In any case, I'm wondering how, once the offense became embedded in the word, the resistance to the word mounted a successful counter-campaign.
Same probably goes for a word like "retarded," which I understand was a neutral, descriptive term in its beginning. How did it become offensive? In this case (or others) could it be that the language becomes offensive by its attachment to the thing itself? -- not that people called "nigger" or "retarded" are offensive, obviously, but only that some people perceive(d) them that way.
Are there labels given to me that I might refuse? Could I declare that I find the label "White" to be an offense... and if I did, what would have to happen for the movement I'm trying to start to find legs? Of course, I wouldn't be objecting to "White" because it has always been a negative term, but only because I (first among men) find it to be offensive now. Was that the case with the term "nigger?" And if my paragraph above about the causative process of the word being attached to the thing is right, isn't it possible to begin thinking about whiteness as an offensive "thing-itself?" Avatar certainly framed it that way.
Linguists? Racial-history pundits?