After Philadelphia Eagles player Riley Cooper’s threat to “fight every n*gger” at a country music concert surfaced on the web, the NFL player took to Twitter to apologize for using the slur, saying he was “so ashamed and disgusted” with himself. While most users were not having it, choosing instead to rake Cooper over the coals with the hashtag #RileyCooperWillFight, ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith took a different route: to blame Black folks for Cooper’s “disgraceful” remarks.
Though Smith said he was “incredibly shocked and disappointed” by Cooper’s drunken rant, the sport’s commentator gave the player props for exhibiting “tremendous attrition” and being “apologetic” for using the divisive term. Smith went on to ask others to take Cooper at his word rather than assume the player uses the n-word all of the time (despite the ease with which it rolled from his lips).
Most would decry Cooper’s n-word bomb, but Smith took his comments a bit further, choosing to place some of the blame squarely on the shoulders of Black folks.
Smith explained: “To ask me what I think about it, all it does is take me back and force me to look at our community and demand that we stand up and be intellectually honest about this. There are many situations in the world of sports where we go into the locker room, not only do we hear the music blaring, but we see professional athletes echoing these sentiments. Most of us in the Black community would be flagrant hypocrites if we try to deny that we used that word ourselves.”
“The level of comfort that it seemed Riley Cooper had in articulating those words out of his mouth, what level of responsibility do we harbor considering the fact that it’s something we use ad nauseam in the presence of people outside of our community?”
So let me get this straight. Black folks must now harbor responsibility for every White person who “slips” and says the n-word because we may or may not use it in our community, or because they may have heard it in rap song? Word?!
Here’s the thing: If every Black person on the planet stopped using the n-word today, racists would still use the word. Why? Because they want to.
They are not influenced by Black folks who use the word as a term of endearment. They are not combing hip hop lyrics to learn how to use the word in a non-offensive way. They use the word because of it’s painful history (one that we, Black folks, did not create), and because it stings.
So while I come from the Oprah Winfrey School of opinion on the n-word, I will not condone anyone trying place the blame for a White person’s use of the n-word at our feet.