Ice Cube Schools Bill Maher on N-Word: 'It's Like a Knife — You Can Use It as a Weapon or You Can Use It as a Tool'

Ice Cube did not let Bill Maher off easy on Friday’s Real Time.

The rapper-actor used a chunk of his time as a guest on the HBO gabfest to both admonish and educate Maher about the host’s recent N-word transgression. Ice Cube’s impassioned takedown came towards the end of a show that began with Maher addressing the proverbial elephant in the room when he thanked the audience “for letting a sinner in your midst.”

Upon joining the panel, Ice Cube cracked to Maher, “I knew you were gonna f–k up sooner or later,” before dinging a visibly rattled Maher for continually “bucking up against that line” with his “black jokes.”

And while Ice Cube told Maher that he accepts his apology, but called his gaffe a “teachable moment” that should serve to remind white people that the N-word is off limits to them. “It’s like a knife,” he explained. “You can use it as a weapon. Or you can use it as a tool. It’s been used as a weapon against us by white people. And we’re not going to let that happen again.

“That’s our word now,” he continued. “And you can’t have it back… because when I hear my homies say it, it don’t feel like venom. When I hear a white person say it, it feels like a knife stabbing me — even if they don’t mean it.”

Watch the clip above and then hit the comments with your thoughts. 

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  1. Anne says:

    It’s a shame Bill wasn’t even listening to Ice, he was too busy feeling embarrassed and wanting to defend himself.
    As white people, it’s incredible uncomfortable when you mess up and do something offensive. You feel embarrassed and sick to your stomach and defensive. And that’s okay ….but we have to make it not about us in that moment. It’s about the people we offended or hurt with our words/actions.

    • Logan says:

      We give words power, even when they have none. We use history not as a lesson but as an excuse for nonsensical rage.

      Ice Cube, for being a poet of words, does not understand them very well. I’m reminded of George Carlin, a words meaning comes through its context. While Ice Cube may not realize it, he himself is using the word as a weapon. Ironically I think it does more damage to himself. In his own use of the word he continues to give it power, misguidedly thinking that he is getting something over on somebody else.

      • Anne says:

        But he’s a member of the community that the word is about. I am aware that there is significant disagreement with the black community about the use of the N word by black people…but as a white person, that’s not something I get to weigh in on. As white people, we can’t use that word. Full stop. The black community then gets to decide how to use it.

    • Tim Hitt says:

      I think Bill was listening and I think he learned during this teachable moment

      • Mike Schaper says:

        I think what Bill learned was the length of the chain. He is a chain checker who now knows how far he can go in the black community. Must be quite a shock to discover he is not a member or part of the black community, even as a guest. Ice Cube point blank says Bill, you are a white and as such, part of the black communities problems.

    • :-) says:

      Most communities have words only to be used in that community. The reaction to a woman calling another woman a b-word is different than a man. Gay people call each other the f-word and d-word but straight really really really shouldn’t do that. You have been warned. Jewish, Japanese, Italian and Irish all have words not to be used outside the community. The way i see it white people need to pick their most offensive derogatory word for themselves and tell the world no. Put a poll on survey monkey or something.

  2. Jamie says:

    “When I hear a white person say it, it feels like a knife stabbing me — even if they don’t mean it.” And this is the crux of the matter. It’s pretty freaking obvious that Bill Maher isn’t racist against black people. No one sane thinks he used the word in malice or to denigrate black people. But this word carries HEAVY (and still recent) historical significance, and that significance still hangs above us when a white person uses this word. Maybe in time, that will change (as language is ever-evolving), but enough of us have been beat down by white people yielding that word in our lives. I don’t need to hear even the kindest of white people using it casually any time soon.

    • Jimmy says:

      I’m sane. Bill Maher is an angry person that feels privileged. He reminds me of Bill O’Reilly, Mel Gibson, or Alec Baldwin. I don’t think he’s racist but if someone black gets him upset enough I’m sure the n word would be a part of his verbal anger repertoire. People say things that they know will hurt or upset the person they’re verbally attacking. I wouldn’t put it past Maher to do that.

