Alumni College Fellow
"The Semantics of Racial Epithets"
What does the N-word mean, and why is it such a powerfully offensive word in our language? Racial slurs are negative moral judgments that reflect the surrounding social facts of their speakers, and for the N-word, its meaning is grounded in practices such as the denial of civil rights, the denial of equal opportunity, mass incarceration, dehumanizing stereotypes, police brutality, and so forth. To predicate the N-word of someone is to literally say that they deserve such racist treatment merely on the basis of being African-American. Targets of slurs are not 'overly sensitive' or being 'politically correct' - they are responding to discriminatory prescriptions that are highly offensive and, in some cases, literally threaten.
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