I’ve changed my mind. Bill Maher IS a House Negro.

“When the house started burning down, that type of [house] Negro would fight harder to put the master’s house out than the master himself would.”

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The situation, as it stands, is that Bill Maher apparently called himself a “house nigger” on a live broadcast last week with junior Nebraskan senator Ben Sasse. After Sasse remarked that he’d “love to have you [Maher] come in the fields to work with us”, Maher responded, “Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house nigger.”

Don’t even think about raising a rabble over whether he said “nigger” or “nigga”, either, because the people that raise that distinction are usually people that ain’t got no business whatsoever touching that word with a 39 1/2 foot pole, anyway.

Now class, how do we imagine that Mr. Maher’s jaunt down racy lane went?

Chance the Rapper called for the show to be cancelled by HBO. Articles are surfacing about how Bill Maher has always trafficked in bigotry and they’re not wrong.

This incident comes fresh off the high where he took credit for the downfall of noted skeev Milo Yiannopolous, saying, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” Actually, it was a kabal of conservatives deeply opposed to Milo’s “locker room talk” in the form of advocating pedophilia, but ok, Bill, it was you. (Although, taking credit for someone else’s work after the fact isn’t…a super black move, is it, Mr. House Nigger?)

Maher was warned repeatedly that Milo had nothing to offer but his half-baked and vapid ruminations on how X group is destroying America, and he still booked and aired him on his show, citing himself as a defender of “free speech.” (Remind me again where it says that your free speech rights are abridged if you don’t get free publicity from a popular late-night show?)

However, despite these and other running controversies, we have to give Maher his credit where credit is due. Here, he is right.

Bill Maher is a house nigger.

The House Negro and The Field Negro

On January 23, 1963, Malcolm X gave a speech at Michigan State University entitled, “The House Negro and the Field Negro” and it is one of the most powerful descriptions of the power structures of slavery that remain present today.

So you have two types of Negro. The old type and the new type. Most of you know the old type. When you read about him in history during slavery he was called “Uncle Tom.” He was the house Negro. And during slavery you had two Negroes. You had the house Negro and the field Negro.

He goes on to explain the difference in priorities between a house negro and a field negro.

When the house started burning down, that type of [house] Negro would fight harder to put the master’s house out than the master himself would.

But then you had another Negro out in the field. The house Negro was in the minority. The masses–the field Negroes were the masses. They were in the majority. When the master got sick, they prayed that he’d die. [Laughter] If his house caught on fire, they’d pray for a wind to come along and fan the breeze.

This speech lays out a difference in where the house negro and the field negro see themselves in relation to power. The house negro is power-adjacent, and in the illustrious words of Frank Underwood, “Proximity to power deludes some into thinking they wield it.”

The house negro is less sympathetic to the plight of the field negro, given that the same things that disadvantage one advantage the other. The house negro is willing to be complicit in structures of power because the proximity to that power that gives them creature comforts. And when it comes time to ween themselves from said power, a house negro is willing to choose submission over subversion.

Bill Maher makes a living and a show based on the idea that he’s fighting for the little guy, but the thesis of his response to criticisms about his use of a hotly contested word is, “I’m on your side, so shut up and let me do what I want.”

Wayne Brady has before addressed Maher’s unfortunate tendency to think that he’s “down” with the black experience because he’s had some dark covfefe before:

Maher’s shown multiple times that he resents being told what is the best way to ally himself to those he considers himself an ally to, opting instead for his own personal model of allyship, one that may not adequately represent the needs or desires of the groups he claims to fight for, be it black, LGBT, or women.

Here’s the thing with “woke” white people: They are never required to surrender their passport to WhiteLandia, even while discussing racial issues. Even while being with black women. Even while using black culture to propel your career forward (lookin’ at you, Miley and Katy.)

While it may be good and fun, exciting, or garner ratings for Maher, whenever he’s fighting racist intolerance and bigotry, he’s stepping into it. I wake up into it. Bill Maher has to be black for an hour sometimes – I been black for 26 years straight.

And if he’s not willing to listen to black people, if he’s willing to be complicit in the use of a word with a mangled history, if he’s willing to co-opt the history of people that actually experienced the devastating original sin of America that was slavery for a joke that wasn’t even that good, maybe he’s right. Maybe he’s a house nigger.

Personally, I’m still praying for a stiff breeze.

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Listen to Malcolm X’s speech below:

 

Dear White People: Yes, It’s Offensive When You Say It

“Apparently, a bigger issue than…the problems that face us that the president was discussing…was that he said the word ‘nigger’.”

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During the summer of 2015, Marc Maron invited onto his WTF podcast the 44th leader of the free world, President Barack Hussein Obama. They quickly cycled through a lot of topics, including things that the president has discussed before, like his upbringing and policies and issues that are particularly close to his heart.

One of those issues was racism.

“Racism. We are not cured of it,” President Obama said. “And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not. It’s not just a matter of overt discrimination. Societies don’t overnight completely erase everything that happened 200-300 years prior.”

Guess which part of that the news cycle ran with the next day.

Apparently, a bigger issue than criminal justice reform, police brutality, indiscriminate housing and job opportunity, minimum sentencing, the privatization of prisons, and the mass incarceration of minorities, and the problems that face us that the president was discussing…was that he said the word ‘nigger’.

Apparently.

Racism. We are not cured of it,” President Obama said. “And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say ‘nigger’ in public.

So there’s this confusion about “nigger”, and the inevitable question, “Why’s it okay for you to say it, and not me?” as if it’s a privilege of sorts that we are refusing to share. Let’s break it down.

Yes, white people, it is offensive when you say it. 

I hope you’ll have noticed by now that I have said the word “nigger” and not “the N word” more than once in this article, and that’s because it’s not a spooky word. There’s nothing mystical about it.

But there’s a simple and solid reason that black people don’t take well to your use of the word ‘nigger’: You don’t share in the experiences of black Americans, and people have the right to define their own experiences. 

For example, sometimes I write about LGBT issues, but I don’t write from a position of being able to speak for a gay person. I don’t pretend I’m in that experience. I certainly don’t use words like “faggot” or “dyke” outside of the context that I just did, which is simply saying them, because those are words that have been used to harm the LGBT community.

For example, sometimes I write about LGBT issues, but I don’t write from a position of being able to speak for a gay person. I don’t pretend I’m in that experience.

If at some point, they decide that they would like to re-purpose those words and wring a new meaning from them, then that’s fine, but it still doesn’t make it okay for me to indiscriminately use them, given that I do not share in their experience.

The same is true for black people. This also explains why in certain cases, people believe that it’s okay for white, Chinese, or Hispanic people to use “nigger”, because they perceive certain individuals as having similar experiences that allow them to “enter” a community.

“Nigger” has been used for centuries to denigrate black people, so the reason I “get to” say it is that I get to decide what it means.

That is where black people take their power from, the repositioning of a weapon used to harm them into a tool for social cohesion, describing their own experience, and sapping it of its power.

So the next time you ask, “Why can black people use the word ‘nigger’ and I can’t?”, just bear in mind that what you’re really asking is, “Why don’t I get to define someone else’s experience?”

And then ask yourself if that’s really the kind of question you want to be seen asking.

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