by Guest Contributor Adam Mansbach, originally published at The Boston Globe
As John Mayer’s racially-charged comments in Playboy magazine ricocheted around the Internet this week, I found myself exhausted by the sad reality that the national dialogue on race remains driven by the engine of celebrity gaffes and gotcha moments.
Our voracious, ADHD-afflicted news cycle castigates, forgives, and forgets at a rate that precludes sustained discussion, so expect Mayer to spend a week with his head on the chopping block and then jog away, rubbing his neck, to join Chris Matthews, Harry Reid, Michael Richards, Geraldine Ferraro, Don Imus, and John Rocker on the list of figures whose shocking transgressions have faded to dim memories.
An analysis of such incidents and their scant longterm fallout suggests that it is now more acceptable to publicly spout racism than to publicly accuse someone of spouting racism. Look for Mayer to continue to make a vague apology to a fanbase and a punditry eager to excuse racist action because they can find no racist feeling behind it. Look for Mayer to swear he’s never uttered the n-word before and never will again, and look for the context in which he said it and the clumsy if well-intentioned point he was trying to make about white privilege to be obscured.
Look for him to continue not address more problematic statements from the interview, in particular the one about his male organ being a “white supremacist’’ — a flippant attempt to explain his dating preferences that takes up the language of dehumanization and reveals a blithe willingness to reinforce any number of stereotypes about sex, race, and desirability. Look for the mainstream media to ignore that comment too. Continue reading