POLL: John Mayer in Playboy. Should We Give Him a Pass on the N-word?

BlogHer Original Post

John Mayer is once again under fire for using the [n-word] And, because we seem to be incapable of having thoughtful conversations around race, he will be called a racist. Which I think is too bad, because while apparently his penis might be, I don't think he is racist just for using the N-word.

Mayer's Playboy interview is not the first time he has used the N-word. In 2006 he tried his hand at stand-up comedy and used it in his act. Reports of the frequency and context vary with African American comic Sherrod Small claiming that Mayer used it seemingly in a way similar to his usage in his recent interview.

MAYER: Someone asked me the other day, “What does it feel like now to have a hood pass?” And by the way, it’s sort of a contradiction in terms, because if you really had a hood pass, you could call it a [n-word] pass. Why are you pulling a punch and calling it a hood pass if you really have a hood pass? But I said, “I can’t really have a hood pass. I’ve never walked into a restaurant, asked for a table and been told, ‘We’re full.’"

The hood or ghetto pass is a slang term that means you're accepted in black (or other communities of color) culture. You are allowed to enter but you are not of that culture. As I read it, this is the point Mayer was trying to make in his rambley, jumbled language-of-his-own.

Mayer points out that a "pass" into a community or culture is meaningless. Black people have a shared experience by virtue of being oppressed, by being called "[the n-word]." Mayer acknowledges his privilege when he points out that he doesn't have to endure the painful realities of blackness in this country and can partake in the party and leave when it's over in a way that those with brown skin cannot. In order to truly have a pass, you have to have all that comes with life in that community and John Mayer will never have that.

What concerns me is that the reflexive response of some will be to automatically brand Mayer as a racist and demand apologies (which he is giving on twitter) for using the N-word when some useful discussion, especially during Black History Month, could come from this. However, it also looks like the bigger racial storm might be brewing around the fact that he compares his penis to David Duke because he hasn't been open to interracial dating and then foolishly names names when the interviewer pushes him to say whom he might be willing to have sex with once he swaps the white hood for latex. To further destroy any credibility he might have gained by acknowledging his privilege, he then posits a theory that there is a special kind of "white-girl crazy" and attempts to give himself a pass by mitigating his privilege.

MAYER: What is being black? It’s making the most of your life, not taking a single moment for granted. Taking something that’s seen as a struggle and making it work for you, or you’ll die inside. Not to say that my struggle is like the collective struggle of black America. But maybe my struggle is similar to one black dude’s.

However, using the N-word will be a firestarter. Nevertheless, I hope that some good conversation about race and the N-word can break through the ensuing firestorm, perhaps when this is no longer a twitter trending topic. And, though I suspect he will grow emotionally (he seems to be) through all this, after that maybe we can all learn the biggest lesson offered in this interview: unless you are in the market for a one night stand (plus a bonus spinach omelet) with a guy who has relationship ADD and who will kiss and tell (I do hope he apologizes to Jennifer Aniston and Jessica Simpson), for now stay far, far away from John Mayer's penis.

What do you think? Is he racist? A misogynist? Homophobic? Immature? Just bad boyfriend material? And is he helping himself now on twitter or digging a deeper hole?

Related Reading:

*Added Jenee D. at Cocoa Fly: John Mayer's "Hood Pass" is DENIED

Renee at Womanist Musings: John Mayer: “My dick is sort of like a white supremacist”

Jill at Feministe: John Mayer and his white supremacist man-bits

Danielle Belton at The Black Snob: WTF: John Mayer Gets Mad Creeptastical With Playboy Magazine

Nordette Adams at Whose shoes are these anyway? Mayer Reveals His Authentically Racist Self

Zennie62 at City Brights: John Mayer's racist comments in Playboy on blacks ignite Twitter

@johncmayer in a series of tweets: Re: using the 'N word' in an interview: I am sorry that I used the word. And it's such a shame that I did because the point I was trying to make was in the exact opposite spirit of the word itself. It was arrogant of me to think I could intellectualize using it, because I realize that there's no intellectualizing a word that is so emotionally charged. Again, because I don't want anyone to think I'm equivocating: I should have never said the word and I will never say it again.

BlogHer CE Maria Niles also blogs about race and pop culture at PopConsumer and Beyond Help.

*edits to original post are noted in brackets []

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