On Friday’s episode of “Real Time,” Bill Maher used the “New Rules” segment to mock white people for “culturally appropriating” the Black Lives Matter movement. But he also asked activists to go just a little bit easier on white people who might be trying to join the movement but still have some more learning to do to get caught up.
‘New rule: black people have to demand that white people stop culturally appropriating how mad they are about racism. 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 began.
Maher joked that “Elvis taking little Richard’s act, that was bad enough,” and then he mentioned Victor Sengbe, a Black Oakland resident who hung ropes around his local park to serve as exercise aids, but ended up being condemned as racist by Oakland’s mayor, Libby Schaaf, because they resembled nooses.
“She said, ‘These incidents will be investigated as a hate crime.’ Why is this white woman seeing racism where a black man isn’t? The mayor also said, ‘intentions don’t matter.’ But they do matter,” Maher said before transitioning to his main point. “And 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.”
“A few weeks ago when everyone was posting a black square on Instagram, Buzzfeed wrote, ‘Influencers: It’s a privilege to post a black square and then go back to your usual content.’ As opposed to what, abandoning your life and just posting a black square every day?” Maher continued. “People got called out for not posting the square, then for just posting it without speaking out. And then for posting it and speaking out, but not voicing their support in the exact way that was said in the new decoder ring. They were helping wrong.”
For one example, Maher listed Ellen DeGeneres, who was accused of being “Vague” and tone deaf — particularly since she recently defended her friendship with former president George W. Bush — after she tweeted “People of color in this country have faced injustice for far too long.”
“Okay that may not be exactly ‘Black Lives Matter,’ but it’s also very true and pretty close to what we’re trying to get everyone to understand,” Maher said in her defense. “Liberalism should be about lifting people up, and you don’t do that by slapping down people who are trying to say, ‘I’m on your side.’ No wonder white people right now are acting like a nervous waiter on their first day. So scared of making a mistake they put a fork in your iced tea and a straw on your salad.”
“We don’t wanna chant the wrong chant, or hold the wrong sign. Hey, please, it’s all we can do to clap on the right beat. 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,” he said. “Hey, 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 talked about sportscaster Grant Napear, who was fired by the Sacramento Kings after tweeting “ALL LIVES MATTER” when asked by Golden State Warriors player DeMarcus Cousins for his thoughts on Black Lives Matter. “All Lives Matter,” especially when expressed in all caps, is widely understood to indicate criticism of BLM.
Maher has previously criticized “All Lives Matter,” saying in 2015 that it “implies that all lives are equally at risk, and they’re not.” But on Friday’s episode, he said he didn’t think that was the case with Napear. “What he said came from a place of ignorance not racism. That difference is important. Someone could have just explained to him why there’s a deservedly special reason we single out black lives for protection. But now, instead of a possible ally, we create a bitter unemployed person,” Maher said.
“Willow Smith, yes Willow Smith, said, ‘I’m seeing people shaming others… for what they are choosing to say or shaming people for not saying anything at all. I feel like if we really want change, shaming doesn’t lead to learning,” Maher continued. “She gets it. Surely people twice her age could make the effort. 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 towards a re-segregation 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. Let’s hang out. And if I fuck up tell me why, not goodbye. It’s a gradual years-long process. Like Trump descending a ramp. But things are better when the races get together,” Maher concluded.