SAN DIEGO – Dear white America, have you ever wondered what people of color think of you?
By “people of color,” I mean those of us non-white Americans who used to be called “minorities.” But that was before we started to become a plurality, and eventually a majority, of the U.S. population.
Many Latinos, African-Americans, Asians and Arab-Americans think that, at least politically, you’re all the same. There are just not as many moral, ideological and intellectual differences as one might think.
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For instance, liberals like to tell themselves that they’re more racially enlightened than conservatives. But that’s not always true.
Now, after a dumb and offensive comment by left-leaning comedian Bill Maher, Americans have the chance to examine a species that the media often overlook: the liberal racist.
As the host of HBO’s “Real Time,” Maher has developed a knack for saying the wrong thing. Sometimes, he’ll just make an outlandish statement – as if only to get attention – without backing it up with evidence.
In 2014, while arguing with actor Ben Affleck and author Sam Harris, Maher called Islam “the only religion that acts like the mafia” because it will “ [expletive] kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book.”
A year later, during an appearance on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” he insisted that “hundreds of millions” of Muslims support terrorist attacks.
Maher probably thinks he’s bravely spitting in the eye of political correctness. But, in reality, he is just flaunting his prejudices.
So it wasn’t a total shock when the host recently crossed one of those lines that should not be crossed. It happened when Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who was on the show to promote a book, playfully invited Maher to “come work in the fields with us” in the Cornhusker State.
“Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house n––-,” the comedian replied.
Sasse chuckled nervously at the mention of the N-word, while the audience broke out into applause and laughter.
You know who didn’t laugh? Someone who knows something about the intersection of politics and comedy – Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota. Franken canceled an upcoming appearance on “Real Time” during which the former cast member of “Saturday Night Live” was scheduled to talk about his own new book. According to a spokesperson, “Senator Franken believes that what Bill Maher said was inappropriate and offensive.”
Certainly, it was both those things.
HBO issued a statement calling the remark “completely inexcusable and tasteless,” and it removed the slur from subsequent airings of the show.
Maher issued a statement of his own, blaming the whole episode on sleep deprivation.
“Friday nights are always my worst night of sleep because I’m up reflecting on the things I should or shouldn’t have said on my live show,” the statement read. “Last night was a particularly long night as I regret the word I used in the banter of a live moment. The word was offensive and I regret saying it and am very sorry.”
For now, Maher’s job appears safe. After all, he may be racist or Islamophobic – and plenty of people believe him to be both. But at least he doesn’t possess the one flaw that Hollywood considers unforgivable. As an enthusiastic basher of President Trump, he’s not conservative. In the entertainment industry, as long as you lean left, you can fall over now and then – and still be picked up off the floor and given another chance.
But this isn’t just about one comedian and one repugnant word. It’s about the extreme latitude that those on the left are given on matters having to do with race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation and other characteristics.
Once we assume that someone has good intentions, we often let them get away with saying and doing bad things. And, human nature being what it is, people often take full advantage of the “pass” they’ve been given.
Well, I’m all out of passes. HBO needs to fire Maher. He is never going to change. Getting rid of him is the right thing to do. And it would send the message that, even in comedy, decency counts for a lot, and some things are no laughing matter.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.