Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Just Happened Here?

You ever have a convo with someone, particularly someone of a different race, and the conversation just takes a turn that leaves you utterly confused?

For example, say you're talking to a white person about the old television show "Mr. Ed." Y'all get off on a tangent about Dave Chappelle's hilarious skit speculating whether former Hollywood animals were racist, and then the white person says something like this:

"And what's the big deal with the ban on black lawn jockeys? If I want a tiny black person to hold a lantern in front of my house, that should be cool right? Hell, black people were the first successful jockeys, why the big fuss?"

What the hell just happened there?

It can be very unnerving when something like that happens. Whether it's a race issue, a political issue or just random life stuff, when somebody takes an unexpected turn in the conversation, it's like getting lost on a dark country road. Things look dangerous, but familiar, and while you're confident you can find your way home, you know it might be more difficult than you'd like.

I thought about random conversation shifts when a friend of mine sent me an excerpt from a conversation John Mayer had with Playboy magazine. First, to be clear, I know nothing about John Mayer except that he used to smash "Rachel" and he is a bit of a wild man. Thus, his comments in the interview seemed to come completely out of left field to me. Maybe if I knew more about his back story I wouldn't have been shocked, but I don't know. Anyway, here is what Mayer said:

PLAYBOY: If you didn’t know you, would you think you’re a douche bag?

MAYER: It depends on what I picked up. My two biggest hits are “Your Body Is a Wonderland” and “Daughters.” If you think those songs are pandering, then you’ll think I’m a douche bag. It’s like I come on very strong. I am a very…I’m just very. V-E-R-Y. And if you can’t handle very, then I’m a douche bag. But I think the world needs a little very. That’s why black people love me.

PLAYBOY: Because you’re very?

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: It is true; a lot of rappers love you. You recorded with Common and Kanye West, played live with Jay-Z.

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.

Now, wasn't that strange? Honestly, if you read the entire interview, which you can access here, Mayer's comments seem even more strange. It's like he's having a normal, interview and then "BAM", we're in crazyland.

I mean, there are so many questions to be asked about that exchange. In addition to the cryptic comments above, Mayer also casually insinuated that Kerry Washington is indiscriminate about revealing her past blow jobs because she's "white-girl crazy." (Also, I found it strange that Huffington Post wrote a story about Mayer's interview, and instead of leading with his casual use of the word nigger, and his other crazy comments about black folks, they decided to go with his comments about screwing Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Aniston's abhorrence of Twitter. Good to see our liberal friends have their priorities in order, right? Yeah, right.)

Anyway, what jumps out at me immediately is how Mayer drops an N-bomb with no prior warning or provocation. The interviewer asks him about his popularity with rappers, and within two sentences, the word "nigger" comes flying out of his mouth. Granted, I'm sure he'd argue that he was speaking about some deeper issues regarding the use of the phrase "hood pass," but I have no idea what those deeper issues would be. Unfortunately, any deeper meaning was lost by his casual use of "nigger." That's like telling me you love me, just as you slap me in the face. I'm not thinking about love, I'm thinking about strangling you.

Honestly, I'm suspicious of most white people who casually use the word nigger, even if they don't use it as a slur around me. Sometimes, if they grew up with black folks and are completely assimilated, it makes sense, but even then I get a sinking feeling. I've got to think that people who are casual with the use of "nigger" in everyday conversation, are probably casual with it when they get angry. Which means it's quite likely you might use the word as a slur for black people, even if you don't do it around me. So, I'm suspicious.

Also, I was lost by Mayer's attempts to distill being "black" to overcoming obstacles and enduring pain. Black people do not have a monopoly on those two things. Hell, we never have. Sure, we've dealt with a lot of hardships over our collective history in this country, but that's not unique in human history, it really isn't.

I thought it was strange that his idea of being black was completely tied to suffering and perseverance. That's a pretty shallow understanding of the black experience. And it's great that he thinks black people are particularly strong, but the truth is we're not. And as long as people think we are, they will be less likely to deal with the larger issues that force us to struggle so much.

As for the Kerry Washington thing, I'm not going to deny that she exudes a little craziness, kind of like Angelina Jolie. But, it strikes me as more than a tad disrespectful to go around branding her as the kind of chick who sucks dicks and doesn't mind telling. It might be true, but is it really something you just throw out into the public sphere.

The whole interview just leaves me unsettled. I didn't have any real thoughts on Mayer before this, but now any future thoughts I have about him will be colored by this interview. And I', pretty that won't be a good thing.

But maybe that can change if someone can explain to me what just happened here.



Leigh C. said...

John Mayer's always had a reputation for having diarrhea of the mouth. It was only a matter of time before this tendency of his was going to bite him in the ass.

