First answer: she should stop using that word. It’s not a white person’s word. It doesn’t belong to us and we have no right to use it, no matter what. I strongly believe that. I feel it’s no different to a heterosexual using the word “faggot”. That’s our word, it’s our cross to bear, it was put on us by homophobes who oppressed us, and they are not allowed to use it anymore. White people shouldn’t say the N-word and heterosexuals shouldn’t say Faggot.
Secondly, as for whether language on its own or the intent behind it is offensive, I think it’s tricky. People say offensive things all the time without meaning to / intending to offend. Problem is, when their language is called out as being offensive to a minority, the all-too-common response is “Fuck you, I didn’t intend to offend anyone so don’t tell me what I can and can’t say”. The response should be “I’m sorry I offended you with my thoughtless language.”
I guess when it comes to us whites, a simple rule of thumb is best:
Stop bringing up race all the time. Stop mentioning race, stop referring to race in our sentences, stop racialising so many things all the time. Stop saying we dont find this race attractive, we don’t find that race attractive or we do find this or that race attractive. Just stop doing it! White people do not understand racism. We don’t suffer from it. We aren’t discriminated against because of it. We don’t know what it’s like to always wonder if we are being seen as the person we are, or the colour we are. So we should stop referring to race altogether, because in general white people don’t have the understanding, the respect, or the sensitivity to handle racial language with skill or care. So many people of colour, in 2012, are still suffering real, measurable, and systemic discrimination in western nations, and it’s time we actually listened to them and acknowledge they have a point. It’s time we stop pushing back and claiming “We’re not racist” and start listening to what people of colour have to say – because when it comes to the effects of racism, THEY know best, not us. It’s time we white people stop acting like we know best, because we so don’t.