Bill Maher is in the news right now catching lots of heat for his N-word slur during a joke on “Real Time with Bill Maher” last Friday. So much heat, in fact, Maher has since issued an apology for his regretful “banter”. Now, although the year is 2017, and the media can sometimes get caught up around the internet’s instated “PC culture” of getting too outraged, critics of Maher were justified in their outrage.
The joke by Maher on the show was an obvious one, there was no ill intent by the use of the slur, but the usage of it was completely unnecessary. In response to guest Sen. Ben Sasse’s invitation to come to Nebraska, “We’d love to have you work in the fields with us.” (albeit a very poor choice of words) Maher questions Sasse’s invitation, almost acting as the verbal equivalent of a Birdman hand-rub, and follows up with “I’m a house nigger.”
Now as a Comedian, Maher is someone who is used to teetering that line of what can and should be said by an old white man in terms of racial sensitivity. While I don’t personally tune in to “Real Time” every chance I get, this isn’t the first time I’ve encountered his name trending across the social media atmosphere. These are the types of things he does and the reason for the backlash he is receiving, in this case, is simply because it wasn’t funny.
There are various other white comedians who have used the N-word in bits and quips that have been more tasteful and jokes that have been tongue-in-cheek funny. If a comedian is good at what he/she does, they need not worry about the audience’s reaction to it, because comedy is comedy. Bill Maher on the other hand, immediately after proclaiming he is indeed “not a house nigger” had to check himself in front of his own audience and tell them he was just kidding.
The N-word is not a toy to just play with. As a term that is forever connected to the enslavement and oppression of those with dark skin, there are few English words that can cause a greater disturbance in the peace. The repurposing of the word as “nigga” as a term of endearment should not be confused as an open invitation to its usage. If Larry Wilmore calls sitting President Barack Obama “My Nigga” it’s because he’s acknowledging the things they both had to go through as black men in America. What everyone else needs to understand in this situation is some things aren’t for you. So don’t call me your nigga, don’t make guests on your show uncomfortable by using it and definitely don’t spray paint it on my house.