This topic came about from a Sixty Minutes broadcast which I unfortunately was unable to watch due to rambunctious Ragin' Cage and his brother running around the house. I was interested in this subject matter but, oh well. I had to think this through on my own. Here goes.
In this politically correct world there seems to be no more divisive word than 'nigger'. Being Caucasian and over fifty, I wondered who really should react negatively to this word. Obviously it has no impact directly on myself as I have not faced the racial discrimination others have. I do however have some insight as it was a term regularly used in my youth. It seems to be a generational word to some extent. It was used in my parent's generation, fading some as they got older and it was likely considered a normal term in their parents generation. Remember, I am speaking about their generation, not necessarily about them personally.
Elderly Blacks grew up in a time of segregation and discrimination. It was they who bore the weight of the term through the actions of others. It has always been considered derogatory from both Whites and Blacks. I think the changes in how Blacks have been referred to as a race also has something to do with it. The N word changed to Negroes to coloreds, then to Blacks and now the current norm is African-American. This change seems to have developed over a period of about sixty years.
Now, who is offended versus who should be offended. And when I mean offended, I mean really offended and not just putting on a show. Obviously elder Blacks were the direct result of discrimination and should and do feel the most pain. Their children who as well felt direct ramifications of their parents suffering should as well legitimately be offended. However, as generations have progressed the direct results have faded. Today's Black youth use the term casually and often refer to each other in that manner. So how is it that person can claim offense? I don't believe they should. If the term is so offensive to you or your heritage it should not be tolerated or celebrated casually by yourself or those you associate with, family or friends, your music or your culture. If you do, it's just for show.
I think the outrage over the book by Mark Twain is worthy of discussion but the work is a reference to what this country was at the time. Right or wrong it is the history of us as a people, Black and White. The word was used then and Tom Sawyer is as much a historical record as it is a work of fiction. It was the times. Changing it is just revisionist history. Read it for what it was and learn to be better than we were.