Friday saw Bill Maher return to HBO following the controversy that surrounded him due to his use of the n-word on last week’s Real Time. Maher used his return to poke fun at himself and apologize for his mistake, getting a few lessons from his guests in the process. While it was mostly business as usual for the host, most of the show had to focus on self-reflection and addressing what happened. Part of that is because of the media frenzy that followed the show last Friday, but also because it is part of an issue that has become more pronounced in recent years. While the word and its related thoughts haven’t gone away, many have felt emboldened in recent years.
Ice Cube addressed some of this while talking to Maher and confronting him for what he said last week. While it was definitely a friendlier discussion, Cube got frank with how Maher comes off at times on his show and why the use of that word is unacceptable — especially coming from someone who is white:
I accept your apology, but I think we need to get to the root of the psyche. Because I think it’s a lot of guys out there, who cross the line ‘cause they a little too familiar or they think they too familiar. Or its guys that y’know, might have a black girlfriend or two that made them some Kool-Aid every now and then. And they think they can cross the line…
That’s our word now and you can’t have it back.
As Cube explains, it’s a word that has been used as a weapon in the past, saying “It’s like a knife” and it can’t be allowed to be used like that again. It echoes a similar sentiment shared by Oprah Winfrey on the Real Time controversy, though without a full condemnation of the word. As she puts it, it’s the last word that many people heard before they were murdered or before they were hanged and it carries a weight that’s heavier than just being derogatory or just being a slur.
The overtime segment continues the discussion on race a bit by hitting on the idea of prison reform, but it also stands out for some more Ice Cube insight, this time on the current state of rap and hip hop. David Gregory of all people asks what the former NWA member thinks about rap today compared to the late ’80s and early ’90s, bringing up Future and Migos in the process. Cube calls this “escapism rap” and says that the media moved the focus away from the more political edge you’d see in hip hop from artists like Ice T, KRS One, and himself. He then points to acts like Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar keeping that alive somewhat today.
Either way, it’s a good detour away from the loftier issues that weighed down the rest of the show — and all the Trump jokes.