I saw it in real time (pun intended). While BILL MAHER was interviewing a republican senator from Nebraska, the legislator invited Bill to come to his home state with this exact quote: “We’d love to have you work in the fields with us.” Flabbergasted by the senator’s odd overture, Bill responded with about what I expected: “Work in the fields?!?! Senator! I’m a house nigger!”
I knew right then there was gonna be a shitstorm behind what Bill had said. And a somewhat unfair one at that. Anybody who watches his show knows that Afro-Americans, women and even republicans are fairly represented in his presentation. Maher doesn’t discriminate. And what some people don’t know (but I do) is that the talk show host dates almost exclusively out of his own race – with women of color as it turns out. I’m sure Maher has the same prejudices that we all do. Let’s get real. But Bill Maher does not hate black people – pure and simple. Yet now that he used that sensitive word, people think differently – and the man is on the defensive. Some are even calling for HBO to cancel his show – which in my opinion would be 100 times as outrageous as his unfortunate slip.
To the point: All this political correctness is starting to nauseate me. What’s in a person’s heart is what matters – and not a word or two which slips past his lips. Personally, I didn’t like the tone of the senator’s invitation during that interview. It was condescending to my mind and I thought it deserved a sharp retort. It got one (obviously). The subtext of what Bill was really saying? “Don’t talk down to me on my own show you son of a bitch! I’m more than you think I am.”
I have to admit I liked what he said. Maher showed he had soul and fire. And the way he said it illustrated that he doesn’t just walk the walk – but talks the talk as well. Bill has black friends both male and female. Call him indiscreet. Call him potty mouth. That would be difficult to debate. But a man who hates black people? That would be a hard sell.
I leave with an anecdote from my music biz days which I might have related before on this blog but bears repeating. Half an hour after rehearsal had been scheduled, three bandmates (one of which was me) waited for the other six to show. As was often the case at that point in my life, I was the only white guy in the outfit. While I was reasonably composed about the lateness of my colleagues, Kenyatte, the percussionist, wasn’t having it. Shaking his head as the seconds ticked by, he murmured out loud “niggazz.” No sooner was the word out of his mouth when he looked up at at me to add “and honkies, too!” “Hey! Kanyatte. I’m here, bubba,” I issued my disclaimer. Laughs all around and that was that. Eventually the rest of the band arrived and we rehearsed.
Was I offended? Of course not. In fact, I felt included. I understand there’s some context which makes Kenyatte’s use of the “h” word less toxic. But really…haven’t we gone too far? Kenyatte and I were fine – as was I with the rest of the band – and vice versa. And everybody should be fine with Bill. Given his context, I didn’t find his response to be all that inappropriate. Bill wasn’t casting aspersions on black people. It was the senator he aimed to put in his place.