Five Quick Thoughts On Bill Maher Going Peak Bill Maher (And A Quick Aside On White People And Nigga/Nigger)

HBO screenshot
HBO screenshot

This is haircut and hoop day for me, so this is going to be quick.

1. I was actually watching the show when it happened. I wasn't watchingwatching — which'll be clearer in #2 — but the TV was on, and it was on Real Time with Bill Maher.


2. I didn't actually hear him say it. (Neither did the Wife Person.) Maybe I was blowing my nose or googling bacon milkshakes or something, but I missed it and didn't find out about it until after the show when I saw his name was trending. At first, the Wife Person and I were incredulous. Not that we didn't believe he'd say that, but just that we'd both missed it live. But then we saw the clip, and it was confirmed. That nigga did say house nigga. (And yes, I just called Bill Maher a nigga. So far this morning, I've also called the following a nigga: The fly buzzing around my spare bedroom. A five dollar bill I forgot was still in a pair of sweatpants and discovered this morning. The sausage egg and cheese McMuffin I'm going to buy with that $5 when I'm done writing this. Melania Trump's side peen.)


3. Nigga and nigger are two separate words with two separate meanings and connotations, and White people — regardless of how "down" or woke" they want to be — aint allowed to say either. Sorry, y'all. (And by "Sorry, y'all" I mean "LOLOLOL not fucking sorry at all get the fuck out of here and go kick some gluten-free rocks.")

4. Maher's House Nigga actually sounded closer to "nigger" than "nigga." He doesn't quite say it with the hard R, but it's close enough. Not that it matters, because they can't say either. But as a veteran nigga user, I'm well-versed in nigga/nigger sounds — I have a nigga PhD, nigga — and Maher failed twice by A) saying it and B) not even saying it right.

5. It's apropos that he'd catch this heat — and possibly lose his show — for saying this word, as it provides a convenient intersection for two similar issues: White people vexed that they're not allowed to say this word, and privileged White people — privileged White men, specifically — lamenting on how political correctness and "outrage culture" has made us too sensitive. Both issues are issues because of (some) White people's unfamiliarity with the concept of "No." Where they're so used to being able to do and say what they want — believing they possess some sort of manifest destined dominion over literally everything — that saying "Yeah, you can't do this one thing" contradicts their personhood and their Whiteness. "What do you mean I can't do this one thing? I'm White! I can do everything! I thought the life-long "Do Everything" pass came with the membership package! I need to see a manager!"

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

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Mary Burrell

It's ingrained in their psyche I have a good friend who is white one very hot Summer day we were going to brunch and her a/c in her car was out, she let it slip out "I'm sweating like a ni**er." I was stunned and it stung I was quiet and she immediately started to cry and begged for me to forgive her. I just think this is in their psyches.