Written by: King Pynn
With great publicity comes great accountability… or does it?
“I’m not a role model… Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”
Words directly from the mouth of NBA legend Charles Barkley, known for wreaking havoc not only on the court but also as a sports commentator. Does his words and sentiment apply to all situations where celebrities are forced to become role models for their fans, followers and supporters? Is being a celebrity just a status or is it also a standard? In current events a certain controversial comedian, whose first name rhymes with pill, has been put in the hot seat. No, I’m not talking about Bill Cosby, I’m talking about HBO Real Time host Bill Maher.
Not too long-ago Mr. Maher had Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska on his show to promote a book about raising American kids. While Senator Sasse and Bill playfully went back and forth about how conservative life was in Nebraska, Sasse extended an invite for Bill to come get a taste of Nebraska’s farm life. “We would love to have you work in the fields with us” said the Senator, to which Mr. Maher replied, “work in the fields………I’m a house N***a”.
Understandably Maher’s poor choice of words upset a lot of people and footage of the interview went viral all over the web. The liberal and down for the cause Bill Maher just used THE racial slur!!! Other celebrities and public figures weighed in on the subject but two stood out more than the others. Those two are the famous Dr. Michael Eric Dyson and rapper/actor/activist Killer Mike. When questioned by his fans and followers about the situation Killer Mike, who’s a friend and regular guest of Bill Maher, tweeted:
His posts started trending on twitter and many of his followers started accusing him of dancing around the issue. A similar situation happened with Dr. Dyson, who admitted that what Bill Maher said was wrong but he does not believe Maher is a racist. Yesterday June 9, 2017 Dr. Dyson appeared on Maher’s show alongside the rapping renaissance man Ice Cube and political commentator Symone Sanders. The three clarified the historic meanings and intentions of the N-word in black culture and American culture. They also told Bill how wrong he was for using the word and he was very apologetic.
For the record, I’m like Dr. Dyson and Cube, I don’t think Bill Maher is a racist but I do think he and people like him sometimes get too familiar and too comfortable. In Bill’s case, his comfort stemmed from his status as a politically active comedic celebrity. He thought his liberal world views and comedic flair would allow him to get away with his “joke”. This was also his defenders talking point, many of them insinuated that his political work and work for the black community gave him a pass. Meanwhile his critics felt that he was even more subject to criticism because of his work in politics and in the black community. He should have known better.
People like Bill Maher, Killer Mike, Dr. Dyson, Ice Cube and Symone Sanders have all been given platforms to voice their opinions and views. Their comedy, music, literature and political work are all tools to reach, entertain and inform the people. They have certified celeb status and since the beginning of pop culture celebs have always set the standards. Beauty standards, social standards, political standards and cultural standards are all set by celebrities and how they present themselves. If you present yourself as a politically active liberal and a humorist who pushes the envelope too far, then that’s how your audience will see and react to you. If you present yourself as a pro-black socially conscious rapper then that’s how your audience will see you and react to you. The acclaim and accountability is all in the presentation.
In conclusion, it appears brother Barkley was wrong. His status as a professional sports star does make him a role model and a standard for anybody trying to be successful in the same field he’s in. Whether he is a positive or negative role model is up for debate but he is a role model none the less. Celebrities should embrace every aspect of the roles they choose to play for their fans, followers and critics. The number one rule in show business is don’t believe your own hype but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aware of it. More importantly if it aint your type of hype then pick a different role.