A comment on the "tar baby" thread referred to the claim that "picnic" is offensive because it refers to a lynching, the theory being that they were referred to as "pick nigs" or some such. The most prominent media source I could find that described such a complaint was this, from Andrew Brownstein, Albany Times Union, Apr. 18, 2000 (though the commenter reports that he too had been admonished about using the word):
To many, the word picnic conjures images of romance, of leisurely days in the park with cheese and a bottle of wine.
But for 40 University at Albany students, it harks back to an ugly chapter in American history -- when picnic, they alleged, meant a racist lynching....
Zaheer Mustafa, a student who serves as affirmative action director for the Student Assembly, issued the warning despite learning that the word had a harmless French derivation. It stems from the 17th-century pique-nique and referred to a fashionable type of social entertainment in which each person who attended brought a share of the food.
"My job is to make sure people from underrepresented groups are heard," Mustafa said. "Whether the claims are true or not, the point is the word offended."
He said he received 40 complaints about the issue last week, most of them from black students, which he called "unusual for such an apathetic campus." ...
Indeed, neither the current meaning nor the derivation of the word is related to lynchings; nor have I seen any evidence that the word was ever actually used in the "pick nig" sense. I'm not sure what Mr. Mustafa's job was, but I had thought that a university's job is to make sure that people from all groups, underrepresented and otherwise, are educated, and that their erroneous beliefs are corrected rather than being catered to.