At this point, I’m ashamed to say that I used to really like Bill Maher. Maybe I was drawn to him because I went through a militant atheist phase in my 20s. Maybe it’s because I just really love panel discussions so much that, for years, I always tuned into HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher.
But over the years, my views on Maher have changed dramatically. That isn’t to say that he’s changed, but more so, that I’ve gravitated further towards the now-thoroughly gentrified term known as “wokeness” as I’ve gotten older, and because of that, Maher has long revealed himself to me as the blatantly Islamophobic old fogey curmudgeon that he is, which is why it doesn’t surprise me that he would use his platform to be just another white man whitesplaining racism and racial progress to Black people.
On Friday, the HBO late show host—and white moderate type who Martin Luther King warned us about—used the “New Rules” segment of his show to wag his fingers at young progressives for a thing he and some other fragile white man named Steven Pinker call “progress-o-phobia.”
“That’s the phrase coined by Steven Pinker to describe a brain disorder that strikes liberals and makes them incapable of recognizing progress,” Maher said. “It’s like situational blindness, only what you can’t see is that your dorm in 2021 is better than the South before the Civil War.”
Maher then launched into a diatribe about how the LGBTQ community should stop whining so much about oppression and just be happy that corporations are now decorating their products and ads in rainbow flag theme—because, as we all know, that’s an indication of true progress and not just the act of corporations capitalizing on a movement for profit now that the fight has changed things enough that it’s socially acceptable for said corporations to outwardly show “support.”
Then Maher moved on to comments made by Kevin Hart in a recent interview with the New York Times.
“My voice has to be used correctly. We’re talking about a 400-year problem,” Hart told the Times. “You’re talking about something that doesn’t want to go away, and people keep treating it as if it’s nonexistent. I don’t understand why everybody is so afraid to address the elephant in the room. It’s shocking to me. You’re witnessing white power and white privilege at an all-time high.”
So, how did Maher respond? Well, obviously, he acknowledged that Hart is a Black man who has lived as a Black person in America his entire life and thus has experienced far closer proximity to American racism than Maher’s own white male ass, which means Hart should be given a little latitude to be hyperbolic in expressing his feelings about white supremacy, especially since he’s just making off the cuff comments to an interviewer and is not reading from a prepared script like Maher does when reading “New Rules.”
Nah, I’m bullshittin’—Maher started whitesplaining because, interestingly enough, his white fragility is possibly at an all-time high.
“This is one of the big problems with wokeness, that what you say doesn’t have to make sense or chime with the facts or ever be challenged, lest the challenge itself be conflated with racism,” he said. “But saying white power and privilege is at an all-time high is just ridiculous. Higher than a century ago, the year of the Tulsa Race Massacre? Higher than the years when the KKK rode unchecked, and the KKK went unchallenged? Higher than the 1960s when the Supremes and The Willie Mays still couldn’t stay in the same hotel as the white people they were working with? Higher than during slavery?”
I just...I don’t understand what makes white people feel the need to do this. Maher is following the same non-logic that causes white people to reflexively respond to the statement “Black lives matter” with “all lives matter,” because their fragility makes it so they need it specifically stated that all human life, including that of the color redacted, fits under the symbolic umbrella held over the symbolic heads of all that “matters.”
Anyway, Hart responded by taking to Twitter to tell Maher to SIT HIS WHITE ASS DOWN and that THIS ISN’T ABOUT HIS WHITE-ASS FEELINGS!
Listen: Hart has his own history of making loud and wrong arguments, but this wasn’t one of them. Could one argue that, in this instance, Hart’s use of the commonly used “all-time high” descriptor was a bit dramatic? Sure, if you want to be wilfully dense about things and ignore the fact that the descriptor is often used hyperbolically by literally every-fucking-body who uses it. But why, when a Black person is speaking on racism, do white people need to hear that things are better than when we were legally owned as property?
What about all the things that haven’t changed? Right now, white conservatives in power are writing, proposing and passing legislation that bans Critical Race Theory and historic racism in general from being taught in schools, while not demonstrating that they know anything about what CRT is. All they know is that white feelings will be hurt and, therefore, no one should be able to learn it. White people’s fight against anti-racism narratives is nothing new. White people are using the exact same tactics of removing an issue from its proper context and forming their own fire-and-brimstone narrative around it that they have always used in standing against every civil rights movement in the history of ever-dom. It’s easily arguable that, at least in Hart’s 41-year-old lifetime, we are indeed “witnessing white power and white privilege at an all-time high.”
It’s worth mentioning that this isn’t Maher’s first let’s-tell-the-coloreds-how-to-respond-to-racism rodeo.
For example, in 2017, major League Baseball player Yuli Gurriel mocked fellow player Yu Darvish by using his fingers to slant his eyes while mouthing the word “chinito,” Spanish for “Chinese boy.”
Maher read Darvish’s statement on his show: “It’s not like I was that irritated by it. He did something he shouldn’t have done. But I wasn’t angry at all. I was told that next day he wanted to speak to me and I communicated to him that it was completely unnecessary.”
So, because Darvish seemingly didn’t give a shit about the blatant display of bigotry, Maher, in all of his straight white man wisdom, said that since the target of the racism wasn’t offended, nobody should be.
“But let’s go after Trump, not this guy,” Maher said, because obviously in 2017 no one was publicly criticizing the universally beloved President Donald Trump.
Maher, being the obvious arbiter of how racism should be punished, insisted that since Gurriel “got to go to sensitivity training,” he’s been punished enough and that people should just “let it go.”
He also took it upon himself to make it a “new rule” that “you can’t be madder than the victim,” which is a response that only shows just how white Maher is.
If I’m walking down the street and I happen to overhear a white person calling a Black person a nigger, and said Black person, for whatever reason, is not offended by the slur, I’m still trying to beat that white person’s ass because as far as I’m concerned, they called me a nigger too.
Maher wasn’t thinking about Asian kids who are MLB fans who might have been wondering what is wrong with their eyes after watching Gurriel turn their faces into an insult because his white ass wouldn’t know anything about that having spent his life in a country where whiteness is currently and has historically been the default for social and cultural normalcy.
America hasn’t changed as much as Maher and his ilk would have us believe. Sure, white supremacy has become a thing white people have to advocate for more strategically and not as explicitly, but even that has only become the case because of the progressives who refused to take their feet off America’s neck when it comes to calling out its oppressive ways, and our refusal to be polite and tempered in the say we speak on it.
And if Maher—the guy who is such a racism response expert that he needed Ice Cube to explain to him that referring to himself as a “house nigger” was racist—wasn’t always so busy whitesplaining and tone-policing those voices, his straight white male-ass might see that.