Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word

Nigger The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word 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 aff

  • Title: Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word
  • Author: Randall Kennedy
  • ISBN: 9780375713712
  • Page: 332
  • Format: Paperback
  • 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, mapIt 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.

    One thought on “Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word”

    1. If you happen to have a book club with balls, I'd like to suggest this book for your next read.This slim volume is filled with the controversy surrounding the use of the word n. uh, you know. THAT word. I'd say it, but, I believe the word was buried a few years ago. (WHOA. Found this article while searching for pictures for the N word funeral. The article alone needs its own review: nathanielturner/justan)Here they are having a funeral for the word:youtube/watch?v=hwMwplYeah. That worked.Back to [...]

    2. This book caught my eye again after the recent NAACP funeral for the euphemistic "N-word." I think they're ridiculous -- nigger is alive and well!A WORD is dead When it is said, Some say. I say it just Begins to live That day.Emily DickinsonKennedy is obviously a law professor, drawing upon a plethora of legal cases to illustrate the history of the use, misuse and abuse of the word. He does a yeoman's job and, I think, rightly concludes that those who would eliminate the word are wrong.I read wi [...]

    3. If the question is scholarship and clarity, no fault can be found with Randall Kennedy’s Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word. And if that is so, what makes Kennedy's book so ultimately unsatisfying? Perhaps it is the sense that Kennedy, who is eternally fair-minded (at times, perhaps, even to a fault), never quite seems to get his arms entirely around his topic. Indeed, if Kennedy is always rational in pronouncing his phlegmatic judgments on various famous and infamous uses of the [...]

    4. It is, inarguably, the most loathsome word in the English language. It has cost people jobs, sparked murders, and has been used to denigrate and oppress an entire race of people. Just seeing the word in print is enough to spark outrage in some people. Indeed, I am sure that some people will see the title of this book and refuse to even consider that it may contain anything of merit. How could it, after all, with a title like “Nigger”?Randall Kennedy, a legal expert and a Harvard professor, w [...]

    5. Though I don't read much non-fiction nowadays, I put this book on my TBR a few years ago after reading several positive reviews. And, I am glad I did.The author, Randall Kennedy, explores the use of the N-word in American culture through personal experience, anecdotes, court cases, and many other sources. The book is well written and thoroughly researched (25 pages for the 93 endnotes!) making it an interesting, thought-provoking read. I highly recommend it.Rating: 4

    6. I started reading this book while cleaning out my house. I was captured by the titile and the fact that the authors name is Kennedy, I assumed it was the president. False. When I started reading the book, however, I was quickly pulled into it and finished this Sunday when I was home alone sick. Very rewarding. This book takes a look at the word nigger from its inception to its many uses throughout history to the present day. This book does a really good job presenting the word from multiple angl [...]

    7. I read this book while I was teaching in the Bronx and I remember becoming incredibly interested in the use of the word. For some time, I had been discouraging (ie. banning) its use in the classroom, but I had to question my reasons for doing so a little more after reading this. It sparked off a project that I did with my students to try and assess people's comfort level with language, and come to a concensus about what we were okay with.I have to say, though, reading this book on the subway whi [...]

    8. I first heard about this book through an episode of Boston Public I watched when I was still in secondary school. A white English literature teacher, if I remember correctly, decided to have his students read this book. It was a controversial episode and I meant to read this book some day, and I finally did nearly 15 years later.Having taught black students in a country where the word wasn't thought of as offensive, students laughed at my reaction to it being said. No matter how much I tried to [...]

    9. A book you're embarrassed to read in public:What could someone infer about me should they see me on a city bus reading a book with this title? Even as I write this review I'm trying to avoid referencing the title because I don't want to write out the word and I don't want to soften the intentions of the author in using it so brashly as the title.I would be interested in hearing from the black community their thoughts on the book. I agree with the sentiment Kennedy writes in the afterword about o [...]

    10. Many of the chapters wind up being a list of times the word appears, at best categorized into court cases where it appears. I would have enjoyed more legal insight from a legal scholar.

    11. “Nigger” is one of the most interesting words in our society, so fraught with controversy that simply saying it out loud could get you killed in the right context. The labyrinthine societal rules surrounding “nigger” have always confused and frustrated me. When is it socially-acceptable to use “nigger”? Black people can use it as they please; white people certainly can’t use it as an insult, but what about in other circumstances? Can I say it when talking about the word itself? Wha [...]

    12. Because half-star rating is not allowed, I gave this book 4 stars whereas I would rate this three-and-a-half. "Nigger" is an informative book: it tells the many outrageous stories that African Americans have suffered from racial slurs, in which the n-word plays a central point. The stories, many of them happened not so long ago, serve as a good reminder to non-black audience why their black friends react the way they do to the n-word. Given his legal back ground, Kennedy also writes extensively [...]

    13. I found the first part of this book very depressing as it presented account after account , some quite recent, of the use of "nigger" to defame a people.Originally,in the sentence above, I was going "to denigrate a people". I looked up the origins of "denigrate" and found it's roots in Latin, "nigrare', niger".It is directly related to the "nuclear bomb of racial epithets". I use "denigrate", or used to use it, all the time. I don't think "denigrate" has received the same censure that other word [...]

