On his HBO show Bill Maher, in the middle of an interview with a Rep. from Nebraska suggesting that he do more field work activism… Maher “joked” he was a house N***er.
Recently a self proclaimed liberal White Women who is running for local office in the Hamptons was recorded when she dialed 911 calling for police to come cause there were a “bunch of n***ers in front of her house drinking Hennessy”. Valerie Smith, running for the Village Board in Southhampton, Long Island was not only unapologetic for her use of the word, but doubled down with indignation that she couldn’t understand anyone having an issue with her use of the word, in part because she was some type of liberal pioneer as the only White in her neighborhood and Eddie Murphy made a career of using the word.
She further admitted, saying “You f***ing n***ers to a group loitering in front of her home causing them to disperse, and seeing no problems in saying such words.
Let me start by saying this. It is never acceptable for White people to say the N word in public…Now let me be fair and real, there are a few exceptions to that rule, but those exceptions are granted on a very… very limited basis and when in doubt, which should be every second of every day, no White person should ever say the word in a public format or setting. By public I mean any place outside the sanctity of your home, when there is no one else around and no phone, camera, recording device or the Internet is involved and available. You have a pass under those circumstances.
Now I get that Bill Maher is an avowed liberal, and has been known to date Black women. I get that he is a comedian, and the lines we allow for comedians are always a little more forgiving but in general they know to stay away from using the word. Case in point, the comedian, Gary Owen. He is a White comedian from Cincinnati. He has been married to a Black woman for 14 years and has three bi-racial children. He has made his living almost exclusively on the Urban Comedy circuit, with the overwhelming support coming from working and touring within the Black Community. If anyone might have a pass to use the N-word, it might be Gary, yet he steadfastly refuses to use it as part of his routine.
Richard Pryor… Eddie Murphy… Dave Chapelle… every comic ever on Def Comedy Jam…and Hip Hop in general… use the N-word for effect, entertainment and added emphasis. Blacks have taken ownership of the word and while it is up for debate how our use of the word in such public settings and formats effects the comfortability in which others feel that the word can be used, it is not debatable that the word has a long and storied history of hate in America.
Let me clarify… if you are not a Person Of Color (POC) you cannot use the word without nearly express written permission from the Black Community. Who gives this express written permission? That is unclear and convoluted and even more of a reason to refrain from using the word if you are not Black. It is an ugly word. One derived from years of hatred and social injustices. In part the Black community has taken ownership of the word. It is said by us to defuse the harshness of its ugly intent. But, do not confuse our use of the word to any acquiescence by others to use the word, regardless of your perceived intent.
While it is never okay for anyone other than Blacks to use the N-word, when it comes to the severity of our disdain for the offenders, intent always matters. Racists and conservatives would like to look at the lack of outrage at Bill Maher’s use and point to some type of hypocrisy and double standards… guilty as charged. He has not been given a pass, despite his liberalism, but his offense is weighed on a scale of its intent. A liberal comedian, with a history of at least appearing empathic to the plight of the Black Community, will be given a pass. We are not happy about his use of the word, but our offense is less than what it may be for others who are clearly using the word in a racist or derogatory way.
Is this complicated? Not really. If you are White do not say the word. Is it fair since Blacks and Quentin Tarantino use it so freely in entertainment and music?… We do not really care whether it is fair or not… you do not get to say it… An oppressing offender does not get to show indignation or any confusion at not being able to offend us any longer. If we say the word is offensive coming from you, no matter how many times we say it or sing it, it is our right and choice to use, irrespective of how seemingly contradictory that may be.
I was recently asked by a Caucasian friend if I ever say the N-word. My reply was that I say it 100 times in the morning when I wake up before I brush my teeth… cause it makes my teeth whiter. The joke is stolen from Paul Mooney, but the point is I use the word, albeit never publicly in the presence of anyone other than Blacks that I know culturally accept the use of the word in such circumstances. I know it can be confusing to others when they hear the word used so freely. I know the history of the word and its ugly and hateful connotation. I will not contribute to anyone else ever thinking it is okay to say because I do. However, irrespective of others being more free in their use of the word, I reiterate there really is no confusion. If you are not Black or a POC who has grown up in a diverse community and you’re intent in using the word is free of all hate and ill-intent, then you are to never say the word.
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