Slurs, stereotypes, and in-equality: A critical review of “How Epithets and Stereotypes are Racially Unequal”

Language Sciences 52:139-154 (2015)
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Are racial slurs always offensive and are racial stereotypes always negative? How, if at all, are racial slurs and stereotypes different and unequal for members of different races? Questions like these and others about slurs and stereotypes have been the focus of much research and hot debate lately, and in a recent article Embrick and Henricks aimed to address some of the aforementioned questions by investigating the use of racial slurs and stereotypes in the workplace. Embrick and Henricks drew upon the empirical data they collected at a baked goods company in the southwestern United States to argue that racial slurs and stereotypes function as symbolic resources that exclude minorities but not whites from opportunities or resources and that racial slurs and stereotypes are necessarily considered as negative or derogatory irrespective of their particular context of use. They thus proposed an account of slurs and stereotypes that supports the context-insensitive position of Fitten and Hedger yet challenges the context-sensitive position of Kennedy and Croom. In this article I explicate the account of racial slurs and stereotypes provided by Embrick and Henricks, outline 8 of their main claims, and then critically evaluate these claims by drawing upon recent empirical evidence on racial slurs and stereotypes to point out both strengths and weaknesses of their analysis. Implications of the present analysis for future work on slurs and stereotypes will also be discussed
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