I need to know.
Certain words have changed their connotation over time. Specifically, I'm thinking of "Negro." At one point in time, that was just the generic term for people of African ancestry, be they Africans, Americans, islanders, or Britons. Bigots used it to deride, while others used it simply as a descriptor. There wasn't really a sensitive alternative.
So, asking as a white person who wants to write a (white) Victorian character accurately without being a complete asshole in the modern day: Is it ever
acceptable to use "Negro" in first-person narrated historical fiction?
If no, okay. Is there an historically accurate alternative that wouldn't give offense? (Probably not, but it's worth a shot.) What would be an acceptable substitution?
If yes: Can a character who uses the term ever be perceived sympathetically, or is it an automatic marker of bigotry? (Even if used only once?)
Please message me if you don't want to post a public reply.