Bigotry is bigotry.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wayne_Brady_APLA.jpg

Wayne Brady at the AIDS Project Los Angeles’ annual AIDS Walk in 2006.

I like Wayne Brady a lot. I’ve liked him a lot since the first moment I saw him on Whose Line is it Anyway? (and am so happy he’ll be joining the show’s new incarnation this summer), and have continued to like him a lot in dramatic roles (the much-lamented Kevin Hill comes to mind), in self-effacing roles (thank you, Dave Chapelle) — hell, I even like the man in commercials. Between the singing, the dancing, the acting, and the comedy, he is a phenomenal talent and I will never understand why he isn’t more of a household name. Get on that America!

Ok, I think I understand part of why Brady isn’t more of a household name.

a) He’s a minority entertainer and (as a long list of minority entertainers can attest) while it’s hard for anyone to follow their passion, it’s even harder for people of color in the entertainment business, and b) he’s a black man who doesn’t present as angry or threatening or magical, and Hollywood just doesn’t know what to do with black men who don’t present as angry or threatening or magical.

Which is, in turn, why he’s often the butt of people’s utterly unimaginative jokes about non-threatening black men. Bill Maher, for instance, often uses the name “Wayne Brady” as a kind of shorthand for “black man who doesn’t fit the stereotype that I like to employ when talking about Real Black Men.”

Bill Maher, on the other hand, is a bona fide bigot, and of the worst kind — the self-satisfied, ostensibly liberal kind. The kind that thinks its ok to be a misogynist, or an Islamophobe, or to make sweeping and destructive statements about what Real Black Men are like, statements that traffic in the dehumanization of whole segments of society, because it’s just a joke. Or because any right-thinking liberal would hate Muslims, because, ewww Muslims, mirite? Because he’s high on his own fumes, basically.

So, to sum up: I really like Wayne Brady, and I really dislike Bill Maher.

Thus, when I saw that Wayne Brady was publicly responding to Maher’s bigotry, I was initially thrilled, because come on now. It’s enough already! Bill Maher is an uber-wealthy, influential, straight white dude happily ensconced in America’s entertainment elite — making jokes at the expense of anyone who is not in (roughly) the same position is ugly and lazy. Speak truth to power, Bill, I know you can! But stop using people as props in your apparently endless display of smug self-regard. Please.

And then.

Then I watched the interview Brady gave to Marc Lamont Hill on HuffPost Live, and here’s the thing. I’m with him — I’m so totally with him! — except for one thing. See if you can spot it:

When [Maher] starts to drag me in to use me as the cultural lynch-pin in his “[Barack Obama’s] not black enough” argument, that’s bullshit. Because a) Bill Maher has never walked in my shoes, nor in any black man’s shoes… Just because you’ve been with a black woman or two, and I’ve seen some of them, it’s questionable if they were women, just because you’ve done that…now you lived the black experience? Oh, now you’re down? No.

Dude, come on!

I do not know the black experience, male or female. But I know bigotry when I see it, and gay/trans*-bashing in the course of telling someone to drop their racist bullshit is just not ok. Not ok! Not even remotely, a teeny-tiny bit, ok.

I don’t get handed a get-out-of-jail-free card if I say something racist because I’m a woman and I’ve lived with misogyny; gay folks don’t get handed get-out-of-jail-free cards if they launch into a step-and-fetch-it act. And black comedians are no more handed get-out-of-jail-free cards for homo- and/or transphobic jokes than anyone else (not to mention the misogyny inherent in the quip. It was a very, very full quip).

Mr. Brady — you’re incredibly talented. Overwhelmingly talented. Gobsmackingly talented. Moreover, you’re absolutely right about Bill Maher, I know you’re on the side of the angels when it comes to LGBTQ rights, and I suspect you’re on the side of the angels when it comes to women’s rights.

But it is lazy, unkind, and bigoted to prop your laughs on sweeping and destructive cultural attitudes about Real Women, attitudes that trade in the dehumanization of LGBTQ people and What Real Women Should Look Like and Who Real Men Date. So please — stop. And if you have a moment, you might even apologize. Because aside from anything else, and not to put too fine a point on it, but stuff like that feeds into an atmosphere that literally gets people killed.

