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Randall Kennedy is a professor at Harvard Law School.

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A legal-historical review of the racial epithet's long and troubled road throughout American history. Its conservative bent becomes more evident as the book goes on, i.e. the author takes a broader view and clearly disagrees with the eradicationist view of the word.

Recommended for those interested in American race relations and linguistics.
alrajul | 11 andre anmeldelser | Jun 1, 2023 |
Note: I accessed a digital review copy of this book through Edelweiss.
fernandie | Sep 15, 2022 |
I cannot resist a book with a provocative title, and there can't be many that top this.

I was slightly disappointed to see that this was actually a 20th anniversary edition of a book originally released in 2002, fearing it would be out of date, but aside from multiple references to Bill Cosby as a respected authority and thanks to a new introduction, it holds up pretty well, racism having a horrible timelessness to it. It's still too bad though, because it would be interesting to see how recent developments with Joe Rogan and Morgan Wallen might effect the author's viewpoint.

I was surprised that the author was a first amendment absolutist who has a negative opinion about cancel culture, political correctness, hate speech laws, and eradication of the N-word. As an academic he wants to be sure to examine and assess the context, nuance, and relativism associated with specific uses of the word instead of coming up with arbitrary rules. I did not always agree with him, but could usually follow the logic of his stance. I'm a firm believer in free speech -- after all, it's the quickest and easiest way to find out who the assholes in any group are, and that's always useful information to have -- but too many people confuse free speech with consequence-free speech, and I worry that this book might be seen by certain idiots as a hall pass.

I do find it contradictory that the author criticized N-word eradicationists for not having hard and specific statistics to prove a rise in the use of the N-word while at the same time seeming to advocate that Black Americans harden their skin against its use toward them and not report it or make a big deal of it, ensuring we won't have meaningful and accurate statistics.

Author opinions aside, I do appreciate the history provided, tracing the word's appearance through law, court cases, culture, and entertainment. Lots of fascinating tidbits are unearthed and revisited.
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villemezbrown | Mar 23, 2022 |
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.
ms_rowse | 11 andre anmeldelser | Jan 1, 2022 |



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