The dreaded “N-Word” is something that not only still gets brought up as being controversial, but also something that still gets many celebrities in trouble to this day, especially white celebrities. Bill Maher is the latest celebrity under fire for getting just a little bit too “casual” with his use of the word after jokingly describing himself as a “house n*gger”. While a few celebrities such as Ice Cube and Killer Mike have spoken against his use of the word, there have also been many people who feel that what he said wasn’t that serious and that we should all just forget about it. However, I feel like Bill Maher, as well as other celebrities, have made this same mistake time and time again in the pass and shouldn’t be let off the hook so easily.
First off, Bill Maher is known to be a shocking and controversial comedic personality. While most of his jokes can be considered politically incorrect, they can often fall under the category of satire. However, moments like this can barely be described as satire, as the “house n*gger” comment came seemingly out of nowhere, having no real context to the conversation at hand. This is not the first time he has used the slur in order to sound shocking. In 2001, actress Anne-Marie Johnson was featured on his show, Politically Incorrect, to debate the use of the “N-Word”. During the show, Maher constantly said the word while asserting more or less that since it is used in hip hop music and in black culture, the word no longer had any real racial undertones. During the show, Maher also continuously cut her off and even implied that if he wasn’t “black enough” to use the word, then she wasn’t “black enough” either. It’s pretty safe to say that Bill Maher took liberties he probably knew better than to use against Ice Cube in the recent interview. It seems that instead of having a real reason to use the word, or using it to initiate dialogue, Maher simply feels as if he has the “right” or the “pass” to use the word since he has used it in the past. It almost feels as if he knows he can simply say slurs to be shocking, and his white audience will love it and call it “edgy”, and his black audience…well, they’ll get over it soon enough.
This brings me to my next point about what’s wrong with Maher’s use of the word, and also the reaction of a few people of color who were willing to give him a pass. Most people say that Bill Maher has spoken up for black people, so that automatically means that he is not racist, although his use of the word was tacky. Others have claimed that black people should think about the (non-existent) context of his use of word while taking the fact that he is liberal and often works with black people into consideration. Now my fellow African Americans, ask yourself about instances where white celebrities were given an invite to the hypothetical “cookout” only to make us feel dumb for doing so later. Remember when Justin Bieber first burst on the scene, and the black community embraced him because he dances and sings like a black artist. Remember how dumb we felt when footage of him using the “N-Word” while telling racist jokes leaked online? Remember how Hillary Clinton dabbed, whipped and nae-nae’d her way into the hearts of black voters, but after losing the election, we haven’t heard not one peep about her speaking up for African Americans? Kidd Rock, Miley Cyrus, and many other examples can be used for this. My point of bringing up these celebrities is to ask what happens when we continuously give Bill Maher a pass simply because he’s liberal and he continues to be painfully offensive towards African Americans. I’m not saying that Bill Maher is only nice to African Americans in public, but goes home alone to do a Buffalo Bill dance while wearing a KKK hood and robe, but I’m most definitely saying that him being liberal and speaking for black people when it comes to politics DOES NOT give him the right to constantly use racial slurs over the years!
Even though Bill Maher has since given an apology, the issue will continue to be problematic. His talking points of the past, as well as talking points used by those who have defended him, shows that there is still a great misunderstanding of that word. People may say that we took that word and turned it into our own, changing the meaning. Nope! We may have turned lemons into lemonade with the word, but the lemons are still on the counter. It doesn’t matter how much black people use the word as a term of endearment, how many rap songs use the word, or if it is spelled with the “A” or the “hard R” at the end, it is still a word that is used to this day by white supremacists as a hateful racial slur. In a world where black owned businesses and homes are still being vandalized by having the slur spray-painted on the walls, and not 40, 30 or 20 years ago, but in recent years, there has been cross burnings reported in the South, the word still holds weight as a hateful slur. Therefore, it SHOULD NOT be used simply to shock or as a joke by white people. Therefore, even though Bill Maher has apologized for this action, he should not be able to use it on a public platform again without actual repercussion.