The two remarks that have put him on the hot seat are:
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 nigger 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.’"
PLAYBOY: Do black women throw themselves at you?
MAYER: I don’t think I open myself to it. My dick is sort of like a white supremacist. I’ve got a Benetton heart and a fuckin’ David Duke cock. I’m going to start dating separately from my dick.Check out the entire interview for more context and a few more doozies from Mayer. I also suggest that you check out Mark Olmsted's insightful blog entry about Mayer's faux pas, What John Mayer Should Have Said.
I intensely dislike the word nigger, no matter who uses it. I spent 20 minutes debating whether or not to spell the word out in this post or use the euphemistic "N-word." I refuse to defend anyone's right to use it, but as I've pointed out before, under no circumstances does a white person get to use it. You just don't have the right, sorry.
However, rather than think that Mayer's use of the word was an indicator of racism on his part, I think it was more about youthful arrogance. He wanted to appear to be real and down with it (whatever it is), so he chose to demonstrate how in touch he is with his inner black person by casually dropping the word even as he acknowledged that as a white man he could never fully appreciate the racial discrimination endured by black people. If you read his initial observation without the n-word that becomes evident. I don't think that John Mayer even came close to being racist in his intent or in what he actually said. He was a bit incoherent and probably needs to stop attempting to address serious topics in interviews. Perhaps he needs to write his notes in his palm.
As for his comments regarding relationships with black women, I suspect that he was trying to appear hip and humorous when he should have simply stated, "I've never opened myself up to a romantic or sexual relationship with a black woman."
The media and bloggers have been making mincemeat out of Mayer, accusing him of being a racist. Mayer has apologized repeatedly and even shed a few tears. I feel sorry for Mayer, but I suspect that he will survive.
The hoopla has moved me to again consider the color line. We use the term racism far too liberally; there is a qualitative difference between prejudice and racism. We are all subject to prejudices against groups with whom we do not identify. Racism goes beyond prejudice. Racism is predicated on a belief that certain groups of people are "other," and therefore undeserving of fair and equal treatment. Racism is based on believing that any disadvantages or hardships that the other faces are because of their negative qualities such as laziness or a propensity towards violence. Racism allows the racists to feel superior in all ways to the victims of their racism.
Over use of the term racism denigrates the seriousness of the term. Applying the term to every incident of insensitivity merely detracts from the seriousness of actual racism and makes the use of the term racism akin to the boy who cried wolf--when real racism rears its ugly head, people tend to dismiss it as much ado about nothing.
Racism is not a fiction perpetrated by black people simply to annoy white people. Racism is real. Nor do I believe that we should simply ignore remarks that do not rise to the level of hate implicit in racism but are nonetheless based in prejudice; we should use them as starting points for honest discourse about racial prejudice and racism. The first step is identifying what we mean by the words that we use. As long as all we do is toss about accusatory language, we will never understand each other.
As for Mayer, saying something stupid isn’t the same as racism. Perhaps John Mayer, Tiger Woods, and John Edwards could form a support group for men who screw up publicly.