During the “New Rule” segment of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher” on Friday, host Maher talked about white people “culturally appropriating” black people’s anger over racism.
“Black people have to demand that white people stop culturally appropriating how mad they are about racism,” Maher began. “It’s great that Caucasians have finally joined the fight for racial justice in unprecedented numbers, but hating racism the most? You can’t steal that.”
Maher then noted the story of Victor Sengbe, whose exercise rigging in a park was thought by some to be a noose.
The host then played a quote from Sengbe, who said: “Out of the dozens and hundreds and thousands of people that have walked by, no one has thought that it looked anywhere close to a noose.”
Maher took it from there, noting that despite Sengbe’s remarks, “Oakland’s Mayor Libby Schaaf wasn’t gonna let all that cheat her out of a chance to signal her virtue” because according to her, “these incidents will be investigated as a hate crime.”
He added that despite what Schaaf has said, intentions “do matter.”
“White people need to stop trying to cancel other white people whose heart is in the right place, but don’t get it exactly right on the first try,” he said.
The host then spoke about #BlackOutTuesday, when social media, particularly Instagram, was flooded with black squares to represent solidarity with the black community.
There was a complaint from Buzzfeed that it was “a privilege to post a black square and then go back to your usual content.” Maher countered, wondering if the appropriate alternative was “abandoning you life,” and only posting black squares forever.
Maher continued, calling out the ridiculousness of the way in which some people responded to #BlackOutTuesday – not posting a black square, or posting one, but failing to do it right, etc.
Even Ellen DeGeneres wasn’t invulnerable to criticism, according to Maher, as she deleted a tweet in which she didn’t use the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” but rather wrote that “people of color in this country have faced injustice for far too long.”
He also castigated the idea of smacking people away who are simply trying, saying that white people are “acting like a nervous waiter on their first day,” afraid to do the smallest thing incorrectly:
You want to be a good ally, but not too good or you’re being a “white savior,” use your voice, but don’t make it about yourself, but speak up unless it’s your time to just listen, and then silence is violence – even though sometimes silence just means someone works two jobs and has three kids. They have baby food on their shirt, not hate in their heart.
Maher then quoted a write-in question received by the New York Post in which a man said he feels as though he should say something “about racial injustice” at his organization, but is afraid because he’s a white person.
Maher later hit the nail on the head:
I worry that the kind of tension that the “Guardians of Gotcha” are creating is going to make people afraid to mingle at all, and thrust us back toward a resegregation of sorts where instead of just seeing a person and not a color, now we’re only seeing color. Maybe this is old school liberalism talking, but I don’t think that’s the way to go.
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