Tuesday there was a whole lot of yada-yada on Twitter because John Mayer, an okay singer, gave a completely a$$holey interview to Playboy magazine. In it he included the following gems:
MAYER: 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 n****r pass. Why are you pulling a punch and calling it a hood pass if you really have a hood pass? But I said, "I can't really have a hood pass. I've never walked into a restaurant, asked for a table and been told, 'We're full.'"
PLAYBOY: It is true; a lot of rappers love you. You recorded with Common and Kanye West, played live with Jay-Z.MAYER: 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.PLAYBOY: Do black women throw themselves at you?MAYER: I don't think I open myself to it. My d! is sort of like a white supremacist. I've got a Benetton heart and a f*in' David Duke c**k. I'm going to start dating separately from my d!.PLAYBOY: Let's put some names out there. Let's get specific.MAYER: I always thought Holly Robinson Peete was gorgeous. Every white dude loved Hilary from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And Kerry Washington. She's superhot, and she's also white-girl crazy. Kerry Washington would break your heart like a white girl. Just all of a sudden she'd be like, "Yeah, I sucked his d!. Whatever." And you'd be like, "What? We weren't talking about that." That's what "Heartbreak Warfare" is all about, when a girl uses jealousy as a tactic.
Okay then. Digest that as you will. Still boggling over "white-girl crazy" and "n* pass". I took offense on a number of levels but that was neither here nor there. Fact is – dude's a jerk and he revealed his inner jerkdom for all to see. Good for him. He doesn't want to sleep with black women (I think someone doth protest too much but okey-dokey: your penis, your preference). Is he a racist, is he psycho? I don't know. I'd bet on crazy, narcissistic and maybe even misogynist. Whatever.
That wasn't what hurt. What cut me to the core was how people aligned themselves on Twitter. Some black women were outraged that he said it and then some black men were outraged by the women's outrage. And then the shiggitty-storm started. "Have of you sistas wouldn't have a shot with him anyway?" "You guys back up anybody with a d!" "If you are going to boycott John Mayer, boycott Li'l Wayne too." "Sisters just mad nobody's checking for them." And these were the nicer of the tweets.
Dammit, people. Why can't we all get along? Time was, some dude said something slapworthy about women, he'd get slapped. And men would line up to help in the slapfest. Time was brothers and sisters… we backed each other's play. Now… not so much. It became a whole "you sisters want everyone to want you" vs. "you brothers ain't worth a damn" debate. And my heart broke a little.
Listen, I don't give 38 shakes of a damn who John Mayer gets to lay up under him (I feel bad for her though). As a matter of fact, I don't care who people get their freak on with if nobody gets hurt. Get love where you find love. But this is a glance at a larger issue that we've been dancing around all week…
What in the heck is it going to take to unite us as a race so we can unite with other races and just live? Barack can't get elected every year. Is it just not humanly possible to unite?
Bougie not bougie. Dark skin/Light-skin. Long hair vs purchased hair. Interracial dating or in-race only. Are we just manufacturing divisions to further separate us now? BougieDad used to say, "Black backs Black when attacked." And God bless him, he did. He had some friends that were side-eye worthy (to say the very least). But he would've have taken a bullet for those guys (and did, figuratively). He felt that if "we" were wrong, that's something we handled behind closed doors. Black-on-black crime was akin to blashphemy in his eyes. "You don't hurt your own." And as Aunt Violet used to say, "We don't air our dirty laundry in front of folks." You may guess who folks refers to. Tuesday's infighting was all manner of stank drawers displayed to the world. I absolutely hated it.
If you haven't seen Wanda Sykes' special "I'ma be Me" on HBO, check it out. There is a section where she discusses race and how her mother never wanted her to do anything remotely "off" in public because "white people are watching you." It was hilarious… because BougieParents said the exact same thing. My parents had two sayings for me when I left the house, "Act like a lady" and "Don't embarrass us in front of those white folks." In my youth I didn't understand why it was worse for me to embarrass them in front of black folks than white folks. Now I know the black folks would have (and did) get me told if I even thought about cutting a fool in public.
A BougieTale to illustrate my point:
My first job out of college was for (then-GTE) Verizon at their corporate headquarters in Irving. I was a temporary administrative assistant in the IT department. There was me, one other black guy and a whole bunch of white folks. The dress was business casual but I went in pressed, dressed and ready to impress every day after one of the other admins told me I was the first black person she'd really spent any time around. She was from Kingsville, Texas and her daddy was "still in the Klan but she didn't think like that." Uh-huh. Anyway, sitting in a meeting one day my manager turned to me and asked me how my vacation was.
I said it was great.
He asked where I went, I said Lake Tahoe.
Another guy said, "Oh, do black people ski?" :-/
I replied, "Yes, quite a bit. One of my friends made a black diamond run."
Another guy says, "Oh, the black trail – do they hand out malt liquor and fried chicken on the lift?" Half the room laughed, including the black guy who tacked on, "Afro Sheen for everybody!" I was not amused.
I glared, picked up my pen and said, "Maybe we should get on with the meeting."
Afterwards, the black dude tried to get all loud in the breakroom, "I don't know why she had to get all sensitive. It was obvious it was a joke! Some black people, wow!"
I stepped in, "Can I speak to you for a second?"
He said, "We can talk right here."
"No. We. Can. Not." <--polite version of "Bring yo' ass!"
I went all the way downstairs and into a private conference room before I went off, "You want to sit up in here Uncle Tom-ming for a paycheck that's on you. But don't do that in front of me… ever."
He said, "Look, you're young. You don't get how things work. You're going to have to eat some shit every now and then."
"I get that. I will eat shit if I absolutely have to but I won't participate in the shoveling or the throwing."
"You'll learn. You make waves. You get canned. Go along to get along."
Evilly I said, "You gonna tap dance and shine shoes too?" He slammed out.
Later my manager came to me and apologized. The next time the Human Resources girl (a sister) was in town she came to talk to me about "the incident." We spoke and long story short, I ended up working in her department.
I distinctly remember the angry, embarrassed, helpless feeling that came over me as I sat in that meeting. I flushed red, then blanched white, then flushed red again. I clenched my fist and my teeth and had to make a conscious decision not to scream or cry. I felt EXACTLY that same way reading Twitter yesterday. Over fifteen years later, look how far we STILL have to go. I know this little blog post solves absolutely nothing but to share my stories and frustrations. But I had to share. Now it's your turn. Thoughts? Comments? Sick of it all?