Thursday, February 21, 2008

stuff white people like

I found a link for Stuff White People Like over at Ali Eteraz's blog. After less than 2 months of existence it has apparently blown up and is getting massive numbers of hits. Apparently white people really like #12 Non-Profit Organizations, #18 Awareness, #22 Having Two Last Names, #32 Vegan/Vegetarianism, #33 Marijuana, #42 Sushi, #48 Whole Foods and Grocery Co-ops, #70 Difficult Breakups, and #69 Mos Def (Who knew that Ms. Fat Booty was becoming a white wedding standard?). What do people out there think. Funny? Interesting? Offensive? True? Would the list be any less funny, offensive or more true if "white people" were replaced with "educated liberal yuppie"? Do educated liberal yuppies of color have a way of life which is significantly different from that described in the list?

Also, more generally, what are the limits of edgy racial humor? About a month or so ago I was flipping channels and discovered Stephen Lynch on Comedy Central who seems to be a kind of male version of Sarah Silverman (who is herself #52 on the Stuff White People Like website). Like Silvermna, he manages to really push the edges of taste by packaging the content of his act in a really disarming and cute style. "Vanilla Ice Cream" is about the only song of his I feel like linking to on here. I'm curious about what other folks thoughts are?

Grenada's Past:
a day in the life of damali ayo
black people love us!
damali ayo


pomegranate queen said...

a friend of mine sent a link to this blog a few days ago. i thought it sucked. definitely not funny or interesting. in fact, pretty boring. and highly problematic. i hate to use the term "offensive" because that would mean i actually gave a shit about the blog's contents. which to be honest, i didn't really. there's so many of these out there.

you make a good point about it being a "educated liberal yuppie" thing as opposed to a "white people" thing.

as for sarah silverman, apart from having the worst politics, she is such a terrible comedian. i can't stand her. stephen lynch i haven't heard of, but thanks to your post, will make sure not to.

Abdul-Halim V. said...

Thanks for your input. As far as Sarah Silverman goes, I'm not sure what you mean by her politics. Either I'm giving her too much credit or you are perhaps taking her too much at face value. There is a Slate piece called "Sarah Silverman rapes American comedy" which describes her as a meta-bigot similar to Dave Chappelle and I actually think she manages to pull it off. Although Ali G (in my opinion) can't.

I agree with you that Stuff White People Like is problematic. I"m still interested in hearing other folks' reactions.

Moody's Global (TORONTO) said...

I think stuff white people like is absolutely hilArious. Since most of the people around me are white, I can completely vouch for it. It's not to say that many of the blog's items aren't liked by nonwhites, it's just fun. I admit that I do prefer the term "White educated liberal yuppie", but this is NOT to be taken seriously.

bingregory said...

My first reaction was to laugh. A lot. So I've got to say that was a funny site. What was funny about it? Two things: the characterizations, which were very sharp, definitely nailing to the wall things about myself and many people I've known; and, the tone of the site as a field guide for somebody (from Mars) meeting these people for the first time.

Of course, once you start turning things over in your head, it gets more complicated. There are people who like these things, and it is fair game to mock them for it. I don't see any problem there. What does it mean to say these are things White People like? Obviously there are White People who don't like these things, and non-Whites who do, and the author is certainly aware of that. If you call it stuff well-to-do educated liberal yuppies like, that would be more accurate but a lot less funny. What makes it funny (bear in mind nothing is funny anymore after you explain it) is not the sketch itself, but that is that it is expertly drawing a box around a group of people who feel themselves to be unique, individual people who like what they like because such things are unimpeachably true and valuable, not because of their particular class, ethnicity, upbringing etc. That's why one of the deadliest installments was #62, Knowing What's Best for Poor People:

white people believe if given money and education that all poor people would be EXACTLY like them

Saying that the site is only about a certain social class, liberal educated yuppies, leaves you with the position that there is no such thing as white people, which is a tough position to hold too. I found this comment on metafilter illuminating:

... Class symbols do not define themselves. They are defined by the people that comprise those classes. Status symbols are defined by the interests of those that have power, and cultural and ethnic interests are part of that. Educated white American ethnic culture and interests are largely built into the litany of American status symbols. So the idea that the most common current American status symbols (many of which are alien even to upper class non-Americans) would be the same if African-Americans were 50% or 90% of the upper class is ludicrous. It is ethnocentric because it considers white American cultural expressions "normal" and somehow universal or inevitable or natural, when they are anything but. ...

To me, the site would only be a problem if it were drawing a distinction with other groups of people. But the site is very careful not to do that. It never says, "white people are [intrinsically, irremediably] like this but black people are [intrinsically, irremediably] like that". It doesn't exclude the possibility of joining the group either; quite the opposite: it's a guide to help you do exactly that. Really, if such a site was written with a straight face for American tourists visiting a foreign country, it would be considered a valuable service: "When amonst the Iban, they will love to offer you a glass of tuak, as it is their way. You would cause offence by refusing, so make sure to take at least a token sip." There's not much difference between that and #24, Wine except that the latter is self-aware.

I could go on, but I don't want to bore you to death. I guess the issue has been on my mind since I talked with Umar Lee about whether Islam can be among the Stuff White People Like...

Anonymous said...

This hits home more: