The N word has a long and disgusting history of being associated with slavery and terrible discrimination. I think that many blacks have tried to co-opt the N word as a way to "thumb their noses" at people who use the word derogatorily. That is an understandable response, but it has led some people to think that it is okay for anyone to use the word any time they want. But context matters a lot. If a black person uses the word to, in a sense, take the power away from the word, that is not anywhere near the same as someone using the word in a way that belittles someone because of their race - evoking associations with the sordid history of slavery and discrimination. It's certainly possible for a white person to use the term in a way that is not intended to evoke those associations, but in general because of our nation's horrible history with slavery and discrimination, it's better for white people not to use the word or to use it only with the greatest of care. But, though I understand the impulse of black people to use the term to diminish it's power, doing so does send a mixed message and blurs the issue, so it shouldn't be surprising that some people see hypocrisy in it being okay for in blacks to use it but not whites. I think a lot of people just don't appreciate how much context matters and that muddies the issue a great deal.
With respect to what Cooper said, again, context matters a lot. If you look at the context, I think it is evident that he intended to use the word in a racially derogatory manner and is deserving of the consequences he is undergoing because of it (at least as long as the consequences do not involve violence against him).
[ Edited by 49erphan on Aug 2, 2013 at 7:42 AM ]