""Nigger": it is arguably the most consequential social insult in American history, though, at the same time, a word that reminds us of "The ironies and dilemmas, tragedies and glories of the American experience." In this tour de force, Harvard Law School professor Randall Kennedy, author of the highly acclaimed Race, Crime, and the Law, "put[s] a tracer on 'nigger'," to identify how it has been used and by whom, while analyzing the controversies to which it has given rise. Kennedy explores such questions as: How should "nigger" be defined? Is it, as some have declared, necessarily more hurtful than other racial epithets? Do blacks have a right to use "nigger" even as others do not? Should the law view "nigger" baiting as a provocation strong enough to reduce the culpability of a person who responds violently to it? Should a person be fired from his or her job for saying "nigger"? How might the destructiveness of "nigger" be assuaged? To be ignorant of the meanings and effects of "nigger," says Kennedy, is to render oneself vulnerable to all manner of peril. This book addresses that concern."--BOOK JACKET.