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Old 16 February 2018, 01:42 AM
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Little Pink Pill Little Pink Pill is offline
Join Date: 03 September 2005
Location: California
Posts: 7,055

ChasFink, I understand what you are trying to say, that words are phonemes strung together with no inherent moral value, and that it is the attribution or contribution of their users that give them meaning. And you’re right, language is flexible, so I also understand your argument that there may have been a time and a place in the history of the world where the n-word wasn’t used in a deliberately offensive way. However, that has probably never been the case in America.

I downloaded ‘The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano,’ by himself, published in 1745. It is one on the earliest slave narratives, and a word search showed the use of “black” and “negro,” but never the n-word. A similar search of the white abolitionist Benjamin Lay’s book, ‘All Slave-Keepers That Keep The Innocent in Bondage, Apostates,’ from 1737, also shows the use of “black” and “negro,” but never the n-word. Not once. 100 years later, in ‘Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave,’ 1845, slaves are still referred to by the author as “black” or “negro.” In this work, however, the n-word does show up, eleven times. And every single time it’s a quote of a racist using it in a horrifyingly derogatory way that I can’t and won’t repeat here.

Going off of only these historical American documents, I would guess that the word negro was always the neutral term, and the n-word was always the slur. Based on Douglass’ work alone, I think it’s safe to say that any living American, young or old, knows full well the word’s historical and lexical context, and what it means when they say it.
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