Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I like "Stuff White People Like"

There is a blog that is sweeping the nation. The LA Times has written about it. Kanye West put in a plug for it on his website. And I've received several links from friends telling me about

"Stuff White People Like"

Created by Christian Lander, a transplanted Canadian currently living in California, this blog is both satirical and smart about race. Because what Lander seems to be doing in this blog is to shine a light on whiteness--to talk about being "white" as a racial construction--to highlight that being "white" like being "Asian American" or "African American" or any of the other racial and ethnic permutations we can think of, has a set of cultural values and assumptions and stereotypes.

Although many of the comments have noted that the entries are oriented to a middle and upper-middle class background, and therefore aren't necessarily race-specific and should be called "Stuff Yuppies Like" or even if racially inflected, should be refined to "Stuff White Hipsters Like," Lander's point in creating "Stuff White People Like" was to call out the assumptions people have about what it's like to BE white--and part of the default to whiteness is an assumption about class--that if you are white you are middle class, college educated, and have certain cultural tastes.

(By the way, the comments are incredible--every post gets between 150-300 comments, and they range from people loving the site, both white and non-white commenters, to people who are offended by the site, both white and non-white commenters, to down-right racist and angry people who create their own "lists" of things "Black people like" which includes every egregious stereotype imaginable. This site has OBVIOUSLY hit a nerve!)

Lander was interviewed on "The Assimilated Negro" blog and you can read the interviews in two parts (Part 1 and Part 2). Be sure to check out the interview and this blog post--#81 "Graduate School" did hit home with me. Although I'm not white, I did identify with many of the things written about graduate school, especially a PhD program in English--this is my favorite quote:

"It is important to understand that a graduate degree does not make someone smart, so do not feel intimidated. They may have read more, but in no way does that make them smarter, more competent, or more likable than you."'s so true.


Jason Clinkscales said...

One of my friends forwarded this to me two weeks ago. However, just within the last few days, it's been forwarded my way a bit too much for my taste.

I'm not exactly sure how to feel about this. It's amusing, but the comments really turned me off because of how crass they were. Yet, as I learned from college radio, you can invite a certain, unsavory audience with your content, whether you plan for it or not.

I agree wholeheartedly that there is a huge economic class component to most of this, not necessarily racial. However, I doubt that many people I know, regardless of race, will agree.

CVT said...

Same as Jason, I've suddenly been inundated with references to this site - and I'm not quite sure why it popped up like this in my world. Anyway.

To a certain extent, I found this site amusing (definitely some things I have joked about in my time). Then I read this one:

Now - this is, unfortunately, quite true in a lot of ways, but as a mixed result of one of these unions, this one (and especially the comments) hit home. Obviously, I've thought about this a lot (white dad, Chinese mom), and it's very noticeable, but having it all summed up in one blog post and the ensuing comments . . . A bit disorienting.

What I'm getting at is that it's worth a read (and, as I said - ESPECIALLY the comments) to pretty much get a summary of what a mixed-Asian kid grows up dealing with (and struggling with) in terms of people's stereotypes, views, etc.

Next time somebody asks me "what" I am, I think I might just lead them to this post.

Jennifer said...

Jason & CVT,

I think it's interesting how people have really gravitated towards this website--and I wonder, to what extent, you both received lots of links to this site because you are both people of color? I figured that's why people told me about the blog--as well as the fact that I do write about race (probably a combo of both).

And I agree with you about the comments--they are disturbing and shed a lot of light on the current state of race relations and attitudes about race. And I think the fact that this is a blog that doesn't moderate its comments allows people who just say whatever they want to say.

Makes you feel like everyone who uses the internet should take an on-line civility course and an oath to be respectful, even when they disagree.

Genepool said...

Although it may be undignified, I laughed my ass off reading that site. I should probably be more sensitive and offended, but its just too over the top to be taken that seriously.

Some funny observations, but if this were done with other races as the target, would there be outrage instead of just "interest"?

"Makes you feel like everyone who uses the internet should take an on-line civility course and an oath to be respectful, even when they disagree."

We should apply the same logic to getting a drivers license, there would be a lot less traffic and global warming...

Jennifer said...

You raise an intriguing and provocative point--if there was a blog (and there have been spin-offs) called "Stuff Asian American people like" or "Stuff black people like" would we be offended?

I suppose one thing would be: is the person writing the blog actually an Asian American person--does their identity match the identity of the topics they are writing about?

I think people would be more comfortable with this--not that an Asian American person can't internalize racism--and we need only point to our sole African American Supreme Court Justice to see how his politics would not be aligned with most African American political ideology.

I suppose part of the humor and the reason I like the blog, is the way in which it sheds light on "whiteness"--and that's not something people tend to think of very critically in and of itself--especially not contrasted with other races.

I am, of course, reading too much into this blog (hey, I'm an academic, and a literary critic at that--I'm supposed to parse out every ounce of interpretive nuance that I can), but seriously, I think part of the fun is that it is a white person mocking whiteness--showing up the privilege that so many white Americans take for granted.

Whereas a blog about Asian American and black Americans still has to contend with the issue of minority status and marginalized presence.

But these are preliminary thoughts and I think your question warrants more contemplation--because what, IS IT, exactly that makes this blog seem funny, to me, but a blog about stuff black people like, would make me slightly uncomfortable...

Maybe it's that the inevitible slide into stereotypes (because lets face it, in the SWPL blog, many of them are stereotypes--even if they do ring true) would feel too much like racism--too much like this is what already happens in the mainstream media.

Anyone else want to chime in?

admin said...

Along with white guys and asian girls, you should also check out . it'll give you the other perspective in a hilarious, light manner. it's been my favorite site for the past two weeks.