One semester of linguistics does not a cultural linguist make. But as a dabbler in the topic, especially one concerned with civil liberties, I found Brent Staples' NY Times editorial on racist use of language to be worth a read. The piece isn't long, but here's a taste:
Mr. Obama seems to understand that he is always an utterance away from a statement — or a phrase — that could transform him in a campaign ad from the affable, rational and racially ambiguous candidate into the archetypical angry black man who scares off the white vote. His caution is evident from the way he sifts and searches the language as he speaks, stepping around words that might push him into the danger zone.
I'm very aware that for many Jews, Obama's campaign has raised eyebrows and questions regarding how an Obama presidency would or wouldn't benefit Israel. Regardless of your views in that regard, the Mr. Staples raises here are a jarringly important reminder that there are many, many people out there for whom basic issues of race are far from resolved. Wish it weren't so...
Keep the balance,