John Mayer saying something idiotic? Say it ain't so! His latest bout of verbal diarrhea in Playboy made headlines - but Mayer's comments (and the reactions to said comments) reveal how little many understand about how racism operates.
In what Andrea Plaid, writing for Racialicious, refers to as "the money shot exchange," John Meyer executed a triple axle of a fuck up in his new Playboy interview:
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.
PLAYBOY: Let's put some names out there. Let's get specific.
MAYER: I always thought Holly Robinson Peete was gorgeous. Every white dude loved Hilary from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And Kerry Washington. She's superhot, and she's also white-girl crazy. Kerry Washington would break your heart like a white girl. Just all of a sudden she'd be like, "Yeah, I sucked his dick. Whatever." And you'd be like, "What? We weren't talking about that." That's what "Heartbreak Warfare" is all about, when a girl uses jealousy as a tactic.
Now admittedly, the Playboy interviewer threw out a set-up. What kind of question is "Do black women throw themselves at you?" while (supposedly) talking about kinship in struggle? But Mayer's off the rails response took it to a whole different level.
As Plaid writes:
The bitch of it is Mayer's comment is–yet again–another pop-culture "confirmation" that Black women are undateable, which translates to utterly undesireable and unfuckable. He made that abundantly crystal with his "Benetton heart/David Duke dick" comment. His disingenuous rejoinder of stating the Black women in Hollywood he wanted to get with–and then broke out with some wack-ass stereotypes of Black and White women and our dating styles just underscores his racially essentialized hot-mess-with-flies ideas about Black women.
Within the reactions to Mayer's comments in multiple places around the web, there were a few reoccurring themes. The first was that he has the right to have preferences, and to express those preferences.
This is true. We all formulate preferences around what we like and what we don't like. That's part of human nature. But it is disingenuous to pretend that these preferences are not informed by society, and are not informed by racist ideas. Think about it - if our fickle hearts have the capacity to love people who are abusive to us, what makes people think that love is somehow immune to or above racism?
Race and where it intersects with love and sex is incredibly difficult to discuss. The line between preference and fetish is very thin, and often, many people accept stereotypical narratives about dating and race as truth. Mayer expresses bafflement at his own preferences, as if some magical fairy smacked him with a wand and suddenly they just aren't attracted to entire racial groups. Don't pull the "I don't know why that is" shit - it's internalized racism. We all have some. Groups of color internalize prejudices and enact them through colorstruck ideas about light-skin being more attractive than dark skin, or keen features being more attractive than broader ones. And society is full of programming waiting to inform people that Asian girls are submissive while Asian guys aren't worthy of consideration. This type of racism manifests itself in phrases like "you're pretty for a black girl," or in all the times where the person you want to date doesn't want to bring you home to meet the family.
Preferences aren't benign forces - they have real impacts on the perception of desirability of certain groups of people, and Mayer willingly perpetuates this in his interview, alongside giving his black female fans a verbal smack in the face. Does it really matter who John Mayer wants to date or sleep with? In the grand scheme of things, no. But considering his deployment of well trod stereotypes about the undesirability of black women (complete with the "but I'd do her" exceptions), it isn't just an issue with Mayer.
That's why it's impossible to have a "Benetton heart" and a "white supremacist dick." To open your heart with love for all people, to see everyone as equals, to create a world in which we are not post-racial, but post-racism requires a love and commitment to understanding an eradicating the biases we are fed in order to create a genuine connection with others. But having a white supremacist dick holds on to the idea that we are not equal, that some people are more desirable than others, and those people are white. It's the general narrative of society, and it is not unique to Mayer - he just vocalized it in a colorful way. But what is sad is the patent acceptance of this idea, while claiming some idea of kinship.
In the fallout to his other controversial interviews, Mayer often tries to mask his douchiness with self-depreciating analysis. Last night, he did just that in Nashville, speaking directly to his fans about how trying to "be clever" hurt "people he loves."
Racism is not clever. Trying to lampoon racism by perpetuating racist stereotypes about black women, using racial slurs, and claiming to have a pass is just idiocy masquerading as wit. Or, as Farai Chideya explains at the Huffington Post: "The reality is that, it's insulting to say black people love you and then profoundly misunderstand the difference between entitlement and humor."
The Black Snob summed up my second reaction at the situation:
If you see Kerry Washington and her crew in the club and they KNIFE YO ASS, don't be surprised. If I was Kerry I would be all kinds of "Get my name out of your mouth, son." And she's "white girl crazy?" What does that even MEAN!
But considering all the hot mess that is the Playboy piece (race is only mentioned in two paragraphs of a whole lot of sexist, kiss-and-telling, past lover dissing madness), most of us are with Diana from Disgrasian:
To which black, brown, and yellow chicks all over the world say, "Dude. No. No no no no no no no no no. You've got it all wrong. You have no idea what a HUGE solid you're doing us by keeping your pasty prick over there. NO IDEA. Dude, seriously. Don't ever change, no matter what people tell you."
(This post was sponsored by TrulyMadlyMe's hashtag.)
Playboy Interview: John Mayer [Playboy]
When Racefail Meets Playboy: The John Mayer Interview [Racialicious]
Why Date or Marry Asian Women? [Racialicious]
Whatever Happened to Rufio?: The Non-Asian Ideal of Masculinity [Racialicious]
John Mayer Chokes Up at Show Over Playboy Scandal [PopEater]
WTF: John Mayer Gets Mad Creeptastical With Playboy Magazine [The Black Snob]
John Mayer's Playboy Interview: A "Tweachable Moment" in Race, Gender [Huffington Post]
John Mayer's Racist Dick And Why We Love It [Disgrasian]
Related: Interracial Dating: "Beyond Race" versus "Anti-Racist Dating" [Racialicious]
You Got Some ‘Splaining To Do: Interracial And Interethnic Relationships, As Seen On TV. And Heard On The Radio. And Read On Cereal Boxes. [Racialicious]
Craigslist Personals: Desperately Seeking Diversity Training [Racialicious]
Race Preference or Race Fetish? [Racialicious]