      • Mike Schaper says:

        People say things that they know will hurt or upset the person they’re verbally attacking
        no matter their color, race, or religion. that’s the nature of an argument.

        • Jimmy says:

          I agree. Not everyone would use the n word in those types of arguments. I think the four people above would, though. There are probably a ton more of people that would do it but the four above have shown their anger in video or audio recordings.

  3. SteelW says:

    But it’s okay for ice to use the phrase redneck truck driver. I’m sick of black people getting a pass on their comments, the term white privileged makes me sick!!
    I’m up at 4:30am working in a steel factory for 10 hours a day. Does that sound privileged to you? I never owned a slave or told anyone they cold not vote. Get over it African Americans, life is not easy for any of us.

    • Panderson says:

      That’s because you don’t know what it’s like to not have white privilege. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to compete, it means you don’t have to compete with onehand tied behind your back. It means you are presumed innocent until proven guilty and not the reverse. It means you can expect and demand fair treatment in all situations. It means you can take your rights as an American for granted anywhere in the world. I’ve traveled the world and people don’t even believe I’m an American because I’m not white.

    • Anne says:

      No one is saying it’s easy and heck yes, you work damn hard for a living. Respect to your labour. But we (white people) have never been enslaved or murdered because we’re white. And phrases like ‘redneck trucker’ while derogatory and hurtful, aren’t hurtful in the same way because of that history.

    • Liz says:

      Your comment of “get over it” is exactly the problem. As if it were that simple! You’ve missed the heart of his comments: that there is a strong history behind use of that word and it cannot be used by a white person without that history standing tall. History doesn’t disappear just because you yourself never owned slaves. It is present, it affects the opportunities we are all afforded (or not afforded) and the choices we all make (or are not given). Think of this: perhaps the job you work so hard at is one you got over a black man with the same experience because the hirer was simply more comfortable with you. That is our reality because of our history. And we, as a community, cannot simply “get over it”.

  4. Larbo says:

    “Oriental one penny countin motha f**kas”. I wonder if Asian people felt like a knife was stabbing them with Ice Cube’s racist lyrics. Let’s not even cover his repeated use of the slur, “cracker”. The hypocrisy is laughable.

    • Anne says:

      I’ll give you the Asian slurs; that’s not cool. We can’t combat racism by being racist agaIsn’t a different group.

      • Larbo says:

        Agree. To be clear though, “cracker” is used as a racist slur too. Same logic you have for the Asian community applies there too.

  5. Mark D. Moss says:

    10-12 uncomfortable minutes for a millionaire, privileged white guy to “suffer” through … especially given the need illustrated by the dimwitted “I work hard, so I’m not privileged” comments made here to defend him. And I bet Maher is ok with it, too (or he’d never have invited the three African American heavyweights as guests for last night’s show).

    Here’s the good news: Maher isn’t going to lose his job over this.

    Here’s the bad news: Like most white people (and I include myself, there, to some extent), Maher will probably never fully “get” why the use of the n-word isn’t ok, *ever*, coming from a white guy who grew up in a society that simply has racism interwoven into it in a way that only time (a LOT of it) can hope to erode … even as a sub-conscience quick grab for a joke. And given how proudly he’s ok with wearing his Muslim prejudice and generalizations out on his sleeve, he likely doesn’t really get the big picture of racism on the whole. *Apparently* true for some posters here, too. (Here’s a clue: If you need to make a point about how *not* racist you are … um … )

    I, for one, welcomed the uncomfortable discussion(s) on the show … we need more of that.

    • DryHeat says:

      FYI, Sanders & Cube were scheduled before last week’s show…only Dyson was invited to fill Franken’s shoes.

  6. Paul J Davis says:

    Black people always talk about being treated equally, but they set up a double standard over a “word” . A saw a concert a couple of years ago at Citizens Bank Park where Beyoncé called people on the stage and people in the audience the N word at lease 10 or 12 times, but that is OK? Double standard, as long as it exist there will never be equality. Why it is that only black people have a problem with cops, maybe because the black people put themselves in a position to be confronted with cops because they are committing crimes. Stop with the crimes and you won’t have to deal with cops.d

    • Lyndy says:

      Yet another redneck trying to sound intelligent….

