Because it does not even matter that it is closer to ‘negro’. You have spectacularly missed the point.
This must be taught during samfundsfag in folkeskole considering how often it is brought up by well-meaning Danes.
If an English speaking person dares say anything about the distressing use of ‘neger’ in Danish polite society, a Dane will pop up to say “BUT REMEMBER, it only means ‘negro’, not ‘nigger’!”
Danes who do not want to consider themselves racist, Danes who like to think they’d invite a black person over for dinner, if only they knew any; are all over this if they see it.
Oh well, fine then! English speakers, stand down…
Except, the Dane shows no awareness that the word ‘negro’ is NOT OKAY in English anymore.
Let’s look at the history of the words ‘nigger’, ‘negro’ and ‘neger’ for a minute.
In the 1600, 1700s and 1800s Europeans kidnapped human beings from Africa, abused them and forced them to work in dangerous conditions until they died. They killed and tortured them whenever they wanted. Children were separated from parents routinely. Women were raped routinely. They did this on an industrial scale.
In order to be able to do this, the Europeans needed to de-humanise the targets for their abuse. Much like the Nazis needed to identify Jewish people as rats to allow the atrocities of the Holocaust, the Europeans reduced their victims to one word. A word that did not give any clue it was being used about a human being.
They used the Spanish word for ‘black’. They reduced their targets to a word that summarised the essential difference in appearance between the two groups and the justification for their atrocities. As they became more comfortable with treating people like this, the word they used changed. The English speakers corrupted the word into ‘nigger’ and the Danish speakers corrupted the word into ‘neger’.
Danes don’t like to talk about the Danish slave trade anymore. They don’t even call it the DANISH slave trade, they call it the Danish-West Indies slave trade. As if there were no slaves in Denmark, it was all so far away.
Danes still refer to black people as ‘neger’. In headlines, in conversation, on television, on the bus, during physical confrontations. Black people are routinely called “neger —” where their name goes second.
Sometimes, old people mean it in a more neutral sense. In their time, it was okay to dehumanise on the basis of colour and they just have not unlearned that. Old people racism is NOT what we are talking about. Younger people who ought to know better use it. And they use it as a slur, more often than not.
I am white and I got called a ‘neger’ in a bar for speaking English. She was NOT using it in a neutral sense. Or a historical sense. She was not even using it in a descriptive sense. She was trying to verbally attack me and that was the word that came to mind.
If English speakers try to point out how messed up this appears from the outside, Danes line up to say it IS NOT actually messed up.
They always go to great pains to say that it is a linguistic difficulty. That if ONLY the English speaker was fluent in Danish, they would understand their mistake straight away. (If pressed on the point, they usually go into ‘but THEY use it’ but that’s a story for another time)
Sorry, no dice.
The word ‘negro’ is not acceptable in English. For the same reasons and strength of feeling as for the word ‘nigger’. Sure, ‘nigger’ is only used as a slur and ‘negro’ has a history of being the word people used in the olden days. But this word is not acceptable. Because it dehumanises. Because of its association with slavery. Because of how it makes people feel to be described in those terms. Because it is a reminder of a painful chapter in history and all the negativity that went along with it.
You want to claim ‘neger’ is closer to ‘negro’? Fine. Stop defending it. Stop defining it in comparison to a worse word. Stop saying it is neutral. Stop using it.