Hip-hop artist and activist Talib Kweli challenged Bill Maher Friday by insisting that progressive Democratic Bernie Sanders shouldn’t get a free pass on issues of race merely for having a progressive track record. “The job of activism is not to be liked and not to be polite,” Kweli said on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher when Maher questioned the judgment of the two Black Lives Matter activists who shut down a Sanders speech in Seattle earlier this week.
“Bernie Sanders is not the problem,” Maher said, noting that Sanders has “a 100 percent approval rating from the NAACP.” Snapped Kweli, “The NAACP liked Donald Sterling, too.” Kweli then backtracked a bit by noting that he initially shared Maher’s opinion about the Sanders protest but now “stands corrected.”
“Just because somebody has a record of civil rights doesn’t mean they are automatically entitled to the black vote,” said Kweli, adding “It’s very possible to be progressive and still have no understanding of racial issues.” Kweli, who recently organized two concerts to benefit Ferguson protestors and the family of Michael Brown, also noted that the Sanders protest probably had to do with logistics as much as politics. Sanders, he said, was “the easiest to get to because he’s somebody who’s dealing with the people more directly than a Jeb Bush or a Hilary Clinton.”
When panelist Jennifer Granholm, former Democratic governor of Michigan, pointed out that Black Lives Matter also recently protested Republican Jeb Bush, Kweli said, “No politician should get a pass on this.”
Despite their differences, Kweli and Maher seemed to enjoy the debate, engaging in civil tones entirely absent from Kweli’s heated argument with CNN Don Lemon last summer, when their live shout-down on the streets of Ferguson quickly went viral.
Granholm, once rumored to be President Obama’s candidate for the attorney general job that went to Loretta Lynch, nabbed Real Time’s other big audience response, when she reminded Maher’s liberal crowd that Jeb Bush, in his 1996 book Profiles in Character, endorsed “public shaming of single mothers and promiscuous teenagers” in order “to prevent them from misbehaving.” Bush’s book, cowritten with Brian Yablonski, took considerable heat from progressives for a section about single parenthood that notes “parents and neighbors have become ineffective at attaching some sense of ridicule to this behavior.”