The Great Divide: American Cracker & Yankee Defined

American Redneck

When I moved to southwest Florida, I was unprepared for the stereotypical visage of a predominantly rural white American, affectionately known as a “Cracker.” However, growing up essentially a northerner from New York City, I was accustomed to extreme diversity on an international level. I remember some of my old neighborhoods, especially Jamaica, Queens. Now I live here. There is no comparison.  Ask anyone who has lived this contrasting lifestyle.

On my block was a Puerto Rican family from San Juan, directly across from them was rental two story brick townhouse, which housed everyone from East Indian livery cab drivers and Pakistani immigrants. My long time neighbor directly east of my house, was an Italian born chef who married a woman from the Dominican Republic. They had several children who bore unique and exotic features indicative of a mulatto union. Parking was severely congested, so I rented a garage from a Brazilian couple who spoke fluent Portuguese. They lived on the next block just east of me. There were Russian Jews and West Indies Caribbean couples scattered throughout the various rental town homes.

American Redneck

My exposure to diversity and multiculturalism didn’t just extend to my neighbors. For many years I was teaching music privately out of my home studio. In all those years, I have met many wonderful students, both adults and children, men and women with different stories and aspirations in life. I remember teaching a Jewish Rabbi who was a cantor in a local synagogue. I remember numerous Russian Jewish students who were in college or Yeshiva. I had an illegal construction worker from Brazil. I remember him telling me of his plight in homelessness living in Rio, sleeping under a bridge and eating what he could to survive. I had some students from El Salvador and also Colombia. I had an economist from China and a Japanese History teacher who later moved back to Osaka. An NYPD homicide detective, an attorney who quit to become a day trader and a Long island drug dealer who ironically, was my best pupil. Many students, many faces with a multitude of ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences. It’s no wonder, I eventually obtained my undergraduate degree in Anthropology. Living in Queens, NY was like doing field work.

Steinway Street – The diversity of stores that paint the cultural landscape

He fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down

The contrast between the colloquial terms and stereotypical Cracker/Redneck and Yankee often bare truth with comical undertones. As much as I try to avoid stereotypes, too often after living in both the North and now the south, I have come to the realization that many of these established observations, are actually based on truthful profiles of the indigenous people inhabiting this regional divide. People unfortunately are easily classified based on these group dynamics which are reflected in their sense of identity. This sense of identity eventually manifests in specific attitudes, personalities, likes and dislikes.

The Yankee & The Cracker Defined

Yankee, derived from the disparaging Dutch name Jan Kees (John Cheese) for New England Puritans in the 1660s, became a colloquial name for all New Englanders. Popularized by the British army march, “Yankee Doodle” (1750), it was adopted proudly by the Connecticut militia, and appeared in Royal Tyler’s play The Contrast (1787), Seba Smith’s Major Jack Dowling satires (1829), and James Russell Lowell’s Biglow Papers (1848).

Southerners referred to Union soldiers as Yankees during the Civil War, but in World War I all American soldiers were dubbed Yankees. As an ethnic group, the Yankee descends from the Congregational British settlers of colonial New England, noted for their ingenuity and flinty character.

“We’ve howdied but we ain’t shook yet”
(Translated) We’ve made a brief acquaintance, but not been formally introduced

American Redneck

“You can put your boots in the oven, but that doesn’t make them biscuits”
(Translated) You can say whatever you want about something, but that doesn’t change what it is.


1. a native or inhabitant of the United States.
2. a native or inhabitant of New England.
3. a native or inhabitant of a northern U.S. state, especially of one of the northeastern states that sided with the Union in the American civil war.
4. a federal or northern soldier in the American Civil War.
5. a word used in communications to represent the letter Y.
6. Military . the NATO name for a class of Soviet ballistic missile submarine, nuclear powered, with up to 16 missile launchers.
7. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a Yankee or Yankees: Yankee ingenuity.


Informal: Often Disparaging .
1. an uneducated white farm laborer, especially from the South.
2. a bigot or reactionary, especially from the rural working class.
3. Also, red-necked . narrow, prejudiced, or reactionary: a redneck attitude.

In modern usage, redneck predominantly refers to a particular stereotype of whites from the Southern United States. The word can be used either as a pejorative or as a matter of pride, depending on context.

