Bill Maher Is A Dangerous White Man

Bill Maher Is A Dangerous White Man

The “Real Time” host is equipped with a tremendous amount of social capital that can imperil racial progress without deep consideration of his actions.

HBO
Bill Maher

A cynic will feel welcome in the entertainment media landscape.

In it, there are no promises of humanity — no assurances of justice — no unbreakable bond of truth. There is but one king: popularity (and more plainly, profit).

These tenets, and the widespread adherence to them among American media, provide the perfect ecosystem for one citing the ills of our time. (This article discusses the use of a racial slur on Bill Maher’s talk show “Real Time,” and readers should be aware that it appears uncensored below.)

Entertainment media is just as vapid, vacuous, and apathetic as its creators — certainly, as much as its viewers — which is to say, it is naive to expect the industry to drift naturally toward some sort of moral center. It will not. It has not. And always, progress is wrought through a begrudging, draining, grating process.

In this vein, it was predictable from the moment Bill Maher, speaking to Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, uttered the word “nigger” on his show last Friday that he’d face no repercussions for doing so.

Maher: I gotta get to Nebraska more.

Sasse: You’re welcome. We’d love to have you work in the fields with us.

Maher: Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house nigger.

In the immediate seconds to follow, Maher detected an uneasiness in his crowd, suggested he’d “just” made a joke, and earned himself supportive―even if implored―applause from his audience. Sen. Ben Sasse sat across from him, bearing a sheepish grin.

Maher released an apology the following day amid growing public outcry, with his employer HBO later releasing a statement of their own calling the comedian’s actions “inexcusable.” The network, however, levied no substantive punishment against Maher, who returned to his show on Friday to raucous cheers. 

“Thank you for letting a sinner in your midst,” Maher joked on Friday, before announcing that Dr. Michael Eric Dyson would soon join him as a guest and “take [him] to the woodshed” for his actions. 

The whole matter, from last Friday’s utterance to the conclusion of this Friday’s episode, was troublesome theater ― the chronicle of a racially insensitive joke from birth to burial, all before a predominately white audience while paying very little deference to black people who the joke concerned. 

And it behooves anyone striving toward a progressive, equitable society to consider the harm inflicted over the past week and, more specifically, the grave dangers presented by Maher and others of his ilk ― be they well-meaning or not. 

The cover-up is worse than the crime itself

It bears questioning, given HBO’s condemnation of Maher’s actions as “inexcusable,” precisely what the network meant in its statement. Behavior cannot, at once, be both inexcusable and bear no consequences. I instead chose a more literal reading of the word: there was no way Bill Maher would be excused from his job for “just” making a joke which invoked the word “nigger.” He truly was inexcusable for such a reason.

In this sense, racism is never inexcusable ― it is integral to our present society. Rather, it is the perpetrators of racism who are inexcusable ― never to be banished, always to be forgiven and welcomed among the masses. Espousing regressive views about people of color doesn’t deny you a television show. Often, in fact, espousing these views earns you one

The function of HBO’s tolerance for Maher’s actions is that it provides cover for all acts of racism and racial insensitivity short of physical violence. The reluctance to levy any meaningful repercussions against a white man for using “nigger” quite literally suggests his so doing is tolerable and even explicable. If it is so (as their actions would suggest) that HBO believes a white comedian reserves allowance to invoke the term, they should be explicit in saying so. 

It is their passivity amid this controversy which poses clear danger and also betrays the phenomenon of White Liberalism, a unique sort of performance art which has come into focus with the help of incisive social media scrutiny and the historic success of Jordan Peele’s film “Get Out.” 

The prospect of continued national apathy to our plight ― and dismissal of our grievances ― is an ill omen.

