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John Mayer, Benetton and White Supremacy

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After reading John Mayer's notorious comments during his Playboy interview, I laughed. In conversing with friends, and reading the critiques from the blogosphere, I seem to be in the minority. Mayer's comparison of his heart to Benetton, famed for their multicultural advertising, and his penis to David Duke, notorious for making egregious statements against Black people are at the heart of the controversy.

While many are offended because he was discussing dating Black women, I found his honesty refreshing. Mayer isn't calling Black women "nappy headed hoes" or denigrating us, he is simply stating that his dating preferences are not aligned with how he makes friends. Can we reject someone for honestly speaking to the ways in which white supremacy have conditioned them? Even more important is it worth it to be upset by his statements when statistically speaking Black women generally do not date outside of the race?

Further, Benetton and white supremacy aren't necessarily contradictions.

In It's Impossible To Have "A Benetton Heart" And A "White Supremacist Dick", Jezebel blogger Latoya Peterson raises very compelling arguments against Mayer, seeing Benetton as the antithesis of white supremacy. I remember Benetton's 1989 ad campaign featuring a Black woman breastfeeding a white child and since Benetton has continued to feature a multiculturalism that purports harmonious diversity but doesn't counteract white supremacy. While Benetton's multiculturalists images are often warm and fuzzy, it doesn't push for a place that is "post-racism" but rather focuses on simple images of togetherness, that don't do much to deal with the differences that continue to keep people apart.

What is more upsetting is how he speaks about Kerry Washington referring to her as someone who would "break your heart like a white girl." This statement shows Mayer maintaining white women as the standard beauty, with only some black women having the ability to reach. Further, the idea that Black women behave a certain way, and when they don't fit that archetype behave like white women, is limiting to black women. However I have yet to hear as many complaints about this statement as the one where he identifies a chasm between his friends & who he is attracted to.

Surely anyone who knows about Mayer's comments towards comedian Kumail Nanjiani, telling Najiani "he looked like a brown guy but sounded like a white guy" this past December, isn't surprised by Mayer's inability to get past preconceived notions when dealing with people of different races.

In reading the entire interview, Mayer doesn't come off looking that great. But the response to the interview leaves me with a few questions: what is the underlying issue? Why is there such a strong reaction to Mayer's desire to date within his race? And finally, how is this metaphor any different than the "pretty for a dark skin girl" comments that are prevalent within black communities?

While I see plenty of reasons to critique Mayer for his misogyny, or his use of the n-word, I do appreciate his candor in discussing how he's been affected by white supremacy and the contradictions that result from that. I take a page out of the book of Chris Rock and encourage us all not to be so shocked when racism rears its ugly head, because even black music loving musicians have the power to offend. In fact, we all do. The trick is to learn from one's mistakes and do better the next time.