Why Stuff White People Like is Something I Don’t

Plenty of white people found something to love about the hit website Stuff White People Like. Oliver Lee Bateman wasn’t one of them.

 

As anybody who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past half-decade knows, there’s this really popular website called Stuff White People Like. It has begotten a couple of books that appear to sell reasonably well on Amazon (where white people like to shop), and I think there’s a better-than-zero chance it will become a movie starring Shia LaBeouf as a white guy (which white people would wait to watch on Netflix or Qwikster or whatever it’s called these days) or a CBS sitcom starring Matthew Perry as a white guy (which white people would refuse to watch if it were filmed using a multi-camera setup or had a laugh track).

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It’s pretty obvious, then, that Stuff White People Like is something that many white people like. In fact, given its smashing success, it’s probably safe to say that it’s something that at least a few white people love. So why hasn’t Stuff White People Like published an entry about itself? Why haven’t its editors — in the interest of obviating any charge of hypocrisy from bleeding-heart critics like yours truly — deigned to discuss how much white people like poking gentle fun at themselves in a way that nevertheless fails to shake their smug sense of cultural superiority?

Because there’s no need. Facing up to the facts isn’t among all that cool stuff that white people like. Instead, it’s something that many white people actively refuse to do. How else could one explain the dysfunctional, implicitly race-based American criminal justice system described with such eloquence and conviction in Michelle Alexander’s recent book The New Jim Crow? Might this also help us understand the lack of national outrage over the genocide in Rwanda 20 years ago? At any rate, it’s obvious that facing up to the facts isn’t nearly as fun as facing one of those stylish HD screens popularized by the late, lamented — at least on the Twitter feeds of millions of white people — Thomas Edison of our age, Steve Jobs.

Nor is that wretched old Tea Party — which is composed almost entirely of angry white people — among the various iPhone apps and kombucha teas that white people like. Most people in the sophisticated Stuff White People Like reading audience wouldn’t be caught within 50 miles of one of these wingnuts. Even if their outrage is genuine and many of their complaints are legitimate, such loopy moonbats are beneath mockery. With their pitchforks and misspelled protest signs and silly Walmart “USA #1” trucker hats (an item that hasn’t been liked by discerning white people since 2005 or so), they’re a reminder of how déclassé white people used to be before they became couth and started liking great stuff.

No, these readers need nothing more than a tame critique of their slavish worship of expensive pug dogs and the bland comedy of noted ginger and failed “Tonight Show” host Conan O’Brien. They want, to quote Friedrich Nietzsche, “a little poison now and then that makes for pleasant dreams — and much poison at the end for a gentle death.” Stuff White People Like is therefore the perfect solution to a problem of no importance whatsoever: How should people who have discovered happiness — their pug dogs, Steve Jobs-inspired screens, Conan O’Brien quips — pass the time? For these people, the hard questions posed by the union organizers of the 1930s and the urban radicals of the 1960s are no more. “What is quaint and vintage and now and with it and hopefully on sale — relatively speaking — at Anthropologie? Where is the artisanal chocolate? What is going on back in Williamsburg or Portland or somewhere hip like that?”

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In other words, Stuff White People Like writes stuff that I can’t stand. That doesn’t mean I haven’t laughed at it — man, I’ve laughed at plenty of bad jokes, from the brahsome Dane Cook’s ridiculous gyrations to that genuinely awe-inspiring scene where the nerdy kid humps the apple pie. But this hipster-created website strikes me as insincere, much like most of the stuff it skewers. It’s not controversial or soul-crushingly sad or outré — not that all humor should be, but good humor almost always is — and amounts to nothing more than a barrage of ostensibly self-deprecating jokes at the expense of pseudo-cynical readers who are always in on the gag, always ready for all-American boy John Krasinski’s knowing wink to the crowd, always up for something that’s guaranteed to not challenge their exquisite tastes and refined prejudices in the least.

But I take heart in one encouraging fact that may spell the end of Stuff White People Like’s reign of terror on the World Wide Web (which appears to have ended years ago, anyway, given how fast the ‘net moves from Feminist Ryan Goslinging to Tebowing to FaithHilling): Census data indicates that white people now constitute a much smaller percentage of the U.S. population than they once did, and the trend appears likely to continue. Maybe fertility is something that many white people don’t like. All I can state with confidence about that statistic, however, is that there will eventually be fewer white people around to like all this worthless stuff and then giggle along to blog entries about how silly they are for liking it.

