! However, some white people refer to each other as rednecks (not unlike some black people refer to each other using the n word). They do it as a slight in a semi-joking manner.
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Old 10-22-2008, 09:34 AM   #14
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The Scots-Irish were independent, isolationist, incredibly stubborn and distrusting of any centralized authority. Although they settled in many places in America (including Maine and New Hampshire), they were used to moving frequently and seizing and clearing land. Many of them wound up in the rugged Allegheny Mountains and similar areas in Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Carolinas.
Yes, you have described us well! I did always wonder why my family history always was distinct about being Scots-Irish instead of just Irish. Thanks for the history lesson.

And also, I am a huge fan of the so-called cracker house--a vernacular style of home building that included a wonderful dogtrot central section for ventilation. I hope to build one on our place one day as a guest house.
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Old 10-22-2008, 10:29 AM   #15
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Yes, you have described us well! I did always wonder why my family history always was distinct about being Scots-Irish instead of just Irish. Thanks for the history lesson.
Does the Scots-Irish thing also explain the weird use of scottish things like highland bagpipes in Irish American pipe bands, or are they just easier to play while marching than Irish pipes.

Or is it just that bands like the NY Police band aren't really about Irish tradition, just some collation and copying of generally Gaelic stuff. The NY police band Emerald Society seems to have copied a British army pipe band and just put a bit of green and tan in the uniform.
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Old 10-22-2008, 10:44 AM   #16
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I did not know that calling someone a redneck was equated to calling someone a racist.
My mom grew up as a sharecropper's daughter in western Arkansas before the family fled to Chicago to avoid starvation. According to her, being refered to as a "redneck" would be the same as a black being refered to as a n-----. I've always considered people who refered to poor, southern people as rednecks in the same way I'd consider folks who call blacks n------. It's the person doing the name calling that's the racist, not the recipient of the attack.

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The person using the term could probably correctly be called a racist if they were of a non-Caucasian race. White folk who refer to people that way are simply rude and insulting. Redneck is a stereotype.
Absolutely correct.
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Old 10-22-2008, 10:50 AM   #17
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Having not been poor growing up, the appellation of redneck never hurt my feelings. I've never really heard it used in the way you have, youbet. It is more of a mark of staying in touch with your country roots in my circle.
I could see it being used like the term "Okies" was in the Depression, though, as an epithet, but just never encountered it in my experience.
I think I've called myself cracker trash before, and I know I've used the expression "PW" to describe something seen or done--that is a colloquialism for "poor white", also lengthened to "PWT" to incorporate trash. example: When I buy box mac and cheese, that is PW.
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Old 10-22-2008, 11:04 AM   #18
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I'm getting increasingly annoyed with labels and all the preconceived ideas that go along with them. In Europe I would always describe my politics as socialist, but I've learned never to do that in the states as it's impossible to have a rational conversation with that label hanging around my neck. My brother is an Evangelical minister and I'm a methodist so I can relate to many parts of Christian Conservatism and I think we should all do a bit more listening rather than talking, criticizing or shouting.
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Old 10-22-2008, 11:16 AM   #19
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Old 10-22-2008, 11:23 AM   #20
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I love the "safe hippie musician bar" down the road a ways!
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