The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Molly Secours Headshot

White People "Passing": John Mayer, Racism and The Arrogance Of Whiteness

Posted: Updated:

Yesterday I was musing about the unconscious arrogance of pretty young women who believe they will enjoy the world of privilege and power afforded to them by beauty -- forever. It seems all it takes is a 40th birthday to notice the expiration date on the 'all access pass.'

Not unlike wealthy men who cannot conceive of operating in the world without the limitless advantages of the double platinum American Express -- until it is revoked.

Like young John Mayer who just recently lost his 'Hood Pass' in a matter of a few hours -- thanks to Twitter.

Mayer, 32, told an interviewer: "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."

The flippant use of the 'n' word by whites tip-toeing in the shallow end of the racial pool is not uncommon as Morgan State University Professor, Dr. Ray Winbush writes in his blog.

For those not in the know, having a hood pass -- according to the urban dictionary -- means a person who defines (and prides) themselves as someone whose knowledge of the 'street' can hold themselves and their image as a person of the ghetto -- whether they are of color or not.
Mayer lost his pass in part as a result of a recent interview in Playboy magazine recently where he blatantly denigrated black women in a fashion that I won't repeat so as not to further insult and disparage women of color who may read this essay.

Suffice it to say Mayer's words were symptomatic and indicative of white arrogance. Only someone who is certain he is above recrimination could publicly utter indefensible slurs against black women and think he could get a pass.

John Mayer is not an exception. He is no different, nor more sinister than Don Imus, Michael Richards, Rush Limbaugh, and the list goes on.

Mayer is exhibit 'A' when illustrating that racism resides within all white people. No exception. Sorry. Whether you are a hip, young liberal white guy who has played music with famous black musicians or a guy working at a factory in a rural Kentucky.

One cannot be raised in these United States with the history of racial oppression and hatred and not be racist.

If we learn nothing else from Mayer's honest outburst is that the question is not 'if' we are racist but what have we done to counter the racist notions that have seeped into our unconscious. Unfortunately it seems that becoming 'less racist' by the time we die is the most we can hope for.

Mayer is just another white man of privilege who has not wrestled with the harsher realities still facing many black and brown folks or the arrogance depicted by his words. I doubt he has struggled with his identity as a white man of privilege and how his own behaviors have unconsciously contributed to reinforcing white supremacy. Otherwise he could never have uttered the nonsense spewed in recent interviews.

At what point will we accept that without an intentional, determined commitment to disrupt our own internalized racism and the lingering effects of white supremacy, we will continue to replicate and reinforce the demonization and diminishment of non-whites. When will we face that our secret and unrecognized feelings of entitlement and superiority affect everything from the disproportionate number of black and brown men in prison to the astronomical number of black neighborhoods used as toxic waste dumps.

Hopefully John Mayer isn't waiting for the world to change. Who knows, if he starts now maybe he can get his 'hood pass' back by this time 20 years from now -- just in time for Black History Month.

From Our Partners