Wayne Brady wants to slap the s**t out of Bill Maher; and I want to slap him too
by Dr. Boyce Watkins
Bill Maher drew the ire of comedian Wayne Brady recently by comparing President Obama to him in a less-than favorable way. Describing the aggressive, angry black man that he'd hoped President Obama might be, Maher restarted the white man's version of the "black enough" debate by stating that Obama is an inadequate black man because he is as kind and polite as Wayne Brady.
Not one to back down from Maher's comments, Brady struck back by saying that he'd gladly slap the sh*t out of Maher to prove that he's blacker than he thinks. This is not the first time Maher has made derogatory remarks in reference to his perception of what it means to be black. Last year after the BP Oil spill, Maher said that if Obama were a "real" black president, he would bring the BP execs in a room and lift up his shirt up so they could "see the gun in his pants." According to Maher, a real black President would then start shooting people in the foot.
A third time I noticed when Maher's HBO-protected white privilege showed itself is when he suggested that Professor Cornel West was out "making booty calls" on Friday nights. Professor West, being a man of class and dignity, simply responded that he's "just a brother trying to live a good, Christian life." I doubt that Maher would have made the same comment to white Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman. But of course, according to Maher, all "real black men" make booty calls on Friday nights with any woman with a working vagina.
This kind of condescending, paternalistic racism is the sort of thing that African Americans run into when we make strategic political alliances with liberal Democrats. In addition to dismissing the causes that matter to us and hijacking our psyches to accept uncomfortable liberal viewpoints, they then expect us to modify our behavior in order to fit odd fantasies about blackness. In many ways, they are the political version of the white girl in college who sleeps with black guys to see if the "rumors are really true." We can easily become novelties to them, like toys that you play with until you are bored and move onto something more interesting.
Here's a newsflash for Bill Maher: Wayne Brady is BLACK, VERY BLACK. In fact, he's as black as anything you'll ever see in your life. While you, my friend, may believe that Brady isn't black because he doesn't desire to be a "N*gga in Paris," most black people around the world are far more authentic than the dark-skinned hookers you meet with on your liquor and weed trips to Amsterdam. We work just as hard as your white friends, are just as educated, just as kind and just as productive as Barack Obama, Wayne Brady or any other man you somehow see to be a violation of the "Bill Maher Code of N*ggerlicious Conduct."
The bottom line is that we are not put on this planet for your entertainment or as a way for you to continue rebelling against your parents. You may gain cool points with white people for hanging with black folks, but most of us can see right through you.
I know Bill Maher very well. I've never met him, but I had friends like him as a kid. These were the guys who would tell you that you "weren't acting black" because you didn't smoke weed, or wanted to do your homework. They were the spoiled, thrill-seeking kids from the suburbs who would convince you to do something that would get you both arrested, but then call their rich fathers to bail them out while your black ass stayed in jail. Men like Maher don't give black men a chance to express the breadth of their humanity and become something better than the stereotype....they just want you to be negro playthings, like Richard Pryor's character in "The Toy."
I hope Wayne Brady doesn't show his blackness by slapping the sh*t out of Bill Maher. Instead, this is a chance to show him that black men with education and dignity don't behave that way. Part of the reason that I, along with Profs Marc Lamont Hill, Jawanza Kunjufu, Steve Perry and Ivory Tolson participated in the Janks Morton film "Hoodwinked" is that we are sick and tired of people defining black men to be violent, lazy, ignorant, weed smoking, gun toting, sexually irresponsible buffoons who exist solely for the white man's entertainment. We are claiming the space behind our own identity and refusing to let men like Maher hijack it in the name of helping us to "keep it real."
In order for Bill Maher to learn about black men, he's going to have to learn how to respect us first. I honestly don't see that ever happening, for the black men I roll with every day are not nearly as exciting as Maher's liberal suburban fantasy. Many of us are normal, hard-working, clean cut, law-abiding, educated and industrious citizens, including both Wayne Brady and President Barack Obama.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition.