Monday, June 12, 2017

For Ice Cube … one respectful rejoinder:
The n-word belongs to America

WE GOT ONE of those proverbial Teachable Moments over the weekend, one that followed a moment, the week before, that was lamentable more than anything else. As it so often happens, television was the medium, race was the subject and the n-word — star of stage, screen and TV — was again in the center square, the catalyst for an American event.

Only this one hinged on questions we rarely ask ourselves: Who gets custody of the n-word? From whose mouth should that word never emerge?

Teachable moments are useless if you don’t learn something from them once they happen. And we’ve been here before and before and before. Even when we think we haven’t.

One of those moments, of course, happened on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher on June 2, during an exchange between host Bill Maher and Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse. ...

“I gotta get to Nebraska more,” Maher said.

“You’re welcome,” Sasse said. “We’d love to have you work in the fields with us.”

And Maher took the bait. “Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house nigger.”

◊ ◊ ◊

The blowback was more or less immediate. Twitter exploded with outrage, calling Maher everything and a child of God. HBO, Maher’s own network, castigated him for the slur. Variety critic Maureen Ryan called for his firing, as did Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson and activist Chance the Rapper. Minnesota Sen. Al Franken canceled a planned appearance on the program.

On MSNBC, the Rev. Al Sharpton embarked on a role as cultural archeologist, unearthing a video clip that, in showing Maher using the same word previously, tried to put the current matter into historical context.

It got so bad that wags in the entertainment trades speculated how or whether the outburst would scuttle Maher’s chances to win an Emmy.

Leave it to Ice Cube, the actor, writer, director and an icon in the rap game, to try to put things in some kinda perspective that didn’t involve prolonged bad blood on social media or Glocks at 30 paces. ...

Read the full piece at The Omnibus @Medium

Image credit: Bill Maher and Ice Cube: HBO.

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