Comedian Bill Maher’s use of the term “house n—” to describe himself on his show, Real Time, has attracted both criticism and outrage. The etymology of the term, “house nig—” traces back to Black Muslim political thinker, Malcolm X, who coined the term to describe Blacks who were invested in the reformist liberal politics of the civil rights movement. They resembled the slaves in the master’s house who loved their fake privileges and nearness to the slave master and his children more than they loved real freedom.
Maher’s statement is based upon a complete misunderstanding of Malcolm X’s entire political philosophy. It’s the theft of a term used to explain a Black condition that he wants to reappropriate to his white privilege. If Bill Maher wants to return to and appropriate the terms of the old testament Nation of Islam Malcolm X, the more accurate term Malcolm X would have used to describe Maher would not be “house n—” but “ blue eyed devil.”
What should elicit more outrage than Maher’s rhetorical usage of the N-Word is the entire history of the complicity of Maher’s liberalism in anti-Black violence. Understand, Bill Maher’s racism is not a deviation from the liberal principles he extols so much, but a further manifestation of those principles. Whether Maher uses the N-word or not, the problem is his entire political worldview of liberalism that essentially “ni–erizes” Black people and justifies their continued oppression and death..
Black Islam, through the legacy of Malcolm X, is inherently antithetical to the confining of the Black freedom struggle within the confines of liberalism. Yet, as an antidote to what Bill Maher sees as the moral backwardness of the Islamic world, Maher has continuously advocated that “liberals need to stand up for liberal principles.” The problem? Black people have no reason to believe that liberals standing up for liberal principles does not equal them still continuously supporting a system of white supremacy.
The very foundational philosopher of liberal principles, John Locke, invested in the Royal African Company and fully supported the Transatlantic Slave Trade that resulted in the deaths of millions of innocent Africans. These parasitic companies would also earn profits by throwing sick, enslaved Africans on slave ships overboard to be eaten by sharks and alligators. They would subsequently, collect insurance money off their deaths. In fact, in Race and Racism in Modern Philosophy, Dr. Andre Valls explains that John Locke believed that white slave masters had the right to kill enslaved Africans with impunity.
In his critique of Muslims, Bill Maher asserts that liberals need to defend liberal principles such as “equality for minorities.” Mr. Maher, why are the original inhabitants of the United States, the Native Americans, a minority within their own land? Further, why are Black descendants of slaves, a minority on land they were forcibly taken to, and why are white people a majority? Is this just about numbers on a census?
The reality is, it is due to liberal political thinkers such as Thomas Jefferson, who proclaimed Native-Americans should be hunted down and killed until they no longer, “remained on the face of the Earth” and liberal political thinkers such as John Locke who fully supported the Transatlantic Slave Trade.
According to political scientist, Dr. Charles Mills, defacto white supremacy also functions based upon , “the pretense that formal, juridical equality is sufficient to remedy inequities created on a foundation of several hundred years of racial privilege.” This is Maher’s exact assumption which makes his liberal reformist political discourse complicit in upholding a system of defacto white supremacy.
Far from denouncing the complicity of liberalism in anti-Black violence, Maher laughs when liberal principles lead to Black suffering. In an interview, Bill Maher asked Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, “You were not raised in the Islamic religion. You were raised Catholic; I didn’t even know you went to prison.” This “joke” to Congressman Ellison plays upon a common social myth that many African-American Muslims converted while incarcerated.
According to sociologist Loic Wacquant in Deadly Symbiosis: When Ghetto and Prison Meet, the mass incarceration of Black males is a product of them having no place within the liberalism of white American society. Consequently, the prison system functions as a warehouse and a new peculiar institution in Wacquant’s analysis for Blacks who serve no economic utility. In other words, the high rates of Black unemployment are intentional.
Liberalism has created an unjust social arrangement that has no place for Black people and mass incarceration of Black men exists, according to Wacquant because society needs, “a human warehouse wherein are discarded those segments of urban society deemed disreputable, derelict, and dangerous.”
Bill Maher giggles as though the systemic mass incarceration of Blacks is simply a laughing matter to be taken lightly when it emanates from the very liberal values that Maher glorifies.
While Congressman Ellison is forced on the defensive, asked asinine questions about Islam, Bill Maher is never forced to answer the complicity of liberalism to anti-Black terrorism. To Maher, Black suffering is simply a laughing matter..
It aint funny:
In response to the ensuing outrage about him using the N-word, Maher issued an apology stating that, “The word was offensive and I regret saying it and am very sorry.”
The reality is: even if he never uses the N-Word ever again, Maher will continue to take political stances which present no credible threat to the system of white supremacy. Bill Maher is not funny. In fact, he’s not funny, neither is Stephen Colbert, nor Jon Stewart. Even Trevor Noah, who represents this genre of liberal reformist political comedians in a Black face, is not funny. None of them speak to the pain and suffering of Black people.
These liberal reformist comedians can do satires on the latest incompetent action of President Donald J. Trump but they have no structured critique of how the executive branch of the government will make anyone who occupies it complicit in upholding a system of defacto white supremacy.
What should outrage us more than Maher’s usage of the N-Word is his entire liberal political philosophy which is firmly committed to supporting white supremacy. The first step is: stop laughing at Bill Maher and others like him; they are not funny.