I've been following this Richard Sherman drama and the discussion of the putatively racialized term "thug" (which was mostly uttered by anonymous Useful Bigots on Twitter), and I've been wondering: did white people use "thug" as a euphemism for scary black people prior to the hip-hop era?
My impression is that the word was appropriated by rappers (e.g. 2pac Shakur) and then white people starting following their lead, referring to swaggering, asshole-ish black guys as "thugs" because that's what swaggering assholes in the rap game called themselves. This is in keeping with their idolization of white ethnic mafia types. Am I wrong about this?
Did white people during the 70s crime wave typically refer to black criminals as "thugs"?
Or does the thug euphemism for black go back even further than the 70s?
I'm only in my 20s, so my political memory doesn't begin till, say, Monica Lewinsky.