What's Bill Maher's Problem?

Let me just say that I like Bill Maher. I have been a fan of standup comedy since the 80s-- ever since Jim Sexton gave me a tape of "Eddie Murphy Comedian" back in 3rd grade. I was a fan of Maher's standup before he got "Politically Incorrect," which is the early iteration of what we now know as "Real Time with Bill Maher." I get his humor-- he's a smart-ass, he's sarcastic, and he has absolutely zero fucks to give when it comes to going after people. He's an equal opportunity offender, as they say-- he goes after everyone, white, Black, Asian, Hispanic, gay, straight, Liberal, Conservative...it's part of his schtick; mockery with a healthy balance of self-deprecation. When he's funny, he's funny. When he's not...well, we're all seeing what happens when he's not so funny.

People have had issues with some of Maher's jokes in the past, accusing him of being a bigot or a racist-- which I don't believe he is. One of his latest moments was when he said "house nigger," which triggered millions of people into hysteria. Now people are reacting to a tweet in which he made a slur against Asians and nail salons. Again, these are not unusual jokes for Maher to make. HOWEVER, I think that the difference between then and now is that now...most people don't find these jokes funny anymore. They are especially not funny coming from what is perceived to be a smug, ignorant white man.

Bill Maher's problem is that people of color are done with the bullshit. For CENTURIES in this country people of color have had to tolerate an assortment of ill-informed, disrespectful and outright ignorant commentary from white folks. For CENTURIES in America people of color have had to bite their tongues in the face of unwarranted and idiotic comments, at the VERY least. We've tolerated these things because there was a time in this country that IF we decided to defend ourselves, stick up for ourselves, proved our worth or our intelligence...we were lynched or otherwise killed. Google "lynching postcards" and you'll get the idea of how little regard whites had for Black folks. There is a LONG, LONG, LONG history in this country of white folks misbehaving-- to put it lightly-- in an expression of the white supremacy myth.

It doesn't matter how ironic Bill Maher is trying to be. It doesn't matter if he says these things with a wink-wink, and a "Hey, guys-- I'm with you! I hate whitey too!" None of those things matter. The fact is that the white supremacy myth is dead, and with it goes the mentality that this type of humor will be acceptable moving forward. This is a seismic shift from the way things used to be, and it's not a welcome change for some at all! When you hear people complain about how "Everyone is so politically correct!" or "Why can't I say whatever I want?" or "I'm sick of the precious little snowflakes!"...these are the people that feel their rights are being encroached upon because society rejects their mythical sensibilities. Asians don't want to hear white people telling Asian jokes. Black folks don't want to hear whites talking shit about them, either-- neither do Latinos or Middle Easterners. People of color have heard enough white supremacist fan fiction. Now, there's a new story to tell.

Sorry, Mr. Maher. I like you, but the majority of society has spoken-- you've overstepped your bounds. You had a great run-- there was a time when you could say anything you wanted to without the fear of repercussions or accountability. Whites are now being held accountable for their words and their behavior-- and there is an enormous legacy to draw on. So whether you "didn't mean it that way," or "don't want to offend anyone," or are just so frustrated because you don't know what to say anymore...well, you'll learn. Or don't. We're just as sick of talking about it as you are of hear it-- MORE SO, in fact. But we are sick of it.

If it's white supremacy or bust, so be it. Just be prepared to get busted.


Charles Conyers