My contribution to ‘stuff white people like’

I had to do it.  I e-mailed Stuff White People Like with a couple of suggestions:

Heard Christian Lander on NPR, and started telling my white friends about how great this segement I heard on NPR was!
I have a couple of suggestions for the blog that may well have been sent to you already.
White people like
(1) Helping Africans and Latin Americans. Despite that there are plenty of poor, uneducated, unhealthy families residing in the backyards of white people (SE DC, Appalachia, Camden, NJ), they love to travel across the globe to help people deemed even poorer: Latin Americans and Africans. In particular, white people find that the best way to help these populations is by taking photos of them as freelance photographers and educating other white people about how bad these populations have it. (This goes along with the white penchant for “Awareness” illustrated earlier). When asked to explain their passion for this type of “work,” white people will rattle off about “human rights,” “social justice,” “global community,” and “interdependence.”
Fortunately for white people concerned with the size of their carbon footprint, there has not been enough “awareness” shed on the dent that footprint makes each time a white person flies to South Africa, yet.
(2) Learning non-”Western” languages. At a certain point, learning French went from being romantically intellectual to being a sign of white cultural ignorance, unless that French is to be applied in one of the Francophone countries in Africa. These days, white people are learning Farsi, Hindi, Chinese, and Arabic. Spanish is still okay, but only if you have plans to use it for social justice purposes.
Hope these aren’t too repetitive. Keep up the great work. As I’m sure you’ve heard, I recognize so many people (including myself) in your blog posts.
Cheers (a sign-off that white people like),
Elaine Meyer
Of course, this is not to knock people who learn languages, especially those who are incredibly disciplined about it.  I wish I knew an Eastern language myself.  I am more knocking the fact that learning these languages has become a trendy and fleeting endeavor for many.  (One of my favorite readers is a shining example of how important studiousness and committment is to learning languages, especially those of a totally different structure than the Romance and Germanic with which English speakers are familiar).
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About elainemeyer
I'm a writer and editor. I work in communications at the Columbia School of Public Health, where I write about epidemiologic research. In the past I've worked as a reporter and studied journalism and history in school.

30 Responses to My contribution to ‘stuff white people like’

  1. hm says:

    哪裡哪裡~ 太好了~ 多謝﹗
    you are too kind

  2. Jon F. says:

    apparently that blog is run by a racist conservative type (‘white people’ being equal to urbane liberals and such). and have you read the racist comments on that blog? i’d stay away if i were you.

  3. elainemeyer says:

    what basis do you have for that, because it contradicts what i know about the blog’s creators.
    i heard one of them, christian lander, on npr http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=33372288 and he says he bases many of the entries off himself and friends. the reason why they don’t go after the nascar types is because that is overplayed. obviously, “white people” is tongue in cheekily referring to yuppy and hipster types and not all white people, because, for lander, these are clearly most of the white people he knows.
    a lot of crazy people comment on blogs. that doesn’t mean the blog is racist. if i was implicated for everyone who commented on my blog, i would be a web of contradictions.
    anywhoo, i find it a funny blog, and i can take a joke, recognizing myself and people i know in many of the entries (including, maybe, you….)

  4. elainemeyer says:

    more edification on SWPL’s creator:
    TAN: do you consider yourself aligned with the white people you profile? You’re white, but are you whom you describe/study?

    SWPL: oh yes. this site pokes fun at ME. that’s why I use pictures of myself. those aren’t taken out of irony. this is the shit that I do. I need to call myself out for all of the stupid shit that I take for granted. why do I need $300 bike rims? why is a $10 sandwich considered normal?
    http://theassimilatednegro.blogspot.com/2008/02/stuff-white-people-like-interview-part.html

  5. Jon F. says:

    perhaps. i don’t remember where i read it…maybe they convoluted the commenters and he (i guess he knows some of them?)

    i think the blog is a bit tired, and this guy sounds like some modern day beavis and butthead who feels the need to snicker at everything around. i think i was like that in my teens, but i’ve got to say that it’s a bit annoying in its unending nature. and the wire is awesome. someone on the comments page pointed out that most of the wire’s viewership is not white, and that HBO has had trouble keeping up the show’s ratings because mainstream viewers don’t like the show’s gritty nature.

  6. Jon F. says:

    could we have stuffblackpeoplelike.com and stuffactualwhitepeoplelike.com ? or would that not be progressive?

