Zimmerman trial shines light on words


SkittlesWith CNN providing gavel to gavel coverage of the George Zimmerman murder trial in Florida the “N word” has been getting more media attention than it has had since the OJ Simpson trial.  Zimmerman, who is accused of murdering Trayvon Martin two years ago, is alleged to have a racist background that may have been the motive for fatally shooting the unarmed Martin – either that or he really wanted Trayvon’s Skittles. This aspect of the case has brought about an in-depth analysis of the “N word” including CNN’s own Don Lemon doing a special on the history of the word and how it has changed.

You’ll have to “use” it to explain the concept

I think one thing that needs to be made clear is that there is a definite difference between “calling” someone the N word and just “saying” it. Let me explain: when asked publicly if they have ever used the N word, people usually trip all over themselves trying to be as emphatic as possible in their “no”. But I doubt that’s true. In fact I’ll bet that during the current discussions people have, on many occasions, used the N word when explaining it to someone. Let’s say your relatives from X-country are visiting, they see the media frenzy and ask you about the infamous N word. You’ll have to “use” it to explain the concept. Next time you find yourself  under oath and are asked if you have ever said it you’ll have to come clean and say yes. However, if on that same witness stand you are asked if you have called anyone the N word, you will be able to, in all honesty, answer no!

I think one thing that needs to be made clear is that there is a definite difference between “calling” someone the N word and just “saying” it

CrackerHow do I know this? From the very same trial of George Zimmerman. One of the witnesses recalled how Martin had referred to Zimmerman as a “crazy ass cracker”. As a white male in my early fifties (okay, mid-fifties) of relatively average intelligence I can honestly say I had never heard of the word Cracker being used in a derogatory, let alone racist, manner. Perhaps it’s the British influence of my grandparents, but cracker was a word used to  indicate a sharp minded person, it was a compliment. In fact there was a very popular TV series starring Robbie Coltrane called Cracker.

I can honestly say I had never heard of the word Cracker being used in a derogatory, let alone racist, manner

So words mean different things to different people in different places and at different times. As the late George Carlin once put it “There are no good words or bad words; only good thoughts or bad thoughts”.

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