Columbia professor defends Trayvon calling Zimmerman a ‘cracker’
By Katherine Timpf, on Jul 01, 2013
It may have made sense for Trayvon Martin to call George Zimmerman a “cracker” a professor from Columbia University said last Thursday, speaking on MSNBC’s “All in with Chris Hayes.”
Linguistics Professor John McWhorter appeared on the cable news program to defend Rachel Jeantel, the star prosecution witness in the Zimmerman trial, for her use of Black English.
McWhorter said that Jeantel was “articulate, just in a different kind of English than mainstream English.”
He then defended Martin’s use of the word “cracker” to describe Zimmerman, because, according to McWhorter, “given how the Trayvon Martin case went, there would seem to be some cause for some preliminary racial grievance for the poor boy, to have had somebody chasing after him for a reason he didn’t know.”
“Of course he might refer to the person as a cracker because he’s a human being,” added McWhorter, who is black. “I think we can understand that cracker may have been an appropriate term at the time.”
McWhorter told Campus Reform in an email on Monday that although he has “heard from some whites appalled” at his comments, he stands behind them.
“It's an issue of power, and privacy,” he wrote. “Martin used the word in a conversation with his friend, not on television, and he was speaking as a member of a troubled minority group. CRACKER is a term of self-defense from below; the N-word is a slur from above."
He said that any backlash is the result of people simply not understanding race issues.
“Anybody who pretends to think Trayvon Martin saying CRACKER and Paula Deen saying NIGGER are the same thing is being fake — and also doesn't understand how important and loaded the relationship is between young black men and law enforcement / profiling,” he wrote.
“Although,” he clarified, “I argued last week that we need to ease up on Deen too.”
Columbia University did not respond to requests for comment.