Smile Politely

Stuff white people like

I first ran across Stuff White People Like last year, when it was on Item #76 – Bottles of Water.

Water seems like a fairly simple concept. You turn on the tap, put glass underneath, and drink. Sadly, it is not this simple for white people.

Given my strong feelings about bottled water (bought from store = bad, filled at home = good), this entry called me out.  Why do I make the task of drinking so water overly complicated and self-righteous? Answer: Because I am white. I was immediately hooked.

The list of stuff white people like is now up to 128 items (latest entry: Camping), and I recognize myself in far too many of them:

  • The Idea of Soccer
  • Threatening to Move to Canada
  • Standing Still at Concerts
  • Wrigley Field
  • Arrested Development

Plus, there are plenty of other entries that don’t necessarily apply to me, but which I clearly recognize in my fellow white people:

  • Coffee
  • Having Two Last Names
  • Gifted Children
  • Microbreweries
  • Expensive Sandwiches

Created by Christian Lander, a white guy (although red-headed), the site became a huge phenomenon last year and even spawned a book. It’s written with a dry, sharp wit, from the point of view of someone giving advice to an “ethnic” friend who wants to ingratiate him or herself with white people. In interviews, Lander says he was mostly making fun of himself, as a young, left-wing, urban, yuppie.

And indeed, the site doesn’t really describe white people so much as lampoon white liberal yuppies.  For instance, this entry on Public Radio:

To explain this love for Public Radio, one only needs to summarize several previous posts on this website. Let’s use my friend Craig as an example. Craig has a high paying 9 to 5 so he feels guilty about all the problems in the world. To make himself feel better he likes being socially aware of things Post #18. However he spends most of his time indulging in the arts and going out for dinner so he has little time to devote to this. He found solace in The Daily Show Post#35, however he decided that life would be better if he did not have a TV post #28. Craig found an adequate replacement in Public Radio.

Clearly, this describes a very small slice of white people. Namely, the slice of white people that love Public Radio.  Nonetheless, there is an entirely different slice of white people who fervently hate Public Radio, and are constantly trying to shut it down. So it would be more accurate to say that white people enjoy fighting about Public Radio.

I like being made fun of (another white thing?).  But I’m also a stickler for accuracy (definitely a white thing). A more comprehensive listing of stuff white people like would have to include things like deep-fried twinkies, confederate flags, and monster trucks.  Also missing from the site are entries for country clubs, mega-churches and birther/teabagger/anti-healcare-reform rallies, none of which could be sustained in this country but for white people. The site really should be called Stuff Guilt-Ridden Middle-Class White Yuppies Like.

So, although I quibble about the site claiming this is about white people in general, I do enjoy its insight into my corner of whitedom. White people often believe there is no such thing as white culture, but this is really just having a hard time separating white culture from American culture. Identifying love of bottled water and “appearing to enjoy Classical Music” as specifically white things is a teachable moment. Other cultures may also love bottled water and appear to enjoy Classical Music, but that doesn’t mean I can’t claim them as being especially white.

So, I am embracing Stuff White People Like.  It has already paid off over the last year. Christian Lander said in an interview that the original impetus for the site was his raving about how good The Wire was to a Filipino friend.  After seeing Arrested Development, The Daily Show/Colbert Report and Mad Men on the list, I thought I should try The Wire. And indeed, after watching all five seasons of it, I now consider it the best TV drama ever.

So, I’ve decided Stuff White People Like is not just descriptive, but also prescriptive. I am grateful to now know that I should hate people who wear Ed Hardy, even though I’m not really sure what that is. Also, it is OK to give into the temptation of buying a Moleskine notebook and some North Face outdoor wear. After all, I’m white. I apparently can’t help it.

Related Articles