The Vices of Debating Racial Epithets in Danish News Media Discourse

  • Mantė VertelytėEmail author
  • Peter Hervik
Part of the Approaches to Social Inequality and Difference book series (ATSIAD)


This chapter offers an analysis of the Danish news media debates surrounding the use of the racial epithets and slurs, such as the word “negro”. Based on the news media analysis, authors examine two prevalent arguments used to suport the claims that the word is usable in the Danish context: the argument that the word is semanticaly neutral and the argument of post racism and freedom of speech. Authors approach this particular racial epithet as situated in a historically laden construction of racial system built on the hierarchical ideas of inferiority and superiority. The debate that is centered around the morally laden question “may we say it or not?” reveals the clash between those who see the use of the word as a cultural right to the freedom of speech and those who see the historical circumstances of colonialism and slavery embedded in the word. Authors conclude that there is no such thing as a neutral identity category. The study of meaning cannot be reduced to semantics equivalent to the meanings of words as looked up in dictionaries but must include the pragmatics, that is, what goes on in social communication. Moreover, the authors argue that reducing the debate into an issue of “may or may not” is a missed opportunity to seriously examine, analyze, and debate the processes of racialization in Danish society.


Racialization Political correctness Critical media events Denmark Racial epithets Moralization 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Culture and Global StudiesAalborg UniversityAalborgDenmark

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