After the video surfaced of Riley Cooper using the "N" word at a Kenny Chesney show this past week, mass confusion has set in. Some cannot figure out how a guy who has been involved in football, and who's teammates on the Eagles are primarily black, could be this insensitive. But the majority of confusion comes from people struggling to understand why this is such a big deal. It's this confusion that I find most confusing. But since so many people cannot seem to understand why Cooper has come under so much scrutiny after his outburst, I've decided to help them see the difference in the "N" words.
The misconception is that the "N" word is only one word, and its meaning is the same no matter how it's used. The truth is that it is in fact two different words. I keep hearing "...but look how much it's used in rap music, how is it any different?" It blows my mind that people honestly cannot see the difference. It's all in the usage and the intention. In rap music, artists use the word the same way you would use "man" or "dude". It's not meant in a derogatory way, and it's pronounced a little different. The way Cooper used the word was inarguably the racist version. It's so simple. And whether you choose to admit it or not, you see the difference too. Had video emerged of Cooper using the other version of the word while singing along at a Jay-Z concert, the backlash would have been virtually nonexistent, especially in the locker room among his teammates.
But there is still some grey area surrounding the rap version of the word when used by white people. Go ahead and cry out the crutch phrase that's been recycled and thrown around too many times to count: "DOUBLE-STANDARD!!" Yes, there is a double-standard, and it's perfectly justifiable. Any usage of the word by white people, be it the racist version or not, is largely frowned upon and mostly not allowed. But you can't ignore the significance of history as it pertains to the word. White people don't have the same rights to the word as black people. White people weren't slaves for hundreds of years. White people have never been denied access to restaurants or hotels because of their skin color. White people have never had to use separate restrooms or water fountains. White people haven't been denied education or job opportunities solely because they're white. And there has never been Black Power groups that have hid behind masks and gone around lynching white people. Understand that white versions of these groups still exist in our society. The lynchings aren't near as prevalent, but the hatred of the message is still there. So if black people want sole possession of the word, they can have it. Why is this so hard to grasp? What are you even arguing for? Do you really want to use the word THAT badly? Or do you just not like being told you can't do something? Some battles just aren't worth picking.
Here's the bottom line: Riley Cooper is a public figure representing a multi-billion dollar corporation. And in this age of constant surveillance, he practiced extremely poor judgment and he is now living with the consequences. He should've known better.