Whiteness, in its very existence, is inherently dangerous; it is a fictitious character trait developed only as an antithesis to—and presumed class above — blackness. And Maher, as one of the foremost practitioners of whiteness, represents a particular danger because he serves our society as a caricature of radical liberalism, even as he spouts offensive rhetoric about people of color amid thunderous applause. Conservatives view him as a standard-bearer for liberal ideology, and his horde of predominantly-white viewers feels the same. The result of this assumption is that the confines of progressive thought, in themainstream, rest at the feet of a man who called Black Lives Matter protesters “fucking idiots” and suggests ― at numerous turns ― that Muslims are the scourge of the earth. 

Herein lies the dilemma: Without condemning outright people who are white, it must be said that Whiteness as a thought experiment is problematic. It is religion of its own, with a strict adherence to racial hierarchy that so often silences and marginalizes people of color. 

Maher exists within the spectrum of oppressive voices because even as he conveys tendencies toward progressivism, his injection of racist vitriol and racial insensitivity into liberal ideology flows like ether through the bloodstream ― it desensitizes his audience to race matters throughout the country, which black people (and all people of color, more broadly) can ill afford. 

This, of course, is not to say white liberals espouse a greater amount of racism than conservatives. There is no way to quantify such a thing. But Maher’s actions do speak to a particular strand of racism within each ideological camp; they illuminate a demoralizing similarity between the two.

And with people of color frequently relying upon white allies to serve as vehicles toward racial progress, the prospect of continued national apathy to our plight ― and dismissal of our grievances ― is an ill omen. 

The show goes on

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson was not originally scheduled to appear on last night’s episode of “Real Time With Bill Maher.” Dyson, a friend of the show, was a late addition after Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) declined to appear in the wake of Maher’s comments. 

(Of note, Dyson’s addition also came after he’d tweeted in Maher’s defense). 

The normalcy of Friday night’s “Real Time” episode rested heavily upon Dyson’s shoulders. He was, according to the host, there to “school” Maher, because as he said, he’d “done a bad thing.”

It was a bizarre endeavor from start to finish, feeling intensely as though an employer had commissioned an employee for a special assignment. Dyson, a titanic author on his own, was offered space to promote his book; his friend and host received much-needed cover in exchange. 

Dyson, at one point, explained to Maher the history of the slur, its roots in chattel slavery and its function as a reiteration of black subservience to whites. 

“[S]urely, you must know all that wasn’t going through my mind, right?” Maher said. 

It was left unclear why Dyson or any black person must know this. 

Nonetheless, the interview continued with a number of similarly defensive statements from Maher:

“It’s not like I made a career with this.”

Maher has, indeed, made a career of offering problematic postulations on race, gender, sexuality, and religion. 

“I grew up in Jersey in the 50s and 60s. Race wasn’t even an issue. It didn’t exist.”

Believe it or not, rac[ism] did, indeed, exist in the 1950s and 1960s. 

“I don’t wanna pretend this is more of a race thing than a comedian thing.”

There was no reason provided as to why these two would be mutually exclusive. A white comedian feeling entitled to employ a term appropriated by black people to supplant their oppression would seem a perfect intersection of these two “things.” 

During the interview, Maher even made a point of conveying to the audience how formidable an inquisitor Dyson was, saying “I feel like I got Robert Mueller here” in reference to the special prosecutor investigating the Trump administration. 

These and such moments offered a glimpse into the host’s motivations. Dyson, with all his bonafides and charm, had been reduced to a prop ― a character in a professional wrestling shoot bringing the ever-resilient fan favorite down to size. And even rapper Ice Cube, the show’s final guest whose stern criticism of Maher made for riveting television, seems to have garnered Maher favorable coverage, with numerous publications using “owned,” “schooled,” and similar words to describe the exchange.

It is not apologies which will save us, but rather deep, occasionally dark peers inward.”

Even as Maher bristled when Cube suggested he occasionally sounds “like a redneck trucker” and noted the “root of [Maher’s] psyche” is worth evaluating, media emerged Saturday morning with the narrative that Maher had been appropriately and adequately mollywopped by his guests ― Dyson, Cube, and Symone Sanders, the former press secretary for the Bernie Sanders campaign who took time to explain dynamics and plight of slaves relegated to working inside and outside the plantation. 

