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.

It's not clear to me which of two questions you're asking: (a) Is it always racist to use the word "niggardly"? (b) Can it be racist to use the word "niggardly"? I'd answer "no" to (a). It's not racist, and it's accurate, to describe Ebenezer Scrooge (before his conversion) as a niggardly character. But suppose someone uses "niggardly," perhaps mistakenly thinking that it's related to the N-word, in order to express racial hatred. I think that counts as a racist use of "niggardly," so I'd answer "yes" to (b).

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