Can I Say, “Negro?”

Several years ago while teaching at a New York City college an African American student informed me that my language was racist. I had used the word, “Negro” in discussing the ideas of Martin Luther King. I pointed out to her that King always used the word, “Negro,” and he certainly did not use the expression, “African American.” He also avoided the word, “colored” which for many black skinned Americans was an insult since that was a word used to describe black skinned people during slavery.

A Swedish politician was accused of being a racist because she used the word, “Negro.” “For me, a Negro is a Negro. Is it racist to say, Negro?” She went on to argue “there is nothing demeaning with that.  We do have freedom of speech in this country.” Someone complained to the Swedish Equality Ombudsman that she was a racist.

Words used to describe those with  black skins have changed over time. Negro was the politically correct expression during the time period 1900–1980s when many black skinned people adopted, “African American.” Most black skinned leaders used the word, “Negro.” Sorry, that is not a racist word.