Bill Maher returned to a subject directly in his wheelhouse during his closing monologue in Friday night’s episode of Real Time: cancel culture during the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests.
“White people need to stop trying to cancel other people whose heart is in the right place but don’t get it exactly right on the first try,” Maher said.
Ridiculing recent incidents involving white shaming of other white people’s responses to the protests over racial injustice, Maher managed to avoid the phrase “political correctness.” But he reeled off a series of examples, which he derided for effectively telling people they were “helping wrong.”
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf opened a hate crime investigation over “nooses” found on trees in a city park even though the Black man, Victor Sengbe, who put up the rope loops said he did so as an exercise rigging. Maher also mentioned the backlash over the posting of black squares on Instagram in support of Black Lives Matter and a tweet by Ellen DeGeneres. The daytime talk host, Maher marveled, had to delete a tweet that read in part, “People of color have faced injustice for far too long” because it was seen as offensively cautious in tone.
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“I worry that the kind of tensions 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,” he said. “Maybe this is old-school liberalism talking, but I don’t think that’s the way to go.”
Maher said it seems to have the feel of an uncomfortable competition. “Hating racism the most?! You can’t steal that. Elvis taking Little Richard’s act – that was bad enough.”
Liberalism, Maher said, “should be about lifting people up instead of slapping people down who are trying to say, ‘I’m on your side.’”
He skewered the awkward push and pull that has become common in 2020. “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 means violence,” he said. “Even though ‘silence’ sometimes just means someone works two jobs and has three kids. They have baby food on their shirt, not hate in their heart.”
Maher acknowledged there are sometimes more clear-cut examples of someone making a serious misstep that deserves to be called out — but he argued that more leniency should be applied. Maher mentioned a sportscaster in Sacramento who was fired after tweeting “all lives matter,” though he claimed he did not understand the racist overtones of the phrase. “Instead of a possible ally, we create a bitter, unemployed person,” Maher lamented.
Willow Smith, Maher said, offered some of the most accurate assessment of these fraught times. She recently decried 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 said he is taking his usual summer break for the next four weeks, but said he would return July 31. Weekly new episodes, he said, will run through “the campaigns, the conventions, the elections, all the way through the end of the republic.”