The parade of black bodies on-screen was discomforting, if for no other reason than the suggestion that black people can, should, and must instill humanity and anti-racist ideology into oppressive, white counterparts. The onus of reconciliation frequently rests with the victims, as though racism and oppression is always some passive, unconscious act to which its perpetrators are blind.

Very rarely, if ever, do we demand these perpetrators wrestle with their demons and stand before the world―lone, bare, honest, and eager for reform. 

Had Bill Maher elected to host a show on Friday boasting no black guests, I would have defended and appreciated it, because it would have marked an instance of fleeting ― but valuable ― introspection. He very easily could have used the week to think critically on his own, but he determined instead that playing whipping boy for an hour better suited his interest. 

The demand from professed white liberals must increase. Without question, white people who are liberal carry great potential to advance racial progress, but White Liberalism ― the thought experiment ― must adopt a more radically progressive racial parlance if we are to ever see true equality. 

And it is incumbent upon those with a vested interest in human progress to require ― not request ― this progress, even from the most powerful and privileged among us (Bill Maher included). It is not apologies which will save us, but rather deep, occasionally dark peers inward.

I was cautiously optimistic about this prior to hearing guest David Jolly, the former U.S. Representative from Florida, offer his musings: 

“You apologized, and at some point, America has to accept apologies. God bless you for apologizing.”

And the crowd went wild. 

Original Post

Sorry, but I'm still not feeling any vitriol for Maher because he called himself a housenigger in a/as a joke.

Like I said in the other article on this subject, it's not like he called a Black person [or any person other than himself] a nigger/housenigger.

He was making an, (albeit crude), analogy to being an indulged 'servant'/slave, as apposed to being a hard-working or deprived one, and I see no reference in his joke to Black people or any other person.

Of course, in the joke, he expressed the very false belief that "house slaves"[hostages] were obliged an easy, pampered life, because the truth is, that countless mitigating factors determined how the 'slaves, house 'slaves' or field 'slaves'] [hostages] were treated, like anything from the character (or lack thereof) of the plantation owner, to the income, class, eduation and status of the plantation owner.

Other than that, all it was, was a joke, a joke at his own expense, since it was only himself that he referred to as a 'housenigger'. 

Besides, Maher has been soldier in the fight for equality, justice, and civil rights, and has vihemently gone after racism, racist politics and racial injustice since he's been on the air.  

We as Black people, must continue to disern between those who mean us harm and those who don't, and keep with our tradition of not 'throwing the baby out with the bath water' when it is obvious that no harm was intended.

" .... He was making an, (albeit crude), analogy to being an indulged 'servant'/slave, as opposed to being a hard-working or deprived one, and I see no reference in his joke to Black people or any other person... "

I wonder if that 'crude analogy' (so-called joke) brought to mind the very real possibility that he had been castrated (eunuch) in becoming the recipient of that prized position of a ' house n***** '  OR/AND the possibility that he was/is a 'mulatto' -- the son of 'Massah Maher.'   

No harm.  Just a little joke about chattel slavery in the USA (the land of the free and home of the brave) that lasted for more than 250 years.  In that 250 years, a whole new race of people were created and labelled as 'black' 'colored' 'Negro' 'African American' 'n*****s" to serve 'the massah'  with no identity, no real origins and bearing the last names of their masters.  No harm.  Just a joke. 

fizz posted:

" .... He was making an, (albeit crude), analogy to being an indulged 'servant'/slave, as opposed to being a hard-working or deprived one, and I see no reference in his joke to Black people or any other person... "

I wonder if that 'crude analogy' (so-called joke) brought to mind the very real possibility that he had been castrated (eunuch) in becoming the recipient of that prized position of a ' house n***** '  OR/AND the possibility that he was/is a 'mulatto' -- the son of 'Massah Maher.'   