 

Photo–brainsik/Flickr

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About Oliver Lee Bateman

Good Men Project contributing editor Oliver Lee Bateman is a columnist for Al-Jazeera America and Made Man Magazine. His writing has been featured in Salon, The Atlantic, Johnny America, Stymie: A Journal of Sport and Literature, the U.S. Intellectual History Blog, STIR Journal, Mic.com, and NAP Magazine. He is also one of the founders of the Moustache Club of America and Penny & Farthing, two blogzines specializing in flash fiction and creative nonfiction that he co-curates with web developer Erik Hinton, medical consultant Nathan Zimmerman, and freelance writers Christie Chapman and J. R. Powell. Oliver is a lawyer as well as an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. Follow him on Twitter @MoustacheClubUS or on Google+.

Comments

  1. “Facing up to the facts isn’t among all that cool stuff that white people like. Instead, it’s something that many white people actively refuse to do.” So much truth in this statement. It’s really frustrating when White people not only refuse to acknowledge their White privilege, but also go on to lament about ‘reverse racism’. Granted, acknowledging privilege can be pretty scary, since acknowledging it is the first step in mitigating the impact you have on others and gauging how you wield such power. But people seem to prefer to remain oblivious to their privilege.

    • “But people seem to prefer to remain oblivious to their privilege.”
      That is because a lot of us don’t acknowledge the coherence or existence of such a concept as used by most people who keep blathering on about it. I also have never understood why privilege is something you need to feel guilty about. If someone is privileged isn’t that great for them. Why should anyone else be complaining about it. I find it frustrating when people talk about privilege because mostly I think its total bullshit, it doesn’t help anyone to talk about it and its a really awful form of moralizing.

      As for the site SWPL, I fucking love it. I have always hated certain things about white people vehemently…. or should I say liberal white people. But I could never quite articulate it. SWPL does it beautifully for a subset. But actually I would go even further since there are so many other things I hate about this society other than its white liberalism.

      Another great white people lampoon is Portlandia.

      • Because there are a lot of people who do not understand that they got where they are because of that privilege. If you were born a white guy in an upper middle class neighborhood, and there was never any question about money and college and a career, when they get preachy about how others less successful people are somehow personally flawed. They usually forget that they started out on third base and they act like they hit a triple. It’s a lot harder to get there if merely graduating from high school is a statistical anomaly in your neighborhood. THAT’S why acting privileged is a problem.

        • Wirbelwind says:

          Actually no, it isn’t. “Privilege” is usually hard work of several generations that eventually paid off. It should be a source of pride, not of shame or guilt.
          Sure, a lot of people are poor because of their bad luck, but much more are simply suffering because of their own (or their ancestors) bad decisions, poor planning etc.

        • “Because there are a lot of people who do not understand that they got where they are because of that privilege….It’s a lot harder to get there if merely graduating from high school is a statistical anomaly in your neighborhood. THAT’S why acting privileged is a problem.”

          Ok. But then all you are saying is that instead of criticizing the person I should criticize the whole neighbourhood/community or maybe even the whole race they come from. I should say:

          “its sucks that your black and you live in a shitty neighborhood and your disadvantaged by the fact that black culture doesn’t value education. Blacks should value education more and they would be better off. You are ill-served by your crappy shitty black neighbourhood and your awful hip hop culture”

          Somehow I don’t think that is what you are talking about but it is definitely what your argument logically implies.

          The other thing is that you assume the privileged person who doesn’t acknowledge privilege is the one being preachy. But I observe the opposite…people who care about privilege are extremely preachy and moralistic. Its the people who don’t acknowledge privilege that are silent.

          And privilege always assumes certain things are good and certain things are bad. Like the idea that it is good to go to an Ivy League school. Anyone who doesn’t go somehow missed out on life and is underprivileged. The same with getting a university education. But this assumes that the values of a small subset of people (mainly upper class white liberals) should define values for everyone else. Not all of us think that just because you went to an Ivy League school you are “privileged”. Some of us just think you received an overpriced education that turned you into a preachy snob. Why isn’t a black kid privileged because learned to play ball in Rucker park? Or a dropout privileged because they didn’t have to waste time in a class room. Why do the values and the good life as defined by white liberals define what is good for everyone else. THIS IS ANOTHER REASON I LOVE SWPL (that white liberals often hate it doesn’t hurt). It takes direct shots at the values of white people.

          Everyone has privileges. Some are born smart, hard-working, driven and ambitious. Are those also privileges. Why are we only talking about race and gender? And what about idiosyncratic things like the fact that you work at McDonalds and have a way of getting free big macs. Are those also privileges because if they are than nearly everyone has them. And if they are not privileges than why not? If you have privileges why not take advantage of what you have got to solve your problems.

