Riley Cooper controversy sparks debate, reaction of N-word use

PHILADELPHIA - August 1, 2013

So today Action News talked to people of different generations and a civil rights activist to get their reactions.

The topic of discussion at First Decision Barber Shop Thursday was Riley Cooper and his use of the N-word.

22-year-old Sean Robinson says it made him a bit uncomfortable, but he tells me he uses the N-word amongst other African-Americans.

"We use it as a term of endearment; it's like a brotherly thing," Robinson said.

Suran Casselle also says he uses the word in that context and not in public.

But many from older generations including community activist Kevin Sheaff and civil rights activist Todd Bernstein say the N-word should never be used.

"It is a heated word; it is filled with venom and vitriol. It has a history to it, it has a power to it," Bernstein said.

"Black, white, Native American, Pakistani, I don't care who you are, there is never an excuse to use that word," Sheaff said.

Still Sheaff says it sneaks in and the African-American community plays a big role in that.

"We put it in a nice beat, hip hop, we're dancing and grooving to it, we're rapping to it," Sheaff said.

He says that desensitizes the word, making it easier for anyone to say it.

Bernstein hopes the Cooper incident sparks more education and discussion.

"We should use this as an opportunity to try to bridge the gap, the divisions of racism that still exist," Bernstein said.

Sean admits it gets confusing. He forgives Riley Cooper.

"Learn from it and move on, definitely have to forgive him for that. I still like him, I'll still watch him on the Eagles," Robinson said.

As for the punishment for Cooper, many I spoke with today say a fine isn't enough.

Both Bernstein and Sheaff believe he should have been suspended.

With the wake of this incident as well as the Trayvon Martin case, a town hall meeting on race relations will be held this Friday, August 2nd at 7:00 p.m. at Major League Barbershop in West Philadelphia. Attorneys Michael Coard and Harold Rosenthal will join Bishop Christian Winters and the Four Star General Minister Ishmael Al-Islam on the panel. Major League Barbershop is located at 5101 S. Market Street. The meeting is free and open to the public

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