American Redneck

“The engine’s runnin’ but ain’t nobody driving”
(Translated) Not overly intelligent

The term redneck is seen by some people to be both racist and classist, as it is was originally used to describe a person of pale skin that has been sunburned doing outdoor work or field work, and disproportionately applies to the poor. Today, a redneck is a stereotypical southern United States socially conservative, fiscally liberal, rural, working class white person with northern European ancestry.

The popular etymology says that the term derives from such individuals having a red neck caused by working outdoors in the sunlight over the course of their lifetime. The effect of decades of direct sunlight on the exposed skin of the back of the neck not only reddens fair skin, but renders it leathery and tough, and typically very wrinkled by late middle age. Another popular theory stems from the use of red bandannas tied around the neck to signify union affiliation during the violent clashes between United Mine Workers and owners between 1910 and 1920.

Some historians claim that the term redneck originated in 17th century Virginia, when indentured servants were sunburn while tending plantation crops.

American Redneck

“He looks like the dog’s been keepin’ him under the porch”
(Translated) Not the most handsome of men

A redneck is usually typified in popular culture by a straight male with a beer belly that consumes cheap American beer such as Busch or Miller by the case (Pabst Blue Ribbon in more traditional settings) as well as Jack Daniel’s. They are generally distrustful or dislike anyone not like them. The stereotypical redneck lives in a trailer, and drives an old, large, often beat-up American made pickup truck with an abundance of Jesus Ichthus fish magnets. He generally wears a stained, sleeveless t-shirt, blue jeans, and a trucker hat.

Hair is generally worn in the mullet style, and they favor long sideburns. Personal hygiene is a lost concept with the stereotypical redneck, and what teeth they have left generally show the complete anthology of the stages of dental caries. Their favorite activities include hunting, shooting at road signs and lights, professional wrestling, NASCAR, monster truck rallies, car engine repair, collecting junked cars and large appliances on their lawns, having an abundance of children and dogs, participating in domestic disturbances, and waiting around for monthly government assistance. Country and Southern Rock bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd figure in as their preferred genre of music. An overabundance of various denominations of Catholic Churches proliferate the area. However, the redneck is least likely to read or understand the bible without outside guidance. Reading and academic education in general are non-essential pursuits.

Stereotypical redneck females have similar characteristics and interests on a feminine scale. They are most often seen barefoot, pregnant and wear Daisy Duke shorts with stiletto heels.

Definitions of redneck on the Web:

a poor White person in the southern United States

Redneck is a derogatory slang term to refer to poor white Southern farmers in the United States. It is similar in meaning to Cracker (especially in Georgia), Hillbilly (especially in Appalachia) and White trash (especially among blacks).

An uneducated, unsophisticated, or poor white person, typically used to describe residents (of either gender) of the rural US; The nickname given to miners who wore red bandannas for identification during the West Virginia mine war of 1921

I came across this on some unknown comedic website. In a humorous manner, it depicts the quick and surprising wit, as well as contrasting stereotypical elements that often serve to identify a redneck against the seemingly educated young adult.

A Poetry Contest……..

It was the finals in a poetry contest. The two finalists were a college graduate and a Redneck. The final contest was for them to make a poem in two minutes containing a word that would be given to them by the judges. The word was TIMBUKTU.

The college graduate was the first to give his poem:

Slowly across the desert sand…
There trekked a lonely caravan
Men on camels two by two
Onward, destination Timbuktu

American Redneck

The audience went wild. They thought the Redneck would never stand a chance against the college graduate.

American Redneck

Nevertheless, the Redneck stood up and gave his poem:

Me and Tim a hunting went…
Met three whores in a pop-up tent
They were three and we were two
So I bucked one and Timbuktu

The Redneck won hands down

American Redneck

Sometimes the ability to laugh at the social dynamics we create, that define our culture, our ethnic identities and our geographic differences is what makes us human. In then end, these differences become akin to colors painted across a human canvas, each serving a purpose, distinct but taken as a whole, create the image we see when we examine the many facets of our American culture. In the end, according to the above definition, even a Cracker is a Yankee when see through the eyes of a “Brit”. Yes, it’s all relative, harmless and provides us with a humorous optical illusion. After all, Socrates said it best when he exclaimed:

“I am not an Athenian, or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.”