I feel cringey hearing the n-word. As a child of California, society (teachers, preachers, news & tv) put out the message to not use epithets. But my family used epithets, from time to time, including the n-word. I knew it was wrong and didn’t like hearing it.
Fast forward ten years to the ’90s, the rap and hip-hop explosion is well under way, and the n-word comes into prominent, public use -by people of color. They took that word back. They took ownership of the n-word. More power to them. I can’t grok what it means or feels from their pov, I didn’t have their experiences. I hear both positive and negative connotations in it.
Use gives words their meaning. See also: false cognate