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John Mayer's racial stumble

    So John Mayer got himself in trouble again today.
    In his Playboy interview (NSFW, obviously) with the great Rob Tannenbaum, he drops the n-word, refers to his penis as a “David Duke -----“ and overshares about his sex life with Jessica Simpson and his break-up with Jennifer Aniston.
    No surprise, really. That’s what we’ve come to expect from him.
    The interview will get Mayer lots of attention, as did his Rolling Stone chat, where he talks about his sex life and his conquests. But will it sell any albums? (Some Twitterati were talking about getting refunds for tickets for his current tour.)
    He’s a clever guy and he’s trying to shake up the celebrity-industrial complex by being disarmingly honest. The problem is that he outsmarts himself. With each story he ends up looking worse than he did before. Each story takes him further and further away from being a musician (which he is good at) and closer and closer to being a celebrity (which he is so not good at).
    The problem in the Playboy interview isn’t his use of the n-word, though that’s really never a good idea for white pop stars. It’s not his kiss-and-tell attitude about all the women he dates, though that’s really never good form either. It isn’t even how he doesn’t want to have sex with black women because of his “white supremacist” libido.
    His problem is statements like this: “What is being black? It’s making the most of your life, not taking a single moment for granted. Taking something that’s seen as a struggle and making it work for you, or you’ll die inside. Not to say that my struggle is like the collective struggle of black America. But maybe my struggle is similar to one black dude’s.”
    No matter how romantic or how inspirational he tries to make it sound, he doesn’t know anything about being black. John Mayer is not black. If Jay-Z or Kanye West started talking about what it’s like to be white, it would be an even bigger controversy. It’s disrespectful to generalize about any group’s experience when you don’t have that experience yourself. It’s something you just can’t know.
    John Mayer always thinks he knows the right answer. He seems to think he knows more than anyone he talks to and that he can convince them of anything. Even his Twitter apology this afternoon talks about how he knows the right answer. “I am sorry that I used the word. And it's such a shame that I did because the point I was trying to make was in the exact opposite spirit of the word itself. It was arrogant of me to think I could intellectualize using it, because I realize that there's no intellectualizing a word that is so emotionally charged.”
    He goes on to say, “While I'm using today for looking at myself under harsh light, I think it's time to stop trying to be so raw in interviews... It started as an attempt to not let the waves of criticism get to me, but it's gotten out of hand and I've created somewhat of a monster.”
    Wait. Maybe that is the right answer.
PHOTO: John Mayer at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater by Ari Mintz for Newsday.

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