GQ’s Jim Nelson Frankly Talks About Race in His Editor’s Letter

One quiet evening, my boyfriend broke the relative silence in the living room by reading aloud:

Remember a long, long time ago – it almost seems like a recession and a half ago – when Barack Obama first came (via Kenya, of course) to power?  Remember how certain hope-doped commentators predicted that his election would finally allow Americans to have a frank discussion about race?

Something different and less hope-inducing has happened.  His presidency has allowed us to talk around race,  to talk about it constantly and subliminal, without ever truly discussing it.  And by doing so, we’re proving how much distance we have to grow up.

I held up a hand to stop him.

“Wait, that’s in GQ? The one with the Michael Jackson cover?”

Oh yes. Jim Nelson, GQ Editor, dedicated his editor’s letter to discussing how far conversations about race have fallen. And stranger still, there aren’t any articles specifically dedicated to race in the issue. Perplexed, I checked out the letter for myself. After all, isn’t this Jim Nelson of “Asian Whores” fame? Back in 2007, he raised some ire by using the term twice in his editor’s letter. Later, he told Page Six he was merely ” skewering a Western attitude that one ought to find noxious. The notion that Westerners can have and exploit whatever they want.”

Hmm…not quite there with that one.

Yet, while reading over the letter, I was struck by how much Nelson seemed to just get the roots behind racial hysteria.  (Or at least, when the issue is reduced into discussions of black and white.)

Here are some of Nelson’s greatest hits:

[The birthers] do not seek documents; they seek time travel, a machine to shoot them back to the magical time when black men could not get elected. For them, this supremely white fantasy of No Change is more important than silly matters such as health care.

Everywhere you look, people keep making batshit-crazy comments about race and ethnicity, stream-of-consciousness-style, as if the election had unleashed some Freudian anxiety in the cultural air.

Then [Pat Buchanan] made his more ignorant racist claim yet: “This has been a country built basically by white folks.” Which, apart from ignoring the entire history of slavery, is the subtext of every song I’ve ever heard by Toby Keith.

Fox News commen-hater Brian Kilmeade, while chatting about a Swedish study that shows marriage can delay Alzheimer’s suddenly went all Third Reich on his co-hosts: “We keep marrying other species and other ethnics. The Swedes have pure genes, because they marry other Swedes…They have a pure society. In America, we marry everybody. So we’ll marry Italians and Irish. [This study] does not apply to us.

My Irish-English-German-American head spun. Does that mean I’m definitely getting Alzheimer’s?

[I wish Obama would] address the nation like [he did in the race speech] more frequently, to resolve to move and persuade us. Maybe he could even address the National Association for the Advancement of White People.

Otherwise known as the U.S. Senate.

Readers, it was like Christmas.

More proof that GQ decided to give us all a Christmas present?

John Cho, in various suits:

Ryan Kitwaten Jason Stackhouse, in tight clothes:

And attractive men receiving job interview make-overs:

I don’t know what’s going on over there at GQ, but I like it. And if Jim Nelson keeps improving, I may be persuaded to give his magazine another chance.

(Image credits: GQ)

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at

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