On Bill Maher, the N-Word, and the Myth of the ‘Pass’

Within the long history of Bill Maher on TV there has by no means been a extra actual time second on Actual Time than final Friday’s episode. I battle to consider one other main TV host who responded to a nationwide firestorm by permitting individuals to come back on his present and beat him up over his own transgressions. It’s like Maher went to the city sq., locked himself within the pillory, and let individuals have at him for an hour. However surprisingly, the braveness to have Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Ice Dice and Symone Sanders take him to the woodshed didn’t result in one of the best model of Maher. He was contrite—at the least early on within the present—however he was additionally defensive, excuse-heavy, talked about the omnipresence of the n-word in tradition (as he’s done before), Kathy Griffin, a litany of America’s historic atrocities (groan), and the truth that we’re all evolving. What?

Maher’s dialog with Dyson was bizarre; at instances, it appeared like they had been talking completely different languages. My pal Dr. Dyson missed the mark by over-intellectualizing in a second of ache—Dyson surrounded some stable inquiries to Maher with a lot verbal cogitation that the comic was in a position to keep away from actually answering them. Alternatively, Ice Cube was direct, emotional, and powerfully plain-spoken. He pressured the dialog to its true heart as Maher grew grumpy. However Dice is correct: the issue is that Maher thinks he has a go.

By “a go” I imply he feels that he can do issues that different white individuals can’t—issues which can be culturally reserved for Blacks. The go is each I’m distinctive amongst whites and I get particular privilege from Blacks. Many people have recognized somebody who thinks they’ve a go. That man who dates solely Black girls, or has a number of Black associates, or actually, actually loves hip-hop, or mastered some Black cultural talent (dancing, hooping, rhyming, no matter) and thinks meaning he’s an honorary Black particular person. Dice alluded to this proper off the bat: “there’s quite a lot of guys on the market who cross the road as a result of they somewhat too acquainted… Guys that, you realize, may need a black girlfriend or two that made them Kool-Help once in a while, and so they assume they will cross the road. And so they can’t.”

Dice’s speaking about dangerous ally habits. Maher’s sin could also be rooted in loving Blackness an excessive amount of however it’s nonetheless a cultural sin as a result of there isn’t any such factor as a go. There’s nothing white particular person can accomplish that makes them develop into Black. The notion of a go—of over-identifying with Blackness—is so problematic and so painful as a result of it objectifies Blackness. It posits Blackness as akin to one thing one can study their means into. Blackness can’t be earned like a Boy Scout badge. And individuals who assume they’ve a go use it solely to entry the enjoyable and joyful aspect of Black tradition. They need Enjoyable Blackness: The events, the fashion, the rhythm of mama Africa. They don’t wish to grapple with the truth that Blackness additionally comes with a complete lot of ache.

Don’t inform me you’re Black with out having felt the ache of getting ancestors who had been enslaved and cousins who’re imprisoned and brothers and sisters who had been named Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, and Philando Castile. Don’t inform me you’re Black with out having needed to navigate a system designed to crush you. Don’t inform me you’re Black with out figuring out what it’s to assume your nation hates you, with out figuring out the way it feels to have doorways shut in your face, with out figuring out that any primary site visitors cease might be the top of your life. Black individuals know what it’s to concern what white privilege will do to you or your loved ones. Black individuals know what the lash of white supremacy appears like. Individuals who assume they’ve a go by no means use it to entry that stuff.

Maher provided the notion of comedian privilege as one among his many excuses however I don’t assume that’s what that is about. Sure, comics typically craft jokes that should offend and it’s helpful for society to permit comedians to discover taboo topics. However this wasn’t that. This was a knee-jerk response that confirmed that Maher, given only a second to assume, would reveal that he sees himself as analogous to a home slave. This wealthy and well-known white man could also be over-identifying with Blackness a bit a lot. I’m not within the camp that believes Maher must be fired however I do assume he ought to spend some appreciable time participating in introspection and discover the area to help racial justice, love Black tradition and be a real ally with out seeing all that as a path to turning into Black.

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