  7. elainemeyer says:

    the creator of the blog is a fan of “the wire.” he’s poking fun at himself and his social milieu. i think we should all be able to poke a little fun at ourselves. and i definitely would not compare SWPL to beavis and butthead, unless he starts finding fire funny. much comedy is funny b/c we recognize ourselves in it. SWPL is an example of this, IMO.

  8. Ben says:

    I don’t know where you’re coming from on the second one, but the first idea of yours is interesting. First, I guess I more or less epitomizes this given my current circumstances (although I don’t think you’ll get a lecture on social justice out of me). However, one of the funniest examples that I’ve seen was the Alternative Spring Break program at UVA. ASB was really popular and experienced mercurial growth while I was in college. They would always have a lot of trips to inner city environments, maybe some national parks, and a smaller number of trips to foreign countries, mostly in Latin America. Students could apply to do ASB and rank the destinations by order of preference on their application. You can probably guess what the most preferred trips were. The ASB selection process grew so competitive that they had interviews to determine who went on which trip, and the highly coveted slots for destinations like Ecuador and Guatemala went to, presumably, the most “qualified” applicants. Which begs the question– shouldn’t the most qualified and caring be the ones most accutely aware of, and eager to work on, the problems in their own backyard?

    I don’t know though, just some loose thoughts. I think the SWPL blog is sometimes great (Recycling), sometimes questionable, and sometimes just projections of conversations with people that “clander” happened to not like.

  9. elainemeyer says:

    ASB was very popular at my school as well, though I don’t know whether it was as competitive to get to the Central and South American destinations. It does testify to the appeal of faraway places more than your own back yard. It’s not that I’m against traveling to new places–quite the opposite!–but it gets a little tired when people suggest that their reasons are entirely altruistic.

    Regarding Jon’s criticism that if it were about black people, the site would be considered racist, I would disagree, because, in an analagous situation, the website would be written by black people.

  10. Alayna Buckner says:

    Elaine, I think your explanation of #2 is quite glib. People learned French because it was the international language of politics – and is still considered one – think UN – before English took over de facto. With the fading influence of France in world politics, and the increasing significance (at least to the US and Western countries in general) of the Arab world, and the economic significance of Eastern Asian countries and India – of course the languages spoken there are increasing in prominence.

    If anything, I think multi-lingual Americans are a blessing to help us get out of our ignorant-of-the-world past and biases; hopefully, they are truly a sign that the days when “World Studies” meant “Western Studies” are over.

  11. Adele says:

    Alayna, I feel as though your second paragraph strays from the point of your first one a bit. All you are saying is that people want to learn these languages because certain “Eastern” countries are becoming more significant to us, some of them economically so. I don’t think this is “truly a sign that the days when ‘World Studies’ meant ‘Western Studies’ are over.” In fact, as someone currently in school I can safely say that’s not the case. This is a sign of globalization, a phenomenon that does not necessarily lead to a decrease in biases, as you say. If anything your comment proves that there is still a very clearly defined ‘us’ and ‘them’. Also, I don’t completely understand what you mean by the “increasing significance” of the “Arab world”, a grouping that is itself overly-simplified and essentialist.

  12. Adele says:

    that is to say, the “Arab world” is itself multi-faceted

  13. Adele says:

    that is to say, the “Arab world” is itself multi-faceted

  14. Elaine says:

    Well put, Adele. I’ve always found groupings like “Arab World” highly simplistic as well, just as simplistic, in fact, as the idea that there is a cohesive “Western World.”

  15. Jon F. says:

    Well put? Yes, “the Arab world” is a bit of a generalist grouping (we all know that Iranians aren’t Arabs, that not all Muslims are Arabs, that not all Muslims speak Arabic blah blah blah), but you guys know exactly what Alayna meant. You’re being a little pedantic.

    As for me, I don’t think that a stuffblackpeoplelike.com would be racist. I just don’t think it would get this kind of response. Even if were written by a black person (and black comedians often make fun of “black people”), it wouldn’t have the snide and self-important tone that SWPL often has. People love stuffwhitepeoplelike.com because they love to ridicule the kind of people and behavioral patterns that SWPL highlights, but I think they ridicule them sometimes because they are jealous that they aren’t somehow a part of it. I agree with Ben that much of that blog stems from Landers’ personal irks at things that aren’t really representative of anything that could constitute a trend.

  16. Jon F. says:

    Although today’s St Patrick post was very true. I fucking hate St Patrick’s day.

  17. elainemeyer says:

    Hm, I think people love SWPL because they identify with it and identify others with it. (I don’t know how many times I have to say that). If you can’t take a joke about yourself but find that you have ample ammunition against others, like those who get into St. Patty’s day, maybe you need to abide by the old saying “lighten up.”