No harm.  Just a little joke about chattel slavery in the USA (the land of the free and home of the brave) that lasted for more than 250 years.  In that 250 years, a whole new race of people were created and labelled as 'black' 'colored' 'Negro' 'African American' 'n*****s" to serve 'the massah'  with no identity, no real origins and bearing the last names of their masters.  No harm.  Just a joke. 

 

It was not a joke about the 'institution' of slavery, nor a joke about the cruelty of slavery.  It was a joke about status that used the contrasting positions of the "house 'slave' and the "field" 'slave' as an analogy.

I do agree that it was a poor choice of an anology, but I also acknowledge that he did not say anything insulting to anyone Black/African American or those held hostage as 'slaves'.

If anything, he actually insulted himself by referring to himself as a 'nigger'/'housenigger'.

 

" ... It was not a joke about the 'institution' of slavery, nor a joke about the cruelty of slavery.  It was a joke about status that used the contrasting positions of the "house 'slave' and the "field" 'slave' as an analogy.

I do agree that it was a poor choice of an anology, but I also acknowledge that he did not say anything insulting to anyone Black/African American or those held hostage as 'slaves'.

If anything, he actually insulted himself by referring to himself as a 'nigger'/'housenigger'. "

True, it was not TO anyone.  It was ABOUT a 'specific' group of people who actually suffered under white control and domination as chattel slaves for over 250 years.  During that period of time, there actually were 'house n******' -- no joke.  

The subject of the joke, the object/objective of the joke, the subject matter of the joke were greatly disturbing to me.  Why?  Because 250 years of chattel slavery is not a subject to be used as a punchline to get a laugh.  

What If the subjects/subject matter/objective of the joke was about Latino Americans, legal/illegal Latinos working in the fields, with/without documentation?  Would a 'joke' still be a suitable analogy?  What would be the punchline?  "I can't work in the field because I'm legal."  

What if the Holocaust was the subject of a joke?  The Japanese internment?  The Trail of Tears?  

" If anything, he actually insulted himself by referring to himself as a 'nigger'/'housenigger'. "  

Insulting?  It takes a hell of a group of people to 'rise' from over 250 years of chattel slavery, which was not that long ago.  

fizz posted:

" ... It was not a joke about the 'institution' of slavery, nor a joke about the cruelty of slavery.  It was a joke about status that used the contrasting positions of the "house 'slave' and the "field" 'slave' as an analogy.

I do agree that it was a poor choice of an anology, but I also acknowledge that he did not say anything insulting to anyone Black/African American or those held hostage as 'slaves'.

If anything, he actually insulted himself by referring to himself as a 'nigger'/'housenigger'. "

True, it was not TO anyone.  It was ABOUT a 'specific' group of people who actually suffered under white control and domination as chattel slaves for over 250 years.  During that period of time, there actually were 'house n******' -- no joke.  

The subject of the joke, the object/objective of the joke, the subject matter of the joke were greatly disturbing to me.  Why?  Because 250 years of chattel slavery is not a subject to be used as a punchline to get a laugh.  

What If the subjects/subject matter/objective of the joke was about Latino Americans, legal/illegal Latinos working in the fields, with/without documentation?  Would a 'joke' still be a suitable analogy?  What would be the punchline?  "I can't work in the field because I'm legal."  

What if the Holocaust was the subject of a joke?  The Japanese internment?  The Trail of Tears?  

" If anything, he actually insulted himself by referring to himself as a 'nigger'/'housenigger'. "  

Insulting?  It takes a hell of a group of people to 'rise' from over 250 years of chattel slavery, which was not that long ago.  

 

When I say 'insulted himself' by calling himself a 'nigger/housenigger', I'm thinking 'nigger'/'housenigger' in the most insulting meaning of the word, as in when used by racists.  [Though, I'm not all that kean on all the nigga vs. nigger rhetoric out there right now]  But, I do understand what young Black people are meaning when they say they"took" the word from racists and 'made it their own'; (i.e., the way Gays took the work 'queer' and made it their own).

