John Mayer caused a stir last week by mentioning both the n-word and a slur referring to gay people in a candid interview with Playboy magazine.
In the extensive interview — ranging from explicit descriptions of his love life to his affinity for bidets — Mayer said he has a “hood pass,” referring to his collaboration with black artists and his acceptance into “black culture,” so to speak, meaning that he can get away with things in that community that others can’t, like using the n-word.
He tried to illustrate this by calling it a “n***** pass.”
Well, it turns out he was dead wrong. He couldn’t get away with it either.
The backlash to his comments was immediate and furious. Blogs and message boards erupted with anti-Mayer posts, calling him a racist and a moron.
Mayer apologized later in the day for what he called trying to “(intellectualize) a word that is so emotionally charged.”
Now, the fact that I’m not allowed to write either of those words in print speaks volumes about where our society is regarding political correctness.
Anyone with half a brain knows the words I’m talking about, but we’re not allowed to say them.
We’re so scared that seeing them in print might offend someone, so we erase them from our papers.
Instead of letting the reader discern how I — or anyone — mean to use them, the potential offense is preemptively struck down and the words are eliminated from our lexicon.
We’ve been told we’re living in a supposedly post-racial society that magically occurred Nov. 4, 2008, when we elected a half-black man president.
If our society really is post-racial — whatever that means — shouldn’t we be having a more open conversation about race?
The matter isn’t as cut-and-dried as you think. The tired process of interview, perceived racist comment, criticism and apology doesn’t get us anywhere.
But that’s exactly what happens every time something like this comes up.
All this does is make people less willing to open themselves, and more scared to offend someone. And that’s not progress.
Mayer revealed himself in the interview with Playboy. He came out honest and introspective — albeit more than a little misguided in his efforts.
It was a refreshing instance of someone talking to the press as if he were shooting the bull with a friend.
The interview was a look at reality, a break from the normal cliché- and platitude-riddled puff interviews we so often get.
I think Americans as a whole are becoming an oversensitive group.
In the rush to avoid being considered racist or homophobic, we harshly criticize those who unintentionally use harmful words or make insensitive remarks.
In my opinion, Mayer meant no harm by his comments. He was trying to make a point.
He clearly failed if the backlash was any indication, but that’s no reason to dismiss him as a racist without examining the issue further.
Or maybe I’m wrong about all this. Please chalk up any insensitivity you read here as ignorance. As you can see from my dumb face above, I’m a white guy.
I have no idea how it feels for a black person to hear the n-word.
I never will wholly understand, and I’m not going to pretend I do.
But I do believe there should be a more open discussion about groups that are typically discriminated against — two of which Mayer mentioned.
There’s more to be gained from a conversation about why these words are used and the ingrained prejudices we all carry than by simply ripping on someone for using them and calling him a racist.