          And then there is the fact that people who keep talking about privilege are obviously trying to make people feel guilty about their privilege and their success. That is the worst part.

          • Alright, there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about the term “privilege.” It’s dictionary definition is not the same as it’s use in anthropology and sociology. So yes, everyone has privileges…but not everyone is privileged. Societies place social labels on people, and in the west that means: white, African-American, straight, gay, man, woman, rich, poor, etc. These identities and labels can be loosely grouped into social constructs: race, gender, class, etc. Within these constructs, there can be, and often is, privileged and unprivileged identities. There are privileged races, genders, social classes, etc. And so what does that mean, to be privileged?

            It means that within the context of that social construct, your label is treated as normative and, as such, is given advantages over the other social labels, by virtue of belonging to that group. So, in the case of race…a white man and a black man are each driving an expensive sports car in the middle of a less-than-wealthy neighbourhood. The first assumption mainstream society makes is that the black guy probably stole the car, and the white guy is probably lost. It’s an example of privilege…by virtue of belonging to the privileged group (i.e. white) a certain level of innocence is assumed.

            The difference between that, and say being smart or hard-working, is that those privileges are about actions you take, and abilities you have. Those privileges are not about what social identity you belong to.

            • Ya, what Heather said. Privilege means being a member of the “invisible norm.” It means you are treated differently than others who are not members of that group simply because of the circumstances of your birth (e.g. If you are female or black or gay you will not be treated the same way as a white heterosexual male, even if you work just as hard and otherwise play by the rules that are “supposed” to afford you respect).

              Of course the worst part about privilege is that it’s invisible to those who have it. White guys are mostly oblivious to why they are able to do what they do, as evidenced here. If you want a little bit of an eye opener, Google a blog from a few years ago titled “Imagine if the Tea Party were black.” That is as great a definition of privilege as any I’ve ever seen.

              I’m also very puzzled by this idea of “guilt.” No one is asking you to feel “guilty” about the privilege you have – only to have some awareness, some gratitude and humility, and stop shoving these issues under the rug and dismissing them. You can be proud of you accomplishments, or your family or community, without judging others and attributing their possible lack of success to “laziness” and other such drivel.

            • I will add onto what you said by pointing out that with regards to gender, privilege is a much more complicated issue. Male and female privilege both exists, and it’s dependent on what part of society, culture and life you’re talking about. On the other hand, black privilege, or gay privilege, doesn’t exist.

              I know this article isn’t about gender, but I just wanted to clarify that.

            • You say male and female privilege both exist but black privilege and gay privilege do not.

              The problem is, what I believe assman is saying, is that he does not believe any of it exists.

              Speaking for myself, I understand the concept, but I do not think it exists in and of itself. It is just a term that is used as part of a worldview that likes to group people according to their race, gender, class, etc. I find such a world-view to be a useful way to interpret things, but ultimately a morally repugnant point of view that erases the individual by reducing the individual to its characteristics.

              I reject it.

              -Jut

            • “It is just a term that is used as part of a worldview that likes to group people according to their race, gender, class, etc.”

              Um, mate, the point is that is what our society does. That is how our society groups people. I’m not supporting such groupings, or rejecting such groupings. I just observe them. Society groups people according to race, gender, etc, and has ascribed privilege to certain categories in those groups.

            • Exactly. The whole point is that one can’t choose to be part of these groupings or not, society puts you into these boxes whether you want to be or not. If you haven’t been put into one of these boxes and found it stifling, then it stands to reason you wouldn’t recognize the boxes exist. But they do.

            • You can reject it all you like, but it still exists. And it does not discount the individual. Individual achievement always counts. Individuals fail despite having social privilege and individuals succeed despite being socially disadvantaged.

              But THAT DOES NOT INVALIDATE THE FACT THAT WE ARE BOTH INDIVIDUALS AND SOCIAL ANIMALS. No one actually succeeds, or fails, in a social vacuum, entirely on their own merits. All of us succeed or fail through some combination of individual merit and social support, or lack of it. To reduce ourselves simplistically to one or the other is ridiculous. Yet that’s exactly what many people do, and Americans seem especially prone to do it.

              Just to give a personal example, I do not have a college education and in fact I dropped out of high school. Yet I have had a successful career in spite of the odds against it. If I were some kind of real asshole, I could go around crowing about how privilege doesn’t exist because I succeeded against the odds and if I can do it, anyone can. But I’d really have to be in denial (and an asshole) to believe that. I don’t recommend that others do as I did. I understand that I succeeded without a high school diploma because I have other advantages that most people don’t. I’m proud of my achievements and if they inspire anyone else, great. But I don’t have any expectation that your average high school dropout can do just as well just because I did. That would be nuts.

