On Friday night, a week after Bill Maher came under fire for using the n-word on his show, Ice Cube gave the TV host a powerful explanation for why he crossed the line.
In an interview with Republican Sen. Ben Sasse last Friday, Maher jokingly called himself a "house nigger."
The comment sparked outrage, with many people calling for Maher to be fired. The host later apologized for the remark, saying he regretted using the "offensive" word which he said he "used in the banter of a live moment."
During Friday's show, Ice Cube pulled no punches in criticizing Maher, who has a long history of making racially insensitive comments.
“I love your show, you’ve got a great show,” said Ice Cube. “But you be bucking up against that line a little bit. You know, you’ve got a lot of black jokes.”
"Against racists," Maher said, defending himself and looking visibly uncomfortable.
"Sometimes you sound like a redneck trucker," responded Ice Cube.
Ice Cube asked Maher why he thought it was okay to say the n-word, to which Maher said there'd been "no thought put into it" but that "comedians, they react."
"It was wrong, and I apologized. More than that, I can't do," said Maher.
Ice Cube said he accepted the apology, but explained why Maher's use of the n-word was so reprehensible:
I still think you need to get to the root of the psyche because I think there’s a lot of guys out there who cross the line because they’re a little too familiar, or they think they’re too familiar. Or, it's guys that, you know, might have a black girlfriend or two that made them some Kool-Aid every now and then, and then they think they can cross the line. And they can’t. You know, it’s a word that has been used against us. It’s like a knife, man. You can use it as a weapon or you can use it as a tool. It’s when you use it as a weapon against us, by white people. And we’re not going to let that happen again by nobody because it’s not cool. Now, I know you heard, it’s in the lexicon and everybody’s talking, but that’s our word now. That's our word now, and you can’t have it back.
He followed up with an explanation on why he is okay with black people saying the word, but not white people:
It’s not cool because when I hear my homie say it, it don’t feel like venom. When I hear a white person say it, it feel like that knife stabbing you, even if they don’t mean it.
"I think this is a teachable moment, not just to you but to the people who are watching right now," said Ice Cube.
“I think the people who are watching right now are saying: that point has been made," Maher said, clearly aggravated.
“Not by me,” responded Ice Cube.
Symone Sanders, the former press secretary to Bernie Sanders, added that Maher's slur was particularly insulting to black women.
As a white person in America, you would’ve been the master, the slave owner... It was mostly black women who were enslaved in the house, who were raped, who were beaten daily, day in and day out. They endured physical and mental abuse. For a lot of people in America, that was like slap in the face to black America, particularly to black women.
People are praising Ice Cube for his schooling of Maher.
Sanders is also winning praise for her words.
Watch the full clip here:
Julia Reinstein is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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