    As to the “snide and self important tone” of SWPL, I think you are confusing their tone with what they are mocking, which is in many cases, self-importance.

    As for the Arab world question, whether I know what Alayna means was never at issue. I think to criticize me for being simplistic and then to launch into a tired cliche about how awareness of the Arab world and the rising economic power of China and India somehow makes us all more enlightened is not a particularly complex way to think about other people in this world. In fact, it is about as simplistic as having a knee-jerk reaction against everything Western.

  18. elainemeyer says:

    As a side note:
    Jon, it has been pointed out to me that your contribution to the comments in my blog is almost without fail, fractious. I think that’s pretty true.

  19. Jon F. says:

    I agreed with Adele’s first point about Alayna’s second paragraph. However, I think Alayna’s point about people studying these ‘new’ languages because of economic and geopolitical reasons was valid, and that her bringing up the “Arab world” in that context was on point, even if you take issue with the choice of term. While you may be right that some people like the exoticizing aspect of these languages, most are just learning them because they’re interesting and valuable, and I don’t think they need to be mocked for it.

    Also, I don’t think I’m confused about SWPL’s tone. While I think it’s funny at times, it is tired and self-important: you don’t really think clander is giving us some kind of meta-commentary that’s somehow elevated from the others? I don’t think everyone just identifies with the things in there: I think a lot people read it and say “Hah, yeah, fucking hipsters and their hipster bullshit.”

    As for me, I just a fractious dude….seriously, though, come on.

  20. Adele says:

    Perhaps this is a case of differences in humor. Personally, I think the op-ed headline in The Onion: “I’m Totally Dating a Black Chick” is funny. I do not think it in any way discourages or mocks interracial dating, it just makes fun of a certain type of person who approaches it in a certain type of way. I am quite sure that Elaine was not making light of every single person who takes up a non-Western language, least of all the apparent slew of people who pick it up for diplomatic reasons.

  21. elainemeyer says:

    Hey Adele,
    EXACTLY. I couldn’t–and haven’t–have said it better.
    I even put a disclaimer at the end to explain that I wasn’t poking fun at everyone who learns languages.
    Again, I ask some of my readers to lighten up.
    I often have a sneaking suspicion that comments that seek to enlighten me on the real reasons that the French language is waning are written for the benefit of the writer more than for me.

  22. lstad says:

    Oh no, I agree it’s very funny too, Adele. Actually, it’s funny that you pointed out the onion. While I like the onion, I often feel that the articles get a little bit dragged on. For me, SWPL’s content is kind of obviously funny, and then the descriptors are like telling a joke and then explaining why it’s funny…which is never funny. I’m not offended by any of the content in the blog. In the end, I just feel like I’m reading the diary of someone who was wronged by some hipster/yuppie and has a beef with them, and that the people who love this guy identify with that feeling.

  23. elainemeyer says:

    I don’t think there’s a singular reason people like the website. As a friend pointed out to me, getting down on people for finding something funny is kind of preposterous. I would say that for me and those I know who recognize people in the SWPL entries, it’s not about resenting a “yipster” for what they have or do, as Jon suggests, but more for trying to get the rest of us to think what they have or do is important. And it’s funny to think that in a certain socio-economic segement, it’s totally plausible that someone would feel very good about himself for “dating a black chick,” having gay friends, or studying abroad.

    And, as one of the commenters on TNR said, there are some jokes there that make you stop and think about your own engrained “white people” habits. For instance, I feel an innate discomfort when I have to throw away a can because there is now recycling bin around.

  24. Jon F. says:

    yeah, that wasn’t ‘lstad’ btw. just me. wrong computer.

    btw, it’s a good thing that you feel discomfort at throwing away a can. that’s not (nor should it be) a ‘white’ thing.

  25. Adele M. says:

    I’ll agree with Jon that it does seem a bit obvious at times, though not always. I actually don’t find it “hahahahah” funny. Maybe “ha” funny sometimes. But yeah, I just don’t find it offensive, and I guess neither do you. I actually think it would be funnier if it were written by someone who had a beef with a hipster, but not necessarily intentionally funny. However, like Elaine I don’t pick up this tone in the entries.

  26. Adele M. says:

    P.S.- White people really like this blog. I hope that someday clander addresses this.

  27. Jon F. says:

    White people just like blogs.

  28. elainemeyer says:

    Heh, I hope he does too.

    Does this mean that any prior Lauren comments have actually been from Jon?

  29. Jon F. says:

    no, just that one.

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