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Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Wordby Randall Kennedy
Synopses & Reviews
Nigger: it is arguably the most consequential social insult in American history, though, at the same time, a word that reminds us of “the ironies and dilemmas, tragedies and glories of the American experience.” In this tour de force, distinguished Harvard Law School professor Randall Kennedy—author of the highly acclaimed Race, Crime, and the Law— “put[s] a tracer on nigger,” to identify how it has been used and by whom, while analyzing the controversies to which it has given rise.
With unprecedented candor and insight Kennedy explores such questions as: How should nigger be defined? Is it, as some have declared, necessarily more hurtful than other racial epithets? Do blacks have a right to use nigger even as others do not? Should the law view nigger baiting as a provocation strong enough to reduce the culpability of a person who responds violently to it? Should a person be fired from his or her job for saying nigger? How might the destructiveness of nigger be assuaged?
To be ignorant of the meanings and effects of nigger, says Kennedy, is to render oneself vulnerable to all manner of peril. This book brilliantly and sensitively addresses that concern.
From the Hardcover edition.
The critically acclaimed author of Race, Crime, and the Law provides an incisive analysis of the word "nigger" and its repercussions for, effect on, and place in American culture as he answers questions about the use of the controversial word as a racial epithet and methods that can deprive the word of its destructive character. Reprint. 100,000 first printing.
It’s “the nuclear bomb of racial epithets,” a word that whites have employed to wound and degrade African Americans for three centuries. Paradoxically, among many black people it has become a term of affection and even empowerment. The word, of course, is nigger, and in this candid, lucidly argued book the distinguished legal scholar Randall Kennedy traces its origins, maps its multifarious connotations, and explores the controversies that rage around it.
Should blacks be able to use nigger in ways forbidden to others? Should the law treat it as a provocation that reduces the culpability of those who respond to it violently? Should it cost a person his job, or a book like Huckleberry Finn its place on library shelves? With a range of reference that extends from the Jim Crow south to Chris Rock routines and the O. J. Simpson trial, Kennedy takes on not just a word, but our laws, attitudes, and culture with bracing courage and intelligence.
About the Author
Randall Kennedy is the author of Race, Crime and the Law (available in paperback from Vintage Books). He received his undergraduate degree from Princeton and his law degree from Yale. A Rhodes Scholar, he served as
a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He is a professor at Harvard Law School and lives in Dedham, Massachusetts.
From the Hardcover edition.
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History and Social Science » African American Studies » General