Sometimes we are not aware of the foolishness of our private speech until our words go public. This is one of the morals of the story of Philadelphia Eagle’s receiver Riley Cooper’s n-word slip. In a video taken at a Kenny Chesney concert in June, Cooper became frustrated that an African-American security guard would not allow him backstage. With a beer in his hand Cooper responded, “I will jump this fence and fight every n***ger here, bro.” Cooper’s gaffe serves as a wake-up call for all of us, now that the dust seems to have settled from the controversy, because Cooper almost lost his job because his private speech went public.
In an apologetic press conference, Cooper repeatedly expressed regret over his response to the security guard by saying that he was “ashamed and disgusted.” Cooper continued, “This is not the type of person I want to be portrayed as. This isn’t the type of person I am. I’m extremely sorry.” It may be too late to avoid negative perceptions in the eyes of many because of the way he said it. It was his gut response after being challenged by an African-American in authority. It was not forced nor thoughtfully contemplated. Cooper’s response was visceral, natural, and raw.
“I don’t use that term. I was raised better than that. I have a great mom and dad and they’re disgusted with my actions,” Cooper said with a self-loathing gaze. But for those of us in the African-American community, though Cooper may not realize it, it will be hard for many of us to believe him. Generally speaking, words that you do not have in your lexicon are not usually spoken when frustrated. In fact, when a person is angry, especially when alcohol lessens inhibitions, we often see a person’s true self. We see their heart.