So two weeks ago comedian and HBO late night show host, Bill Maher did the unthinkable. Well, the unthinkable to some. Maher referred to himself as a “house n*gga” when asked by Sen. Ben Sasse to come “work in the fields” of Nebraska.
I actually watched it live and thought that he made a great joke, but the only problem with the joke is that he’s white. I have often joked with friends that I would have started off a field slave/n*gga, but I would have figured out how to get into the house.
In hindsight that joke isn’t that funny either, but I think you get my point. After the Maher controversy broke out, many of his celebrity guests backed out of their scheduled appearances with the exception of Ice Cube, who did a great job making a very basic point.
Cube said that just because the hang out with black people, date black women and have sincere empathy for the plight of African American, doesn’t mean you get to use that word. How many of us have white friends that listen to Hip Hop music and are very familiar with black culture.
Because rapper use the N word in what seems like every dang song and our nonblack friends are clearly not racist is it so bad that they casually use the word?
Here’s what Cube said to Maher: “I love your show, you got a great show, but you’ve been bucking up against that line a little bit. You’ve got a lot of black jokes … Sometimes, you sound like a redneck trucker.”
I have watched Maher’s very liberal leaning show for over 10 years. He’s clearly not racist and yes he does love telling jokes that are racially insensitive at times, but that’s what I like about him. We are often times too politically correct. And as some comedians say – a joke is a joke.
But Cube did make very valid points. Because a white person is familiar does not mean that they can casually use the N word.
“I still think you need to get to the root of the psyche because I think there’s a lot of guys out there who cross the line because they’re a little too familiar, or they think they’re too familiar,” said Ice Cube. “Or, guys that, you know, might have a black girlfriend or two that made them some Kool-Aid every now and then, and then they think they can cross the line … and they can’t,” he added.
I am as guilty as any other Generation X black male – I grew using the word “N*gga” as a term of endearment of sorts. No big deal in my hood or amongst my boys. It was used on a fairly regular basis and still is in most African American communities around the country.
It’s a double standard that some don’t understand. Surprisingly though, it’s a double standard that is acceptedby most. What I mean is – blacks can use it, but whites and other non-blacks can’t without it having a negative connotation.
The N word as a derogatory, anti-black adjective is simply not acceptable for everyday use, especially not in public spaces.
And that’s the point that Ice Cube was making in a very profound way I must admit. He added, ““It’s not cool because when I hear my homie say it, it don’t feel like venom. When I hear a white person say it, it feel like that knife stabbing you, even if they don’t mean to.”
So why this double standard that Ice Cube addresses? Well, it is kind of complicated.
Because of slavery, segregation and racism, the word was always used by whites to remind African Americans of their place as the lesser species. Even today, it is still an indicator that white and non-black people feel that black lives are inferior and worthless.
Some feel that blacks should be able to use the N word without any questions or challenge. Think about it this way – the women’s rights or feminist movement took the word bitch and used it in a positive way. It’s possible to take negative words and embrace them to make a point.
No I don’t think that Bill Maher is a racist or bigot or anything close to it. He made a bad joke and a mistake. He also owned his slip-up, which makes a big difference. The bottom line is – no matter how cool you are with black folk – don’t cross the line.
During the Maher show Ice Cube also said, “You know, it’s a word that has been used against us. It’s like a knife, man. You can use it as a weapon or you can use it as a tool. It’s when you use it as a weapon against us, by white people, and we’re not going to let that happen again … because it’s not cool … That’s our word, and you can’t have it back.”
Well said my brother!
Signing off from Duval County,