And I agree, that 250 years of chattel slavery is nothing to joke about, but I stand by my interpretation that Maher's joke was not literally joking about the chattel slavery itself, but as I said, a poor choice/crude analogy of 'house slave' vs. field slave' in the context of pampered and indulged vs. over-worked and neglected.

I really do not think it was his intention to degrade Black people or 'slaves', or to minimize chattel slavery or the centuries of suffering Black people endured while being held hostage to it.  

[But, I notice you have no comment to Ice Cube's [and Dr. Dre's] not wanting dark-skinned Black girls in their movie, "Straight Outta Compton", [http://www.africanamerica.org/...7#561024118256428817] which, in my opinionis ACTUALLY, and far more, insulting than the stupid joke Bill Maher said, and unlike Maher's joke, actually, literally, has long-ranged and long-lasting damaging affects on Black people/Black girls, mentally, spiritually, psychologically, socially and economically]

" ... [But, I notice you have no comment to Ice Cube's [and Dr. Dre's] not wanting dark-skinned Black girls in their movie, "Straight Outta Compton", [http://www.africanamerica.org/...7#561024118256428817] which, in my opinionis ACTUALLY, and far more, insulting than the stupid joke Bill Maher said, and unlike Maher's joke, actually, literally, has long-ranged and long-lasting damaging affects on Black people/Black girls, mentally, spiritually, psychologically, socially and economically] ... "

The above is sort of going away from the original topic; but, here goes:

The dark-skinned black girls issue .... I sort of think this is a direct result of that chattel slavery we were discussing that has been handed down from generation to generation -- the 'house n*****' complex.  I think you are right, with one exception:    the so-called joke coming from Maher, I think, is worse because 'n*****' was created to describe a specific group of people held in chattel slavery that were bought, sold, traded, rented, experimented on and even bred -- no better than the livestock the massah owned.  

  I think when white people hear black folks calling each other n$gger n$gger and they hang out with black folks, lay in the bed with black folks they think it's okay to use the term.  We've seen it with m and m, Justin beaver, etc.  They think cuz they can rock their heads to the beat they're just as cool as blacks even cool enough to use the n word.  I'm more upset with black rappers/actors/entertainers/athletes who diss black women while slapping each other on the backs calling each other n$gger as they DISRESPECT their ride here and the women who got them their FREEDOM and civil rights while ignoring the many black folks who are MURDERED every...day.  So.  Maher calling himself a N$gger?  Doesn't bother me one bit.  And it shouldn't bother anyone black either.  Cuz we KNOW what the real deal is.  So.  My battle is with the so-called brothers who have abandoned their culture.....not a creepy weird white guy who thinks he's cool cuz he slept with a couple of sistas.  He didn't go get the memo.  Going in the black womb doesn't make you black or give you a get outta jail card to act black or talk black.  So in  retrospect?   We have BIGGER issues than worrying about a white guy calling himself a n$gger.  Just sayin.  But!

Way back in the day, during the social revolution of the 1960's and 70's, many dug the beat of the music, hung out together, etc.  It was 'cool man.'  For a nanosecond, there appeared to be a tiny light at the end of a very long tunnel filled with hatred and violence.    

Time goes by and changes occur.    

For some, a need to be heard and recognized resulted in the need for, and the creation of, a new and 'different culture' -- different points of view, new verbal expressions to express new ideas and ideals, different dress codes, etc.  and different music to reflect it all.  A change was needed to reflect the times and that 'different culture' erupted and spread world wide.  

Thank you for an outstanding conversation.  

There was something wrong with "Massa", there's something wrong with "white people" in general, there's something wrong with Bill Maher.  If he wants to call himself a nigger so be it. There's probably a nigger somewhere in him anyway. He likes to poke black women and the women must like him poking them. We need to be concerned with living in this country and the Orange Wonder calling himself running things. We need to keep our black asses out of America's nigger cages. Be concerned with that and stop killing your brothers, sisters and babies. Stop emulating ISIS and the Syrians and become human beings like your mother wanted you to be when she brought you here. Think independently for a change and stop following others.

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