7 Comments

  1. Buster Brown

     /  May 14, 2013

    He bashing LGBTQ … he was bashing bill Maher’s Sanctimonious “I’m cool, I’m white, I’m rich, I’m famous, and black chicks love me” heterodoxy …

  2. This was a fabulous post. Thanks!

  3. leonsp89

     /  May 16, 2013

    This was awesome.. Great insight! I agree:
    http://greatthinkingmd.wordpress.com/2013/05/16/wayne-brady/

  4. JW

     /  May 16, 2013

    Emily,

    Your commentary on the Brady/Maher debacle, while seemingly well intentioned, leaves out the very people Brady set out to insult, degrade and disparage with his remarks: Black women.

    How you removed us completely out of the equation is illogical, ludicrous, maddening and a bit of an homage to white privilege, when his comments were, very clearly and painfully, about BLACK WOMEN!

    Black women are increasingly public enemy number one, according to ALL sides; whether Black, white, male or female.

    We are invisible in the cultural landscape unless we are being used as the scapegoat or punching bag for myriad issues. ( I could spend half the day enumerating articles, studies, essays, blog entries and news pieces to support my claim. However, since I value my happiness on this sunny day, I’ll leave that to you and Google, in case you’re not aware of what I’m talking about.)

    As you can see, Wayne Brady thought it appropriate to disparage innocent Black women – who had absolutely nothing to do with his beef with Maher – in an attempt to “confront” Maher.

    In what world is that appropriate? A world that does not respect, value, honor, cherish or love Black women. That’s where. Where is the outrage for us? Where is our spokesperson? Marc Lamont Hill, a Black man borne of a Black woman, didn’t even bat a lash upon hearing Brady’s slanderous and derogatory remarks. Sheesh!

    What does the appearance of the Black women Maher chooses to date, have to do with Maher’s comments about Brady? Would it be appropriate to make rude comments about Brady’s mother? Or what about rude comments Brady’s daughter appearance? Is that allowed?

    Bottom line: Maher’s girlfriends are someone’s daughters, too!

    Brady is a Black man who has been known to almost exclusively date non-Black women. I bring that up because, for some Black women, this is a point of contention. So, not only do you not date us, but use any PUBLIC opportunity you can find to disrespect us. Really? Insult to injury much?

    The disrespect for Black women doesn’t stop. And, sadly, it’s at the hands of Black men, more and more these days.

    Wayne Brady is a COWARD.

    Those of you applauding and heralding his efforts to “stand up for himself” are 100% delusional; disrespecting Black women, contrary to popular belief, does not make one a hero, or brave, or courageous! It’s disgusting that so many think what he said was good.

    Just goes to show you how hated Black women truly are. I am sick and tired of it and I’m not standing for it, anymore.

    -JW, A Black Woman

    • This is an element to the story that I have no experience with, and I’m very grateful that you commented. It’s been my experience that women of all colors face a lot of push-back on what “Real Women” should/should not look like, but I can certainly understand that there is a particular tension between black men and black women on the topic.

      I’m going to leave my reply at that, simply because I have a lot more to learn before I can talk about this, but again: Thank you for leaving your comment.

  5. Dani

     /  June 24, 2013

    Yes I do not like Wayne Brady as a black woman because of the negative remarks I have heard him make towards black women. Including a talk on black culture that he moderated when people asked questions for celebrities to answer. My family almost didn’t watch it simply because he was the moderator, but we decided to anyways because of the other guests. At one point a question was asked about dating outside your race and one of the comedians said something to the effect of, I would never date a black woman I prefer white women. At which point Wayne Brady jumps out of his seat pumping his fist in the air screaming, “That’s what I’m talking about, yeah!” And goes to give the comedian a high five. The comedian just looked at him and said, “I’m just joking man, I have a black wife.” I have nothing against interracial dating (I was 21 before I dated my first black man), I do however have problems with degrading people. Especially when he’s the first to sit up and whine about being treated unfairly because of who he is. Hypocrite.

  1. Wayne Brady? | This Great Horrible Journey Called...