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OpEd: Dear Bill Maher, You Dropped the N-Word. I'm Breaking Up With You.

Dear Bill Maher, why did you think it was OK to use the n-word? After approaching the line time and time again, you went too far and said… the word.
Image: Real Time with Bill Maher
Real Time with Bill Maher.Janet Van Ham / HBO

I have to admit that I watch you, maybe even Religulous-ly.

I was the only kid I knew sneaking to watch “Politically Incorrect,” the only college student trying to figure out how to get HBO in my dorm to catch “Real Time.”

I’ve attended tapings, used my press pass and connections to mix, mingle, AND eat backstage — you get it, I’ve been a big fan for a long, long time.

But then Friday night, after already approaching the line time and time again, you went too far and said… the word.

Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse semi-sarcastically invited you to visit his state, to do some organizing “out in the field.” Your face contorted at the idea. “Work in the fields?” you replied. Then in an attempt at a genteel southern accent, “Senator, I’m a house nigga.”

Sasse nervously (?) laughed, seemingly not knowing what to say there. The audience had mixed feelings, you looked at the audience with the classic “really?” look you have when your audience isn’t fully with you and you moved right along.

So Bill, I’ll be direct. Calling yourself “a house nigga” ain’t funny. It ain’t provocative. It ain’t aight. I don’t know who let’s you drop a “nigga” here and a “nigga” there in casual conversation, or more-so who has maybe let it slide for too long, but we ain’t here for it.

(The video in the tweet below includes the uncensored exchange.)

If you’re going to drop that on live television, I can’t help but think about what else you’re comfortable saying in the comforts of your own home, off-screen, famously high, talking to friends.

I want to make one thing clear, this breakup isn’t based on that comment alone, but is the result of a cumulative, progressive (lowercase “P”) discomfort with the things I would allow a pass for.

This breakup is because I feel like you’ve become someone I can’t continue to defend, no matter how long I rode for you.

What you call being “politically incorrect” is really more about having a pass to say things you ain’t got business saying.

While it wasn’t the first time I’d disagreed with you, things started to get awkward for me around the time you started making fun of Caitlyn Jenner.

Related: #EbonyOwes: Why I Stopped Buying Ebony Magazine

We can debate all day long about Caitlyn, how problematic her politics are, whiteness, privilege, etc. No matter what you or I think about her, I won’t ever speak of her as “him,” I don’t need to discuss or make fun of her genitalia, and I’m not ever referring to her as “Bruce.”

It’s not because I’m tip-toeing around to be politically correct, it’s because I have respect for transgender people, and an acknowledgement of my privilege that says to me “you don’t know what that feels like, so extend some compassion.”

And then there are your less-than-popular positions Islam and Muslim people.

You’ve been downright divisive, suggesting that extremism isn’t as much extremist or on the margins, but that the most controversial beliefs of some within the faith are ubiquitous and indicative of how all Muslims think.

You weren’t just being politically incorrect, you were just wrong. There are some things in the Islamic faith that I don’t agree with and there’s more that I simply don’t understand in large part because I’m not Muslim. But to call the whole faith hateful, or to agree that Islam is just “the motherlode of bad ideas” doesn’t serve progress.

Now when it comes to the words “nigger” and “nigga,” I don’t tend to use the phrase “the n-word” much, because I think it’s silly and diminutive. At no point does someone hear “the n-word” and not hear in their mind “nigger.”

I use it in some settings and sometimes on social media, but I feel like I have to and I hate it. But every time I hear a white person ask whether or not they can say the word, my response has been the same for years: “You can say whatever you want to… but there are consequences.”

(I also pause, wonder, and sometimes ask “And why do you want to say it so badly,” a question that never actually gets a reasonable answer.)

There’s not a grown white person out there that doesn’t know what they’re doing when they say the word. There are plenty of people who (rightly) say that if you were to drop “nigga” in conversation, you could expect to catch these hands.

You don’t know what it’s like to have to be representative of an entire community everywhere you go because you’re Black. Or trans. Or Muslim.

Two years ago your closing “Real Time” editorial, titled “New Rule — Learn How to Take a Joke” took on society’s hyper-sensitivity that comedians have been complaining about in recent years. And I get it. We are hyper-sensitive right now — but there’s a reason for it.

Many of us — “us” being marginalized and minority communities — feel under attack, and hyper-sensitivity is a side-effect. You don’t know what it’s like to see people who look like you cut-down by police week after week with little-to-no consequence and for the government to be lead by people who don’t even see your life as valuable.

You don’t know, and nor do I, what it’s like to be a trans-woman having to make a difficult, incredibly personal decision about your body, your gender, how you present and whether or not to come out.

You, nor I, know what it’s like to have to give up your whole life for the dream of coming to this country, to hopefully get here, make a life for your family and struggle, and then hear the President of the United States say that you must be a rapist, or drug-dealer, or otherwise a criminal because you came from a country from which he didn’t import a wife.

You don’t know what it’s like to be a person of faith and your whole religion to be under attack for the actions of a few that horrified you as much as it did anyone else. And then to be painted with that brush, to be chased down, attacked, berated and belittled on the streets of the city you live in on election night because people can tell you're Muslim simply because of your attire.

You don’t know what it’s like to have to be representative of an entire community everywhere you go because you’re Black. Or trans. Or Muslim. Or an immigrant. Or female. And the list goes on.

So while you’ve made millions on your brand of being politically incorrect, and many of us have watched you, learned from you, laughed with you, and maybe taken issue from time to time with what you’ve said, it may behoove you to think about how much you’re starting to reflect the president you’ve been railing against.

And while you may think you’re not anything like him, from where I sit, you’re starting to look more and more the same. Rich white men who say reckless, divisive things that aren’t always founded on truth, but borne out of your own skewed view of the world

What you call being “politically incorrect” is really more about having a pass to say things you ain’t got business saying.

What you call political in/correctness many of us look as simply dis/respect.

New Rule: I don’t think I can watch you anymore.

Tuning out of Real Time in real time,

Jarrett Hill

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