So, HBO probably won’t fire Bill Maher for calling himself a “house n*gger” live on his Real Time talk show Friday night. The network execs have already apologized, telling the Hollywood Reporter, “(the) comment last night was completely inexcusable and tasteless,” and have promised to edit the word out of subsequent airings. But don’t expect HBO to cut Maher loose until he starts costing them money — a prospect that is highly unlikely.
The cable company’s business model doesn’t rely on advertisers, so the boycotts that squeezed Bill O’Reilly out at Fox News in April won’t work on Maher. And HBO’s Black subscriber base may not be large enough to leverage his removal with threats to cancel contracts. The only hope would be for the same liberals who instinctively applauded (not laughed, applauded) his tasteless joke care enough about the issue of the n-word to cancel, and forgo Game Of Thrones.
So, the smart money says Maher will be back on the air next week, and the week after that. He’s already apologized and expressed regret, admitting that he lost sleep sitting up thinking about it (poor guy). But the wise know that issuing apologies won’t protect Maher from the long-term backlash his recklessness will eventually bring. Like his arch-nemesis in white male narcissism Donald Trump, Maher will one day meet the karmic beat down his decades of reckless talk (and alleged actions) have invited. The 45th president is currently depressed and gaining weight after finding out he’s a loser who isn’t fit to lead. But even as Maher continues to mercilessly ridicule The Donald, he should be bracing himself to face the consequences that come with his own brand of political incorrectness.
Maher’s whole image is built on being anti-PC. The week of the 9/11 attacks, he was fired by ABC and his hit show Politically Incorrect was cancelled after he said the suicide hi-jackers weren’t cowards compared to the U.S. military, who waged their attacks with missiles from the safety of far-away bases. Since 2003, two years after his 9/11 comment, HBO has given Maher a home where he is free to insult whoever he’d like, whether it’s funny or not.
And it often is. Maher’s willingness to cross lines others will not produces consistent shock laughs and adds electricity to otherwise dull discussions about politics and society. But when it’s not funny, he’s as socially dangerous and morally indefensible as Donald Trump, and all the politicians and celebrities he’s ruthlessly roasted over the years. Bill’s off-the-cuff quip to Rep. Ben Sasse that he’s a “house n*gger” not fit to work the Nebraska fields was an improvised experiment of white male privilege in America — a science Donald Trump has mastered on his presumably impossible trek to the Oval Office.
Maher, high on the loud smoke and Black p-ssy he chronically tries to hide his white guilt in, impulsively tested the limits of his privilege on national television because that is how he got to that seat in the first place. It’s the same blissful ignorance and narcissism that made Trump commander in chief, and it will inevitably be the downfall of both men, who together represent the polar extremes of America’s white male power structure — Maher the self-righteous liberal who passively prejudges everyone, Trump the self-serving capitalist who compulsively lies about everything. Different breeds of bullies whose only powers exist because of social advantages.
Is it a coincidence that none of Maher’s many Black friends were on the show the night he decided to dropped an improvised N-bomb? Or are his connections with Barack Obama, Cornel West, Van Jones, Jay Z, Killer Mike and Yasiin Bey what gave Maher the pass he thought he had as he gently sprinkled the “R” on the end?
Maybe Maher really does need Wayne Brady to beat his ass in public for him to understand that no such pass exists. And if that moment came, none of us would be wrong to laugh at the WorldStarHipHop footage of that fight as hard as Maher’s audience laughed at his house n*gger joke.
I’ve tried to watch less WorldStar and more CNN lately, but I’m starting to see that they’re not much different from one another. CNN shows cops getting off the hook for murder and Trump getting away with mass political fraud. At least on WorldStar, racist assholes get what they have coming on the shaky user-submitted cell phone footage in the site’s fight compilations.
And as both Trump and Maher continue to be rewarded with money and power while demonizing Muslims, denigrating women and generally disrespecting Black and brown people, it’s hard not to wait for the day karma catches their withering fades and pray someone is one the scene with a high-def smartphone.
If Maher, Justin Bieber, Eminem, Mark Wahlberg and Mel Gibson want the freedom to say the word n*gga, n*gger, or any other derivatives they can think up, they have to be prepared to face the consequences without cowering into victim mode. They have to learn that you can’t hide behind the shield of free speech once your words have exposed your true heart to the world.
But isn’t it funny how white men created the word n-gger but are so uncharacteristically hesitant to take full credit for it? For some odd reason they refuse to stand up and own the racist and sexist past that won them global dominance. Yet they can claim credit for stolen inventions, ideas and cultures without batting an eyelash.
Maher’s slip exposed the obvious reason many white teens yell n*gga freely at rap concerts. When you’ve benefited from an unbalanced system all your life, equality feels like oppression.
Back when Trump and Maher were growing up, n-bombs dropped freely across America because those who objected could be executed without serious inquiry from the media or police. And in the years since, countless Black performers and professionals had their dreams cut short for far greater missteps. Just try to imagine a Black politician winning office after getting caught on tape talking about grabbing p-ssy or beating up a reporter.
My dad was the first Black kid to integrate his rural Arkansas elementary school in the 1960’s, and I frequently revisit the stories he told me about surviving the experience. Pre-adolescent children threw rocks at him and called him a n-gger on the playground and in class. He said he’d let the anger build up in silence, and then once every few months, unleash it all on the unlucky one who picked the wrong day to test the boundaries of his white privilege.
He said that whoever he picked, he would try to beat to within an inch of their life — karmic retribution for their inherited arrogance. My dad’s explosions got him punished, of course. And it never completely stopped the racist treatment he received from his classmates en masse. But the ones who felt his wrath never found the guts to say it to his face again.
No matter how much Maher sees Islam as a threat to his Western white male dominance, he has no right to deem their way of life any more or less humane. And no matter how many Black women he bribes into publicly admitting they had sex, he must immediately realize that Superhead is just about the only thing he and Jay Z have in common.
Maher is not a n*gger. He never will be a n*gger. And until he understands why the word should never leave his receding lips again, he deserves whatever consequences come with his reckless incorrectness.