Let's Talk About White People

The other day I visited a beautiful city called Sausalito, north of the San Francisco bay. "Beautiful" is very loaded--the city was so clean, plump with flowers and shrubberies, and very white. I mean, there were shops with incredibly expensive yachting apparel, and more. But in pointing out its whiteness, I am not being hostile. I have every right to point it out, for I do the same thing when I observe black, Latino, Asian, and other racialized geographical areas.

Pointing out whiteness should not make white people uncomfortable. It should be blatant and funny, Kind of like it is in this article about San Francisco being a top white destination.

As odd as this may sound, it's refreshing to find out about a blog that highlights "Stuff White People Like." The blog brings white culture into shape and form. It latches onto whiteness and drags it down from its normative perch, so that we can pinpoint its traits and study it. It even provides information about how to deal with/talk to the stereotypical white people described in each of its entries.

This Time article by Jeninne Lee-St. John describes the blog a little further:

If you don't keep up with all the snarky, zeitgeisty corners of the Internet, Stuff White People Like is a pseudo-anthropological list mocking the habits, tastes and whims of people of non-color. (Entry #1: Coffee. "White people all need Starbucks, Second Cup or Coffee Bean. They are also fond of saying "you do NOT want to see me before I get my morning coffee.")

...I called Damali Ayo, a black social critic and artist who wrote the book How to Rent a Negro — a satire inspired by the same sentiments as another thing that white people like (#14), Having Black Friends. She thinks the blog, oddly, represents a form of social progress. "I'm really glad that white people are stepping up to critique white culture, because in general white people like to deny that there is such a thing as white culture," Ayo says. And she sort of made me feel better about being enmeshed in that culture. "Stuff white people like is what we all live and breathe everyday. Turn on the TV: it's all stuff white people like. I've been studying stuff white people like since I was four just so I could have a conversation."


macon d said...

Great post, thank you, and Ayo's comments are especially good (I have her book, too, and find it very revealing about white folks).

I don't care as much as many others do, though, for "Stuff White People Like." I think it lets white folks off the hook, since what little insightful critique it has to offer is routinely buried beneath a smarmy, ironic, humorous surface. That's precisely why I started my own blog on the topic, in the hopes of helping along a more serious conversation on whiteness. Your blog has been a big help. As a white guy, I'm actually grateful to a black tradition of studying whiteness. As Ayo implies, even though someone like me has studied whiteness for a long time, I think black people in general know things about me in racial terms that I've yet to learn about myself.

macon d