When I was in college in the early 1990's, there was still pressure, albeit small, to disallow certain texts, like those written by Faulkner, from being taught. The reason given by those seeking injunction was because of the pervasive use of the word 'nigger' in his novels. Of course, this movement completely ignored the fact that Faulkner was one of the greatest documentarians of the southern social structure that dehumanized and executed any African American at the drop of a hat - and that this consistent thread to his stories was the point, was lost on far too many people... [Just read 'A Light in August' if you need a primer].
I came of age in a world that not only refused to talk about race, but also refused to really talk about bigotry. And in that world, I made a choice that it was more important to talk about those things, because they exist around us everyday.
As if you couldn't tell from my sig, I'm a huge fan of Harvey Milk. His call for everyone to come out resounds so strongly with me. Bigotry cannot happen if everything is brought to the town square. Not only will people understand their 'soft' bigotry, but the true bigots will ultimately be laughed away - and they can choose to change or not.
Yet, for many, the problem is how we still use language.
On the one hand, we still give credence to words that are supposed to induce fear, inferiority, deference. On the other, we are afraid to use those words when others imply them, because we are too 'polite' to point that out.
Very early in my time here, in 2004, I was actively involved in discussions about the use of language dealt with in the rules regarding bigotry. I've always been a proponent of language reclamation. I think in many respects, there is no more powerful thing in language than to either take back a word used for denigration and claim it as an empowering word, or, to recognize the underlying bigotry in an utterance & then show the person what they are either intentionally or unintentionally saying by escalating it to bigoted language.
Of course, the problem here, is translation. These techniques rarely work on the internet & it quickly becomes a shitshow. But in real life, these techniques can be very effective - and have been used extensively historically.
While I would never use slurs in random comments on the internet, I embrace them in real life - and say them situationally. I'm a bisexual male and am happy to be a cocksucker. I'm a feminist and extol the values of being a cunt. I'm a huge Patti Smith fan, and consider myself a rock n' roll nigger.
We believe the words themselves have the power. But the intent of the words is the expression of power. If we take away the power of the words, and more importantly, show those who skirt them that they are actually still saying them - calling out the bigots for what they are - that's the end of bigotry.
We should throw those words at them. Every time some idiot talks about 'welfare queens', it should be thrown back in their face that they are using a euphemism for [pardon me] 'lazy niggers'. The more we use polite language to argue against outright bigots, the more we allow them to pretend they aren't. The more we allow the media narrative to ignore what is the underlying meaning of the euphemism, the more we allow bigotry to exist in a calm, domestic manner.
We cannot shy away from the use of language that actually exposes the problem. It has to be in the toolbox.