Polls Reveal Black Americans' Contradictory Feelings On "Negro"

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According to NewsOne/Blackplanet polls, most Black people say the word “Negro” itself doesn’t offend them — that is, unless it’s being uttered by a white person.

In recent weeks, “Negro” has unexpectedly been granted a second life. Once the widely-accepted term to describe Black Americans, its usage fell out of vogue some 40 years ago and has since been viewed at the very least as ignorant and archaic, if not insulting to Black people.

But when the forms for the 2010 Census were released at the beginning of this year, many were surprised to see that one of the choices provided for a person’s race is “Black, African Am., or Negro.” As if that wasn’t perplexing enough, last week it was revealed that during the 2008 presidential campaign, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Barack Obama was electable in part due to the fact that he is “light-skinned” and speaks “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.”

So how do Black people feel about the word? In one poll, NewsOne/Blackplanet asked members, “Does the word ‘Negro’ offend you?” 70 percent said no, the word does not offend them, while only 30 percent said yes.

However, in a follow-up poll, we asked, “If a white person called you a negro, would it offend you?” and the responses almost completely switched. 67% said they would be offended, while only 33 percent said they would not.

Do these results reveal a racial double-standard, or do they reflect a natural tendency to be more sensitive to language depending on the speaker and their intent?

Tell us what you think in the comments.

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