Feature

The 'Negro' conundrum

In the wake of Harry Reid’s controversial race remarks, some commentators are debating whether the word "Negro" is offensive

The controversy surrounding Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid's reported remarks about President Obama’s "light skin" and lack of "Negro dialect" has ignited a new debate: While many people see discarded terms such as "Negro" and "colored" as offensive throwbacks to the nation's painful racial past, others interpret them as a reflection of African-American pride and diversity. Are these words unavoidably disrespectful, or should they get a second chance? (Watch an ABC report about Harry Reid's choice of words)

Let’s bring back ‘Negro’: "I find the term African American unwieldy," says Stanley Crouch in the New York Daily News. I prefer the terms Negro and black. "Negro" is far from backward — "the magnificent people who used that word to describe themselves" defanged the "Grand Dragons of Southern racism." They led "our most recent civil war," won civil rights for all, and gave the word "majesty."
“Then & now, I’m a Negro: The people who used that word gave it majesty”

We've abandoned the word "Negro" for a reason:
Though a point of historical pride for some, says David A. Love at TheGrio, the term "Negro" can also rekindle memories of Jim Crow segregation, and "conjure up images of slave ships, whips and chains." It may be more dignified than 'Colored' or 'boy,'" but it just isn't as "empowering or forward-thinking as 'black' or 'African-American.'"
"Is Negro the new black?"

Some "African-Americans" prefer "colored": Reverting to the term “colored” might seem “difficult to swallow at first,” says Cord Jefferson at The Root, but give it another look. Yes, the term is antiquated, and anyone who uses it "is likely aged and out of touch at best, racist at worst." But the NAACP — "the most famous black organization in the world" — uses the word "colored" proudly in its name. And it's just more accurate than "black." People of color in America "are just that—colored."
 “Forget 'Negro'! Let's go back to 'colored'!”

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SEE THE WEEK'S RELATED COVERAGE:
Harry Reid's "Negro" mess
Sunday Morning Talk Show Briefing—Was Harry Reid's 'Negro' dialect gaffe racist?

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