The term redneck has been colloquially considered a derogatory term, and rightfully so. While comics such as Jeff Foxworthy have made some fun with it and tried to put lipstick on a pig with this term, the term is historically an awful thing to say by most Americans. It typically refers to a white person that is of Southern descent and works in the labor class or in a rural setting.
That can be the joke today, but it is derogatory. If you work on a farm, you might be a redneck. This term could have come from the red on the neck of farmworkers toiling in a hot Southern sun. However, the term goes back to the 1800s and is even considered racist by many.
This is a matter of opinion by many. Professors have written that it is, and many Americans think that it is. The redneck definition implies that whites that are farmers are lower class. It was originally a term placed on the farmers, and ultimately became a political movement where they called each other rednecks.
In this sense, one farmer calling another a redneck is not diminutive. But a Yankee calling a southerner a redneck could be cause for war. Political blocks have even been formed as a result.
Redneck has been considered a racist term because it has resulted in violence, most notably between African Americans and whites.
There are words that trigger violence more frequently than the word redneck, but it can incite violence. African Americans may even consider it a threatening word. Historically speaking, when workers began leaving farms for better-paying jobs in factories and industry, the tension between the cultures and races was high. Many African Americans didn’t have that opportunity, and still don’t today.
The word redneck became a word to fly around as a response to racism. This was not even about social competition. Taking the job from a fellow was not seen as being American. The word redneck became as divisive as other terms used to describe African Americans today.
Whites from the farm were just as concerned their jobs would be taken by African Americans. That still happens today with equal opportunity employment, with many thinking their jobs are at risk to minorities.
The term itself is not violent. When used poorly, it can incite violence, like many other words in the English language. Colloquially, it is used to refer to someone from the South who farms, and does not typically have a positive connotation.