If They Want To Use “The N-Word,” They’ll Have To Take It From Our Cold And Dead Hands

Truth is, I’m conflicted about Riley Cooper.

Since this story broke last week, I’ve had an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other.

Angel is telling me “Hey, nobody is perfect, and truthfully, think of the things you’ve said while angry. We don’t even know why he was so pissed at the security guard. He could have been talking about his mother for all we know. Sacrificing this man’s whole career, because we don’t have the courage as a nation to deal with this word, seems extreme.”

I’m shaking my head in agreement here, about to write an entirely different article, when the devil chimes in. “He did it to himself, remember that. Your man “Bill O” Riley Cooper chose this life the second he spewed that word. Not just the word either, but how he said it. Full of vitriol. Dude sounds likes a terrorist.  Like he grew up around a bunch of Grand Dragons or something. He doesn’t deserve a reprieve. Plus, he’s not even that good. Let’s flush his life down the drain and keep it pushing.”

My actual self is somewhere in the middle. As a long time Eagles fan, I find this whole moment strikingly surreal.  I haven't yet gauged the potential upside for the ‘13-‘14 season, but I know this is not a team equipped to handle any hardcore setbacks. After we took the scenic route on the way to Crap City in last season’s 4-12 debacle, Eagles fans that I know are cautious. We have a new coach and a lot of new players trying to get in where they can fit in.  Ten days ago the national story at training camp was the QB battle. Then last weekend, starting wideout Jeremy Macklin blew his ACL and took away the team’s most versatile receiving threat.

That injury hurt, and the hunt began to see who would replace him. Riley Cooper was supposed to be the next man up. In his three years out of Florida he has 46 receptions for 679 yards and five TDs. So, you know, it’s not like he’s the missing link or anything. His most valuable skill his is size ­– his 6’3 and 222 pound build makes him stand out on this roster. He’s not that fast though, nor does he play football with any cognitive edge at all. But, sometimes, players just need a chance, and so he was in the running. Until this happened.

Last week on Twitter I said I wasn’t going to discuss the N-word anymore. Wanted to ignore it mostly. The fatigue of every month this word becoming front-page news has effectively dulled me to the outrage. I’m near the finish line of not caring, but I cant finish, because the conversation about the word is so baffling that it interrupts me.

I’ve always had a hard rule about the N-word, or well, actually I’m just going to say Nigger here, because the people dying of thirst to say it, want to say it like that. With the “er” at the end.

Anyone can say it. White, Latino, Asian, Native American, Scientologist, whatever. Go ahead and say it, but overstand something important. The black people you say it around may decide, rather arbitrarily and without hesitation, to the push the escalate button.

That means different things for different people. Some might give you a raised eyebrow, others a stern denunciation. You might get cursed out and threatened.  Or, they might decide to put hands on you. I mean literally, as in, hands around your neck or punches to your face. Whatever happens, happens. No amount of “I apologize” is going to keep you from getting you ass whupped.  Or in Cooper’s case, nationwide criticism and quite possibly the ending of his career.

Black people can say it and that’s fine by my standards. I don’t care who that bothers.  I’m not a hypocrite, I’m a black man and I’m taking control of this narrative.  There are millions out there just like me.

All we want to know is, what's the root cause of this maniacal obsession?  Why do so many people want to say it? We don’t get it. Tell us why. It’s nonsensical. It can’t  be the word itself, because, anyone who asks if they can, I assume, already does. So we know you guys are out here using it with abandon. The beef must be about the principle. On some “how dare they tell us what to do” type of mentality. That’s disappointing. The March On Washington’s 50th anniversary is a few weeks away. You guys need to do better.

Don’t give me that same old response either. Explaining that some people grew up segregated, didn’t know any black people when they were younger and are trying to break bad habits. You can go spit in the wind with that. I grew up segregated too, didn’t even have any white friends until I became a professional writer. I didn’t let the media or anything cloud my views, and came into the first week of my first job, without any preconceived notions. Gave my co-workers the chance to define themselves individually. I heard them use the word cracker in the office on several occasions, but I never asked if I could join in. I didn’t need to ask. I understood why. To this day, we’re all still friends.

I’m also ignoring the whole “well, rappers say it, so how come I can’t?” argument.  That’s a clown question bro. You’re a adult and that’s your argument? Everybody over the age of 12 should have some familiarity with that word’s past.  We all know that word goes back centuries. You know you grandfather and most of your ancestors used it.  Stop playing around with serious stuff like this.

The word isn’t leaving us. Some black people hate the word and never use it. Others use it all the time and guess what, they aren’t going to stop saying it – regardless of what anyone thinks. The black people who use it, don’t give a crap about your hurt feelings or confused questions. What happens with this word, is not within the domain of mainstream conversations. It’s a black conversation only. Nobody is apologizing for that. Certainly I’m not.

No non-black person has ever called me that word, or used it in conversation with me. It’s going to stay that way. If you get caught on camera saying it, expect to get the same treat that Cooper is getting. You got a problem with that, go watch American History X and work on being a better American. That is your only option.