I’ve been pondering this for a while. There seems to be two possible reasons: the speaker means it derogitorally and the listener considers it to be derogitory, whether the speaker meant it that way or not. The primary reason the listener would consider it racist when the speaker didn’t mean it that way was if the word was commonly used that way. So it comes down to what’s important: intended meaning, usual meaning, or both. As a listener, I go strictly by what I think the intended meaning was. I don’t give a rat’s ass if someone calls me a honkey or a cracker as long as I know they meant it lightheartedly. So why do other people care? Some jokes can be carried too far, but a simple slang word? Also, don’t people realize if they’d just get over it and allow it to be used casually, the word would lose its vulgar meaning?
What about when people consider a term denoting a race as rude even when it’s not commonly used as such? For instance, I haven’t met anyone that feels this way, but I’ve heard of oriental people that don’t like to be called such. Instead, they’d rather be called Asians and lumped in with middle-easterners and most Russians. What the hell? I have never heard the term “oriental” be used insultingly. I’m going to be blunt on this one. I think it’s ridiculous. What do you guys think?