All Articles All Articles

Sometimes asking for the impossible is the only realistic path. Banner

House Slaves and Field Slaves: the Bill Maher Remark

House Slaves and Field Slaves: the Bill Maher Remark

By Dennis Loo (6/4/17)

Bill Maher is catching hell for his use of the N word in interviewing Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse, with some calling for HBO to cancel his show.

Here is the exchange in question:

Maher: Adults dress up for Halloween. They don't do that in Nebraska?
Sasse: It's frowned upon. We don't do that quite as much.
Maher: I gotta get to Nebraska more.
Sasse You're welcome. We'd love to have you work in the fields with us.
Maher: Work in the fields? Senator, I'm a house n*****.

Some groaned and many laughed at Maher's joke. But some people are not amused. Maher apologized for using the N word the next day, but that didn't quiet the fury down much.

Before people get upset at Maher further, let me add this: racism in the form of speech depends on a) intent and b) context.

It is clear from the context of his remarks that Maher was joking and had no intent to harm. While you might fault Maher for the use of the N word here and a far better word would have been "slave," his edginess is why he IS a comic and why he has a show. His comments were not intended as or nor do they rise to the level of racism. The comparison of Maher to Ann Coulter, the latter a person whose career is based on knocking down those who are victims of the system and defending at all costs the Trumps of the world, is mistaken.

Here are the remarks that Malcolm X made on this point. As you can see, that Maher should describe himself as a "house" slave is actually appropriate and true. Maher meant to poke fun at himself. And he was actually making a profoundly true remark. As Malcolm X made clear, there WAS and IS a difference in attitudes between the "house slave" and the "field slave."

People need to take a chill pill about this. Otherwise, we banish certain terms from ever being used in context and with the correct intent. Then it is a matter of etiquette rather than getting to what people really think, do, and feel and dealing with that.



Add comment

We welcome and encourage discussion and debate. We find truth via contention.

Security code

Elaine Brower 2

Elaine Brower of World Can't Wait speaking at the NYC Stop the War on Iran rally 2/4/12