Wayne Brady, Bill Maher and The Problem With What Black Manhood Means to NON-Black People

July 12, 2012  |  

Comedian Wayne Brady went on a very public tirade about recent comments made by fellow comedian Bill Maher, for making oft-color jokes about his blackness.

Brady, probably best known for his role on the comedy sketch show, “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” blasted the “Real Time” funnyman for referring to President Obama as “your Wayne Brady.” The implication, of course, is that Obama isn’t black enough – at least from Maher’s perspective – just like Wayne Brady.  Speaking with Aisha Tyler on her podcast, Brady said, “I’ve had Bill Maher twice now when referencing Obama…he’s like ‘yeah, with your Wayne Brady’…so that means it’s a diss to Obama to be called me because he wants a brother brother.”

Brady also took the time to point out that Maher shouldn’t claim to know Black folks as he says, “just because you f–k black hookers.” *side eye* He also added that he would “gladly slap the sh!t out of Bill” to prove just how black he is:  “…I’d get sued and lose my house and it’s not worth it for me. But the black man part of me would be so satisfied to slap the sh!t out of him in front of Cocoa and Ebony and Fox, the three ladies of the night that he has hired.”

Okay, I’ll say it: Does Wayne Brady have to choke a b***h?

I love it when television and reality clash into the perfect meme inducing moment.  Anyway, this is serious for Brady. After years of being clowned as the non-threatening black man, he is ready to start swinging, quite literally, on those who question his blackness. From what I gathered from previous stories, Brady has long had to battle the notion that his mild-mannered persona is in contrast to the ideal nature of typical black masculinity. Paul Mooney once joked in his classic Dave Chappelle Show Negrodamus sketch that “White people love Wayne Brady, because he makes Bryant Gumbel look like Malcolm X.”

In an interview, Brady would reveal that while we all thought it was funny, Brady was less than amused, especially when white kids use Mooney’s quote to get his attention via Twitter. It bothered Brady so much that he would confront both Chappelle and Mooney about the skit and that is what eventually led to the whole classic,  I’m Wayne Brady, B***h sketch.

In the same interview, Brady goes on to say, “I get offended from a bigger level, in the fact of black people, we are one of the only races that I feel, if someone is judged as not being black enough, no matter how well they’re doing, the thought isn’t, “Hey, look how good that brother’s doing, and he represents us, and if he can get in that door, we can get in that door.” People take it to be, “Ugh, look at him. He only got there because white people put him on. Listen to how he talks. He’s not hard, he doesn’t do this, he’s a square.”

I get where Brady is coming from. I hear that same sentiment thrown around casually not only in our communities but also among some white folks, like Maher, who usually say it to express their displeasure that a particular black man is not politically aggressive enough.  In some folks’ mind, it is a given that any black leader is supposed to be reeking with all sort of menacing yet cool anti-establishment aggression, directed towards white people. Black men are supposed to be cool ladies men (and/or pimps) like Black Dynamite. He is supposed to walk like George Jefferson and have the unapologetic righteous bravado of H. Rap Brown.  I’m talking about the kind of black cool which makes old white people cross the street upon fear that they might be on the receiving end of a strong hand just for being white. And those black men, who lack that certain rough and tough exterior, are instantly concluded as non-threatening Negroes.

Of course, like every stereotype, there is some truth to the troupe. In fact there are a number of celebrities and political figures, who have completely bought into the same power structure, which seeks to disempower us as a community, in order to ascend into the higher rungs of society. If we are being honest, there are probably a few people that instantly come to your mind.  However, not every square can be, or should be, considered a non-threatening black man.

When we watch the images of Black men in pop culture, we see clearly how black men have been reduce to a single definition of manhood, which includes how aggressive they are, the size of their balls, and their ability to play cool.  In essence, that perception of black manhood has become the alter-ego to non-black folks across the globe, who, on occasion, fantasize about a contrast to their homogenous existence. And there is no better contrast to white than black. Sort of like a young boy’s fascination with Clark Kent/Superman but instead of a white guy in a red cape, they dream of Shaft.

Folks like director Quentin Tarantino have long expressed infatuation with black manhood, which can be seen in films like Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown and yet again in the soon-to-be released Django Unchained.  Even places where the black population probably is mostly reserved to military bases, the mainstream perception of black manhood is very much evident. This too is illustrated in the new Japanese feature film called Afro Tanaka, which is about a Japanese loser with messy hair who only gains respect from his peers after growing a gloriously big Afro and assuming the “traits” of a black man.

As I have mentioned before, what we see in the media does influence reality. And unfortunately, there are many black men who willingly play the role of aggressors because it is what they too have been lead to believe are their roles as men. Real men. The irony in Brady’s situation is that in order to prove himself and have his version of black masculinity taken seriously, he too had to embody the aggressive black man stereotype, down to the threats of violence and the disrespect of black women (i.e., the black hooker remark). I would say that without even opening his mouth, Maher has already won this battle.

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