Bill Maher Unfairly Labels Wayne Brady As Non-Threatening Black Man!
By David A. Love
Posted July 31st 2012
Bill Maher, exactly what have you started? If you haven’t heard, there’s a beef between comedians Wayne Brady and Bill Maher. Maher, the HBO late night show host, raised Brady’s ire when he repeatedly called President Obama “your Wayne Brady.”
Brady, obviously deciding he had enough, fought back. He said he would “gladly slap the sh*t out of Bill Maher in front of Coco and Ebony and Fox, the three ladies of the night he has hired,” a reference to Maher’s preference for black women.
“That means it’s a diss to Obama to be called me because he wants a brother brother,” Brady said. “Just because you f*ck black hookers, just because you had that particular black experience… I have to stop myself to getting into it because I realize the thing is if I had gone on his show, or even doing it online, I’m not going to win. Because as soon as you back off, he still has his platform to say whatever he wants to.”
Comedy aside, Maher has put his money where his mouth is when it comes to politics and supporting the nation’s first black president. He contributed $1 million to a pro-Obama super PAC in the hopes that other wealthy liberals would follow suit. Black celebrities should take the hint. Furthermore, on his talk show Real Time with Bill Maher, he has called out the Republican Party and the Tea Party for their racism, and criticized Obama for not acting forcefully enough on health care and other issues. And he has appropriately singled out black conservative politicians such as Allen West and Herman Cain, and has spoken out on the Trayvon Martin shooting.
But with that said, Maher, for all of his clever satirical skills, has rubbed black folks, and others, the wrong way from time to time with his racial stereotyping. For example, he once called Obama “President Sanford and Son,” and expressed disappointment that Obama isn’t a “real black president,” the kind that “lifts up his shirt so they can see the gun in his pants.” Maher also has been taken to task for his caricatured statements about the Arab-American community, including the comment that “women who have dated an Arab man, the results aren’t good.”
To be sure, making over-the-top statements is Bill Maher’s shtick. But sometimes it reminds you of the white guy with black friends who slips and says the “n-word,” much to the dismay of that white guy’s former black friends.
Meanwhile, Maher’s depiction of Wayne Brady as a “non-threatening black man,” or a white man’s black man, is dated, misplaced, and frankly unfair. On Chappelle’s Show, comedian Paul Mooney’s character “Negrodamus” once said that “white people love Wayne Brady because he makes…Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X.” But that was eight years ago, and since then Brady has long redeemed himself with his famed Funny or Die parodies, including the infamous Chappelle’s Show sketch “Dave’s Night Out With Wayne Brady.” Now, that was funny.
But on a serious note, the notion of black male stereotypes—both threatening and non-threatening— has had an impact on the lives and livelihoods of the black men they impact. Black actors such as Morgan Freeman and Cuba Gooding, Jr. receive criticism from the black community, and rightly so, for too often playing the role of the “Magical Negro” on the big screen — the black sidekick or supporting character with special powers who comes to the aid of the film’s white protagonist.
As Clutch magazine notes, gay black men have become the new mammies of reality television, the modern reincarnation of the sexually non-threatening black servant presented in the spirit of Gone With the Wind.
Non-threatening, clean-shaven, “babyface” black men reportedly earn more in corporate America than their more mature looking black counterparts. On the other hand, appearing to be a threatening black man could lead to that man’s death by police gunfire, or to wrongful imprisonment due to eyewitness misidentification. But I digress.
A number of black men have been unfairly associated with the “white man’s brother” label. For example, in the 1950s civil rights groups called Nat King Cole an Uncle Tom for performing before segregated audiences. But Cole fought segregation by suing segregated hotels. He became the first black man to star in a television variety show—which included white female guests, no less—and was physically attacked by white supremacists while performing at an integrated concert in Alabama.
Baseball legend Jackie Robinson was tarred as an Uncle Tom for testifying (under pressure) against Paul Robeson in the House Un-American Activities Committee, a witch hunt that targeted suspected Communists. Yet, in his autobiography, Robinson said “I cannot stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag. I know that I am a black man in a white world. I never had it made.”
Prizefighter Joe Frazier faced painful taunts from Muhammad Ali, who called his opponent an Uncle Tom, gorilla and “white people’s champion.” This, despite the fact that Frazier aided Ali financially, when Ali was unjustly banished from boxing for refusing to fight in Vietnam.
In the 1960s, critics attacked Sidney Poitier as an Uncle Tom and a “house n*gger” who coddled white racists in his films. However, it is difficult to imagine a more forceful black character than Virgil Tibbs in the film In The Heat of the Night — except maybe the real-life Sidney Poitier, who was chased by the Mississippi Klan while accompanying Harry Belafonte, as the two made a trip to support civil rights workers in the South.
In addition, Bryant Gumbel has received unfair and unwarranted treatment over the years, amid allegations that the broadcaster is an Oreo—black on the outside but white on the inside. Those critics have failed to listen to his commentary on racism in sports over the years. In 2006, Gumbel compared the Winter Olympics to the Republican Convention because of the lack of black athletes. Moreover, last year, he called NBA commissioner David Stern a “modern plantation overseer, treating NBA men as if they were his boys…. His moves are intended to do little more than show how he’s the one keeping the hired hands in their place.”
Lastly, Bill Cosby faced outrage from some segments of the African-American community when he showed tough love for disadvantaged, low-income black people. And to some he appeared out of touch, and may have even enabled white racists and in the process. But no one can question Cosby’s commitment to the black community, including the millions of dollars he has donated to HBCUs — $20 million to Spelman College alone.
So, Wayne Brady is not alone, as other black men have been unfairly labeled as the white man’s black man. And Bill Maher should leave him alone. Find someone else to pick on, like Clarence Thomas.
Follow David A. Love on Twitter at @davidalove