    14. Randall Kennedy (an African-American professor at Harvard Law School who specialises in, among other things, race relations law) has written a very interesting book about the word that no white person can say without risking denunciation as a racist of the very worst kind - even though, as Kennedy notes in the book, racism can do as much, or more harm, when clothed in polite condescension or specious arguments pretending to quote scientific or historical "fact" as it can when broadcast through a [...]

    15. Kennedy's book is a fascinating look at the tricky and curious understanding of an infamous word. What is so strong about this book is that it traces out the word's complexity and provides a clear understanding that it is not a fixed word and yet there are core elements to it. Language is tricky and language that is deeply rooted in human degradation is even more challenging. He looks at the cultural and legal history of the word while also identifying the ways that both African Americans and no [...]

    16. I was really nervous about reading this book in public, but I shouldn't have been. The IN YOUR FACE title is about the only exciting thing about the book. If you have even a D+ understanding of racism you'll already know about 90% of the stuff in the book. Some people HATE the word, some people LOVE it, some white racists use it, some white writers use it to fight racism. He never really forms an opinion, never really makes any strong arguments in any direction, (mostly says 'some people think t [...]

    17. I can't recommend this book enough. In a world where race continue to play an important role in how people relate to one another, it is imperative to develop an understanding of "the N-word," its history, its many forms of usage, and to reflect on the complex sociology it invokes. Kennedy does a good job of unpacking virtually every facet of the Word, including its employment as a term of fraternity (a form of what many academics refer to as "reclamation"), the sociology of "owning" one's Blackn [...]

    18. Kennedy brings a lawyer’s mind to this book that is less a history and more of a series of point/counter-points examining the changing (and unchanging) meanings and usage of the word. A somewhat conservative law school professor, he relies more on legal case history than on social, political, and cultural themes (I think because he believes court cases reflect all those at any given time). The basic questions covered: why does the word have so much power, who can use it without accessing the p [...]

    19. This is a very good book. It speaks about cases and thoughts of other peoples point of view of the usage of the word nigger. After reading this book I look at my predispositions about the N-word very differently. This book really makes you think when questions are being asked of the word. This book is something that you need to read. Reading this book you well be overwhelmed.

    20. Very interesting, especially since three of the novels I teach every year use the "N-word." Kennedy gives a historical account of the word and argues that some (not all) of the attempts to eliminate the word from literature, rap, etc. are misguided. I've always thought the word to be reprehensible, but reading this book gave me more insight as to why.

    21. A very interesting and thorough history. I found little to criticize, but I disagree in some ways on the subject of hate speech. It is difficult to identify the boundaries between when such speech is at its least or most harmful, but it has preceded every genocide on historical record, so I don't think it ought to go unstopped in some cases. Specifically threats against a person's or group of people's well being should be taken seriously, and not as part of a dialogue protected by free speech. E [...]

    22. Anyone concerned with the grey areas in Free Speech would benefit from reading this well thought out and argued book. But it isn't all serious head-scratching. Most of the book is actually jaw-dropping-ly shocking examples of uses of the N-word. I found myself thinking, as I often do, that legal remedies are not the way to improve our society. I don't agree with everything Kennedy stands for in this work, but I do agree that it is best to avoid use of a word that has been called the "nuclear bom [...]

    23. I refer to a review written by Wendell Oct 09, 2011. I agree completely with this review and couldn't have expressed it better. A short part of the review;"The major disappointment of 'Nigger', however, is that, having spent 200 pages laying the perfect groundwork from which to launch a potentially enlightening discussion, Kennedy closes the book. One suspects that a writer and thinker with Kennedy’s clear admiration for scholarly exactitude might have provided both significant insight and ind [...]

    24. It wasn't a bad read, it was informative. I just wanted to hear the authors opinion on the topic more. It felt more like he was reporting findings than delivering an angle on the word usage and how it affects both AA populations and the place it holds in white supremacy. Could have been better.

    25. Really intuitive book. Hard subject to talk about. I recommend it as a book written in a logical and legal format by a professor at Harvard Law. Very interesting.

    26. No amount of repetition can ease the distaste for this word. I am humiliated. I am ashamed. Not at the writing, but what has provoked the writing of this work.

    27. The most controversial and hateful word in American culture has been around since the inception of the country, and yet, it is very much a part of everyday vocabulary. In this book, Randall Kennedy explores the history of the problematic word, and comes to one conclusion, that it's not going away anytime soon. If one was to read further into this book about the N-word, a person would see that this country has always dealt with the issue of race relations, albeit not in a very mature fashion at t [...]

    28. While many readers will disagree with his conclusions, this thoughtful exploration is a must-read. Kennedy should be (and has been) commended for his willingness to set political correctness aside to have a necessary discussion about a word that has become too political and emotional for discussion in mainstream society. In doing so, he soberly reminds us of the complexity, fluidity and nuance of language; the plurality of opinion among racial (and other) groups; and how quickly emotions can unn [...]

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