Riley Cooper, the n-word and my grandfather

I am sure you all have been wondering if I would address this particular incident. Almost three weeks have passed so I am assuming most of you thought that I would not. Wrong. here it goes…

My grandfather was one of the first blacks in the United State Marine Corps(a true piece of American history that I love to talk about). He served in the Asiatic Pacific Theater during World War II from May 1944 to March 1946. In May 1944, he was honorably discharged from the corps. Upon his return home, this American hero was subjected, indirectly and sometimes directly, to the ugliness of a particular six letter word.

The n-word.

Riley Cooper went there. With no hesitation. He parted his lips and uttered arguably the most offensive racial slur known to man. Big deal? No big deal? I will let you decide for yourself. Was Cooper wrong? Of course. Did he deserve to be punished? I believe fining him was an appropriate consequence. Does he deserve a second chance? Sure, he does. Do I understand if teammates and friends especially those who are black refuse to offer him that chance? Yes.  Actions have consequences.

I have heard many analysts and journalists express shock over the fact that this incident was considered “newsworthy.” According to some of them the fact that incidents like this happen on a daily basis, this particular incident should be no big deal.  They left out the part where Cooper was caught on video using the slur. They left out the part where in the last 10 years, the sports industry has not had to deal with this type of incident, publicly, not that I can recall. They left out the part about Cooper being an NFL Player, a professional athlete in the most lucrative professional sport in the United States and perhaps, the world. That alone is bound to get you on SportsCenter.

So what do I think about this whole situation? I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it is because I am such a happy go lucky person but I truly believe that most people are good people. They want to go to work, raise their kids, buy a house and try to make a difference in this world. None of us are perfect and some of us happen to make mistakes that drastically alter our lives.  And some of us happen to make mistakes that are magnified because we are in the public eye. What Cooper did was foolish. Unless he has been living in a cave at Mount Rushmore all his life, there is no way that he did not know the type of backlash he could experience from uttering the n-word especially in public.*plays Jamie Foxx’s *Blame It On the Alcohol”* At the same time, I think some people are truly naive when it comes to how deep that word cuts. I am not sure how you can be that naive in 2013 but it happens. A lot of people automatically assume that because someone utters a racial slur, they are indeed racist. I am willing to bet that almost every person on this earth could be qualified as a racist if that is the standard we are basing it off of. Yes, there are some people who are just downright prejudice. And then there are some of utter certain words around people whom they feel comfortable with. People that know them. People who would never think they are racist despite some of the things they say. For them, it is normal.

I do not know which category Cooper falls in to. Only he knows that for sure. However, from the amount of teammates and friends that have spoken publicly to defend him, I am willing to bet he falls into the category of those who are not racist but may utter a racial slur. How can this be? How can a person utter a racial slur and not be racist? Well Merriam-Webster defines racist as a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. With that definition as a basis, I do believe racial slurs can be uttered by people who are not racist. That might sound crazy but hey, this is my blog therefore I get to voice my opinion. I am sure at some point in our lives all of us have uttered a racial slur and I am sure not all of us are racist. Think about it. Think about the words you have used to refer to blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, etc. We are all guilty of it. If you say otherwise, then you are not being honest with yourself.

The n-word.

The truth is I wish the n-word could just be eliminated. I wish black people would quit saying it. I wish white people would quit saying it. I wish other minorities would quit saying it. I wish rappers would quit saying it. I wish professional athletes would quit saying it. I wish. I wish. I wish. I wish people would stop defending the word. I wish people would stop saying it is ok to say it because the ending was changed from ‘er’ to ‘a’. I wish everyone had the opportunity or took time out of their busy schedules to talk with an older black man who experienced some extreme racism and let him share his wisdom about using the word as a “term of endearment.” I wish I could talk to my grandfather and hear his opinion on the situation. I am almost certain I know what his thoughts about it would be, he would be wishing for the same thing his first born granddaughter is.

Until next time…TOODELLS.

10 thoughts on “Riley Cooper, the n-word and my grandfather

  1. Betty Pope

    Wow girl. This is one of the best Discussions I have read on racism in a long time. You got it right. We are all guilty but that doesn’t make it right. I am going to use this blog in my HPU class next week. I want my student teachers to start thinking about how they will handle racism in their classes. Your grandfather has an amazing granddaughter.

    Sent from my iPhone

    1. WOW. Mrs. Pope. I don’t really know what to say besides thank you. I am truly humbled by those words and the desire to share my thoughts with your class. Wow. Thank you, again!

  2. Matt Swift

    Kassie, awesome job on the article! During this past youth football season I would stop by practice daily or be on the sidelines on Saturday mornings, it was amazing how many times you heard the kids using these words. Even being white I found it very offensive. Sad part was this was 98% African American youth saying this. I finally decided to Have Tim Holt Sr. give these kids a history lesson on this subject. You could see how important this topic was to him by his passion and he discussed how hard black people had worked to get where they are in the world we live in and to eliminate the “N” word. I find it sad that older African Americans don’t discuss this with their children. I believe there were 2 white kids on our team this season. What happens if one of those two kids called a black kid the “n” word? I thought your article was spot on. I hate the word and would love to see it “disappear”. Sadly I think we hear it more now than ever!

    1. Thank you Matt! I hear the word everywhere! The next generation has no respect for what the word means to so many and I blame parents and those that have influence over them. Most are clueless. The word literally makes me cringe and it saddens me that it is used so freely. I wish a lot of these kids could sit down with older black men and hear the stories about what it was really like growing up in the 30s, 40s, 50s & 60s. Sounds like I just gave myself a new project :-}.

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