The use by Eagles receiver Riley Cooper of the “N” word has sparked a broader debate for some regarding the notion that whites should never use a term that some African-Americans routinely use when addressing each other.
Here’s the easy answer: That’s just the way it is. And it’s not that hard to understand or process.
For the race that was responsible for slavery and decades of bias and prejudice that still lingers in the hearts and minds of far more people than they would ever admit, uttering that term harkens back to times now incomprehensible to those who accept the inherently American concept that all men (and women) are created equal.
It really wasn’t all that long ago, in the grand scheme of things, that racism was an accepted practice, in the sports world and beyond. And so for those who belong to the race that was responsible for such an extended pattern of racial discrimination and animosity, the word is taboo.
That’s just the way it is.
Many believe the word should be taboo for all races. Cooper’s teammate, cornerback Cary Williams, addressed that point on Thursday.
“[A]t the end of the day, we look at . . . rap artists [and] some people in the locker room, that word gets tossed around,” Williams said, via Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com. “And what I think about my grandmother and my great-grandmother having to endure being called that name . . . . We as a black community sometimes pounce on somebody who uses it in a derogatory way when there are times in the black community when we use it freely.”
Some are warping that logic into an excuse for people like Cooper to use the word. Williams’ point is that no one should be using it.
“I think there’s no place for that word in anybody’s language, in anybody’s mouth or off anybody’s tongue, whether you’re black, white, green, purple, blue,” Williams said. “It’s still the same meaning, it’s still a harsh word.”
He’s right. Still, pointing out that African-Americans use the word should never be an excuse for other races to use it.
Perhaps incidents like this will help the word evolve into a term that when used among African-Americans sparks the same shock and stigma as it does when people of other races use it. Forty or fifty years ago, it didn’t generate the same shock and stigma it now does when used by whites.
Maybe in forty or fifty years, it will when used by anyone.