There was a great moment on Friday night's Real Time with Bill Maher that perfectly sums up the relationship of many white liberals to black people, especially black activists.
During a discussion of Ashley Williams, the #BlackLivesMatter activist who confronted Hillary Clinton at a private fundraiser this week, guest Mark Ruffalo observed (incorrectly) that Williams was the only black person in attendance, to which Maher replied "Why is that a problem? Do they have to be everywhere giving you money?"
That's where the fun starts:
Maher: Why is that a problem? Do they have to be everywhere giving you money?
Ruffalo: Who's they?
Maher: The black people.
Ruffalo: (recoils) Whoah!
Maher: Really? I can't...
Prof. Michael Eric Dyson: (to crowd) Yes, we should be everywhere! Yes we should be... no, no, no
Maher: Oh, oh, I can't use the term "they" when I'm, that makes me a racist?
Prof. Dyson: Come on, Bill. You and me, bro.
Maher: Yeah, I'm the problem, too.
Prof. Dyson: You know I'm not... Not at all!
Maher: You reacted when I said "they."
Prof. Dyson: No, no, I didn't react, bro. That was him. (indicates Ruffalo)
Ruffalo: It was me.
Prof. Dyson: I know I'm a light-skinned negro, but I'm not a white guy.
What's hilarious here, besides Maher panicking and mistaking Michael Eric Dyson for Mark Ruffalo, is that the guy who routinely cracks jokes about President Obama smoking Newports and thuggin' it up with a Glock in his waistband is afraid he might have said something racist.
The difference is that when Maher makes racist jokes, he's redeeming his hood pass, but when someone challenges something he says, they are threatening whatever Hood Pass Rewards Points he thinks he's earned. Ruffalo was clearly just breaking his chops, but look how fast he turned on Dyson. That's because as a white liberal, Bill feels entitled to the benefit of the doubt, and how dare imaginary Professor Dyson ever doubt him?
Professor Dyson, meanwhile, had some strong words of praise for Hillary Clinton, maybe a little bit too strong for staunch supporters of President Obama:
At the end of the day, I think that Hillary Clinton is not only the smartest person, the most prepared person, but the person who has given the most credible, empirical analysis of race in the last 20 years by a major American politician, I'll stand by that.
But at the end of the day, I'm rolling with HRC to the end because I think she gives a serious indication of what's happening in this country racially, so we can have #BlackLivesMatter articulating their concerns, and Hillary Clinton responding to them better, by the way, than the occupant of the White House, and others who claim to be the friends of African American people as well.
It's true that Hillary is freer to roam on racial justice that President Obama is, but let's remember that she's standing on his shoulders, and the weight they have carried these past eight years.