Leigh C. said...

Oh, and past instances of his saying too much have always been spun as being only jokes. Don't think that'll fly this time.

Big Man said...


I think it will. I mean his comment about his penis being a white supremacist hasn't gotten too much traction.

I really just want to be clear about what he was saying. I mean, the people asked him why he thinks rappers like him, and he went on a convoluted rant about hood passes and niggers. Weird.

Leigh C. said...

That comment about his penis is the one subjecting him to the most scorn on Twitter, I'll tell you that. Before this, the things he said were mostly misogynist, but throwing race in there means that all bets are off.

Honestly, I don't get what he was saying about any of that other stuff, either. All I know is I sure as hell don't want to be around anybody talking that way.

Leigh C. said...

And heeere's his mea culpa:

The guy is learning the hard way that words are like toothpaste out of a tube: once they're out there, you just can't put 'em back.

Pistolette said...

Can we start with "what's the meaning of life?". I think I can answer that one in less words.

Mayer in particular sounds like he's just trying to get attention by wading in taboo waters. As for your confusion, all I can say is that whites approach blacks like a man approaches a woman with PMS - not quite sure what to say because one slightly off move will get him beheaded.

Btw, I'm often told my love feels like a pistol-whipping. Guess everyone's into something different ;-)

ladydai said...

@Pistolette"As for your confusion, all I can say is that whites approach blacks like a man approaches a woman with PMS - not quite sure what to say because one slightly off move will get him beheaded."

That's the problem, they are approaching "blacks" and not other human beings like themselves. Just like whites, blacks come from different backgrounds, religions, and classes. Thus, it's necessary to look at the person and not automatically objectify as in "oh my god, I'm talking to a Black"

Yes, his comments were strange because he is strange. He's one of those type of people who will see you in a grocery store, stare nervously and say, "I've been amongst your people." That actually happened to me, so don't laugh.

Big Man said...

"Oh my God, I'm talking to a Black!"

That was hilarious Lady Dai. Made me chuckle out loud 'cause I could so picture it happening.

And your comment about your grocery story safaris was hilarious as well.

Pistolette said...

@LadyDai: "That's the problem, they are approaching "blacks" and not other human beings like themselves. Just like whites, blacks come from different backgrounds, religions, and classes. Thus, it's necessary to look at the person and not automatically objectify as in "oh my god, I'm talking to a Black".

This goes back to the PMS thing. I've tried that "we're all a member of the human race" hippie shit. But then I get attitude for not recognizing 'the struggle', and how "you'll never understand because you're white", or my fave from college, "white women should not date OUR men". Um, no fair. We can't do it both ways. Which is why you get accosted in grocery stores by creepy condescending white liberal tards like Mayer.

Big Man said...


You're going between two extremes.

There are other options besides "We are the World" and "I'm approaching a black."

Like every other relationship, your behavior is in part dicatated by the situation. Sometimes it seems people are searching for a one-size-fits all solution to race relations, and that honestly doesn't exist.

And I think I have another blog topic.

Deacon Blue said...

I had only been hearing the "penis" comments up until now, but this guy sounds like he'd be better avoiding the interviews altogether.

I will say, the temptation to drop the "I know Black people" or "I've been among Black people" thing is strong sometimes. I think I've mostly avoided it in life, unless there's valid context, but I think a lot of White folks who get any kind of entrance into Black circles want to impress other Black folks with the fact that they aren't like all those bad White folks.

It seems quicker and easier than actually just showing that fact over time by interacting normally, I guess.

Which is maybe why I managed to avoid the trap too often, since I inherently distrust easy paths...

By the way, I have no similes for my penis, but my left buttock is just like a forest conservationist.

Not that I have any idea what that means; just thought I'd share.

Big Man said...

Glad you cleared that up about your buttocks because I was mighty confused.

'Cause it sounded like you were saying your butt cheeks love wood. Pause.

Thordaddy said...

Lil man,

It's called radical autonomy...

It's a state of extreme liberalism...

Get it?

Deacon Blue said...

Well, Big Man, why let John Mayer be the only one to attach a political and/or social position to a body part? ;-)

(I also considered saying that it was a Kenseyian economist, but I didn't want to get any ultra-conservative visitors to your blog too worked up)

Anonymous said...

What a sorry sack of CRAP!! And me must know what a worthless douchetard he is because he felt the incessant need to tear others down so his prick ass could look a 'big man'[sorry for the pun]. Maybe it's because you have a PUNY dick and you are hella ugly Oscar Mayer racist-weiner. Nice try a-hole but THIS black female never wanted you or your putrid little penis in the first place.

Raving Black Lunatic