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Is it racist to use the word "niggardly," despite the word not being etymologically related to the notorious N-word?

Perhaps you are reading Kant's Groundwork , which contains a prominent use of this word. And you are right that it is not etymologically related to the N-word. But I think it is inadvisable to use the word in most contexts because of the possibility that you will be heard as saying (something close to) the N-word. When I teach this portion of Kant, I always explictly address this word and its etymology to avoid any misunderstandings.

My parents unnecessarily refer to people's race when narrating. When I tell them I find this offensive, they laugh it off, and say something like 'It's not like we're members of the KKK', or, 'people should be proud of their race, there's nothing wrong with us mentioning it', or a variation of the typical 'I have friends who are (whatever race it is)'. Of course, when I say "unnecessarily mention", I don't mean that the mentioning doesn't sometimes have a purpose, but it's usually a subtle and/or "unintended" one, like to emphasize the nature of a situation by relying on racial stereotypes. Something like "I was out late at night and I stopped at the gas station, and I was very nervous because there were all these homeless-looking black people around". What's going on with them, and how do I explain in a clear way why this is racist and offensive (they are 'offended' by my suggestion that they are racist or offensive)? As a final resort, my parents will sometimes respond with "well, that wasn't my...

How about sharing some of the literature from the social psychology research on stereotypes? This way you won't be arguing back and forth about "intentions" (conscious or unconscious) but instead giving them some robust research on social cognition that shows how racial (and gender and other social group) categories can bias thinking even in well-intentioned individuals. Ziva Kunda's book _Social Cognition_ is a good place to start, as is Virginia Valian's book _Why So Slow?_.