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1. How should nigger be defined? Is there only one meaning of the word? How has the semantics of the word evolved over time? What does this term mean to you personally? What do you think it means to your parents’ generation? What does it mean to those in other racial communities? Does its meaning vary depending upon age, race, community, class, and setting?

2. Is nigger part of the American cultural inheritance that should be preserved? Should we ban books from the nineteenth century such as Huckleberry Finn that contain the word? What about books from the twentieth century such as To Kill a Mockingbird or Uncle Tom’s Children or Invisible Man? What about contemporary works such as the movie Rush Hour?

3. Why does nigger generate such powerful reactions? Is it more hurtful than other racial, ethnic, and religious epithets? Why are such words so plentiful? Should nigger be treated differently that other racial or ethnic slurs?

4. Should Kennedy have used “the n-word” instead of nigger in his book? Should the title have been “The N-Word”? Does the title or Kennedy’s continued use of the word throughout the book offend you? Why do you think that Kennedy used nigger as the only word in the title?

5. Should blacks be able to use the word nigger in ways forbidden to others? Why or why not?

6. Is there an important distinction between “nigger” and “niggah”?

7. Under what conditions, if any, should a person be ousted from his or her job or school for saying nigger?

8. How can we go about changing the connotations of the word nigger?

9. In an episode of the television show “Boston Public,” Marla Hendricks, a black teacher, wants Danny Hanson, who is white, to be fired for discussing the word nigger in his classroom. She says, “That word has always stood for hatred coming out of a white mouth. No teacher in any school is good enough to erase that in a sensitivity class.” Do you agree with her? Would it have made a difference if Danny Hanson was black? Is a commercial television show an appropriate forum in which to explore this type of issue? What do you think the program hoped to achieve? Has it succeeded?

10. Do you feel we should be discussing the word and its social and cultural connotations? Or is this issue too explosive to be resolved? What do you think about discussing this word in the classroom?

11. What is your reaction to hearing nigger or niggah in rap lyrics sung by blacks? How about when used in skits by black comedians? How would you react if you heard these words used in a routine performed by a white comedian on “Saturday Night Live” or Comedy Central?

12. Andy Rooney of “60 Minutes” has said that “the best way to get rid of a problem is to hold it up to the bright light and look at all sides of it, and that’s what Kennedy does in this book.” Do you agree?

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