    • Hannah says:

      A 15 year old black boy was shot in the head last month when a police officer fired a rifle into his car as the police car was driving past. The officer then lied about what happened until the body cam footage was released and his killing was ruled a homicide. But tell us again about how black people put themselves in these situations by committing crimes. Your racism is showing.

      • Tim OBrien says:

        You offer one example of one case of misbehavior(I assume since I’m not familiar with the details of the episode) in a country of 300 million people will millions of citizen/police contacts occuring every year and that ia supposed to prove…..??? What? That black people are above criticism?

        Biologists, genetecists etc. tell us what should be obvious anyway- there is one race, the human race. There is no criminal race, peaceful or warlike race, intelligent race etc. It is unfortunate that so often we still find ourselves using racial terms so often. Human populations do however vary by culture, historical circumstance etc. However some ethnic groups stand out from others statistically. Statistical differences between different definable populations are due to varied histories, socioeconomic and cultural influencer etc. not innate genetic differences. But no one is served by completely ignoring statistical truths. And the truth is that in the USA approximately 1/2 of all murders and 1/2 of all robberies are committed by. appx. 12% of the U.S. population- African Americans. These stats are well known, well documented and generally accepted by prominent African American leaders. Any identifiable population with such anamolous crime stats shouldn’t be surprised that they get more attention from police than other populations. It is unfortunate for those law abiding citizens that are negatively effected by this added attention, but is it really fair to blame the police for noticing the disparity?

    • Carm says:

      As a black person I do not use the N word, do allow others to use it around me, do not have an issue with police and do not commit crimes. Also pretty sure that some people of other races have had problems with police.

  7. ”’ICE CUBE”, Became a ”MULTI-MILLION Using the N-WORD, White people don’t go around calling themselves ”CRACKERS” or making Movies and CD’S Using these two ”HORRIBLE WORDS” #This is no ”NEGOTATING”’STOP USING IT ”PERIOD”.

    • Jimmy says:

      Just curious. If a white person was rapping the Straight Out Of Compton song, could he/she rap the whole song without offending a black person? I’m against the use of the n word, but what’s the thought process in this situation?

  8. diane says:

    How about not using it at all.

  9. Pj vaa says:

    Us vs Them. Basically, he justifies using the the N-word to exclude Whites. Prejudism at its finest.

    • DryHeat says:

      “Prejudice”…Prejudism is not a word.

      • Chuck says:

        “Prejudism is not a word.” No, not yet. But once enough people start using it, a word it will surely become. Like, “irregardless” for example. I am old enough to remember teachers correcting kids for using it. As many people say, Language is constantly evolving … or devolving … depending on one’s point of view

    • Hannah says:

      Hahahaha is someone really saying whites are experiencing prejudice because they can’t use the n-word? This is either the funniest troll comment I’ve seen in a while or the most pathetic attempt at justifying your racism 😂😂

  10. Ed Young says:

    Not allowing someone to do something because of their race defines discrimination. I’m a fan of you Ice, but you just described yourself as a racist.

  11. Ed Young says:

    Not allowing someone to do or say something because of the color of their skin is racism. I’m a fan of you Ice, but you just defined yourself as a racist. The “N” word is dispicable in any form (gger’ or gga’) and wrong no matter who says it.

  12. Kenny says:

    Ice Cube doesn’t have a leg to stand on here, because he uses the word f*ggot all the time in lyrics. So he’s using a slur against gay people, when he’s straight…Hypocrite.

  13. keniri says:

    Ice Cube is probably the biggest racist out there. I always hear his excuse whenever some entitled person thinks an ethnic slur belongs to a certain race. When a black person uses the “N” word, he is in fact being a racist. How many times do you hear a black person calling a white person a “cracker” or a “honky”? Those are racist words as well. For Ice Cube to say that black people can use that word but not white people, then he needs to join the rest of us in the real world because he’s deluding himself if he thinks otherwise.

  14. Shhhh says:

    I guess it’s okay to say cracker and call white women cave dwellers in a song though right?
    Whatever. He needs to apologize to whites for his music then. How is that the narrative is always “white is wrong” no matter what. So dumb