Date: Tue, 28 Oct 1997 17:11:42 -0500
From: "Donald M. Lance" engdl[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]SHOWME.MISSOURI.EDU
Subject: Re: PC Dictionaries?
An admittedly somewhat racist friend of mine from West Virginia frequently
says "There are niggers, and there are Negroes," with forceful enunciation.
He is using the DARE distinction (except for "regardless of skin color") in
addition to Ron Butters' referential distinction.
I do think that it is important to keep in mind that there are core meanings
and peripheral meanings for most words. My intuitions tell me that, in its
core meaning, the derogatory word NIGGER is applied to darkskinned people.
Does anyone still use n-words to refer to the dark-skinned people from
southern India? I doubt it. The original Sambo was South Indian, I
understand, reflecting British racial feelings, but would anyone nowadays
use this term for anyone except people with some sub-Saharan African
heritage. I think the references to "dark skin" are skirting the issue of
actual usage. Both of my WV friend's terms could be applied (by him, BUT
NOT ME!!!, of course) to individuals with rather light skin.
Here is a little thought experiment:
Suppose a blind person walks into a room full of strangers and says, "Are
there any niggers here?" Would anyone think that the blind person meant 'any
person perceived as uncouth, immoral, or threatening, regardless of skin
OK. Here'a one scenario: the blind person is African American and knows
that all people in the room have some African ancestry though he doesn't
know them personally. Another scenario: The blind man is white and knows
all the people in the room except him have African ancestry. Other
scenarios can easily be made up. What if in the second scenario all the
African Americans know the blind man and have good rapport with him? All
these and other scenarios should be considered in coming up with a full
"definition" of the term -- which is more a definiton of social attitudes
than of a mere word (hyperobvious!).
*****in reply to:
DARE has evidence, both written and oral, of the use of "nigger" to refer to
"any person perceived as uncouth, immoral, or threatening, regardless of
skin color." It is used especially frequently by Black speakers. See sense