            • LF: “You can reject it all you like, but it still exists.”

              No, it does not.

              It is a creation of your mind.

              It is a way of interpreting the interactions and patterns created by millions of individual actors.

              It is just like Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand.” I suppose you believe in that, too.

              -Jut

            • LF:
              I’m also very puzzled by this idea of “guilt.” No one is asking you to feel “guilty” about the privilege you have – only to have some awareness, some gratitude and humility, and stop shoving these issues under the rug and dismissing them. You can be proud of you accomplishments, or your family or community, without judging others and attributing their possible lack of success to “laziness” and other such drivel.

              Stephen kinda hit that reason above:
              They usually forget that they started out on third base and they act like they hit a triple.

              The problem with privilege isn’t what it describes but how it is used. How can you tell which men started out on third and which ones did hit a triple after serious training? The problem is many times you can’t. Sure you can point to a few John McCain like guys and say they did but its not called “males who started off on third but think they hit a triple” privilege. Its called “male privilege”. Its applied to everyone that is male with no distinction of who has it and who doesn’t (and don’t get me started on how people will do this with men while at the same time actively denying female privilege).

              In short the reason people feel guilty is over it is because people use it with the intent of invoking guilt, acting like they didn’t work for what they have because they are male, and to shut down conversation.

            • Well if people abuse the concept in that way, that’s unfortunate. That isn’t what it actually means (implying that a man, or a white person, didn’t work hard for what they have). All it means is that someone else who doesn’t fall into the privileged group is not getting the same reward for the same work, and/or the same punishment for the same misdeed.

              It means that a woman might work just as hard as a man but only receive 70% of the pay for the same job.

              It means that a woman will most likely get custody of the children in a divorce case, even if the man is as an individual the more qualified/responsible parent.

              It means that a black man is likely to be stopped by police, or perhaps a neighborhood watch captain, simply for walking down the street minding his own business, because he “looks suspicious” while nobody would think anything of seeing a white guy in a hoodie walking down the street.

              It means that if a black guy does commit a minor offense such as drug possession, he is likely to do jail time where a white guy would get off with a fine and probation for the same offense.

              It means that straight people can get married, show affection in public, and other things that “normal” couples do, but most gay people can’t.

              These are all examples of privilege. You should not feel guilty for having privilege, if you have it. You merely are treated with basic respect and dignity that everyone should get until they prove themselves unworthy of it. And that’s all any reasonable person is asking for when they try to make you aware that privilege exists.

            • Agreed.

              And that’s all any reasonable person is asking for when they try to make you aware that privilege exists.
              And I appreciate this qualifier.

            • “It means that a woman might work just as hard as a man but only receive 70% of the pay for the same job.”

              My professional role involves calculating the exact income of my clients, a task I have undertaken for tens of thousands of people. This claim is patently false.

            • wellokaythen says:

              But, doesn’t the existence of the SWPL site show that being white is NOT necessarily assumed to the be the norm anymore? I mean, if white people assumed that everyone shopped the same as they did, there would probably not be a site making fun of what white people like.

              The site seems to be poking fun at the fact that white people seem to have their own weird, distinct world view that is NOT normal.

              I think white privilege does exist to some degree. I just don’t think that the SWPL is a good piece of evidence for it.

            • wellokaythen says:

              Also, just because a site or blog or message fails to mention something does not mean that the author is ignoring it or denying it or minimizing it. You can’t talk about everything all at the same time. I doubt the SWPL site ever mentions slavery, but I doubt the authors are in denial that slavery ever existed.

              Silence does not mean denial.

            • “The difference between that, and say being smart or hard-working, is that those privileges are about actions you take, and abilities you have. Those privileges are not about what social identity you belong to.”

              @HeatherN: Your talking about how social scientists use the term. It has long since morphed far beyond this…probably even within the social science themselves. Having an able body is considered a privilege by many but you make a clear distinction between ability and social group. Ableism muddies your distinction horribly.

            • My list of categories of people where privilege exists was hardly exhaustive. In this case, having an able body (or lack thereof) puts you into a social group, or at least it does in the west. Having a psychological problem (or not) also puts you into a social group in our society. We seem to be heading into the direction of creating social groups for thin and fat people too, at the moment.

              Being hard working does not put you into a social group. Being smart doesn’t even put you into a social group. A person’s level of education does…but that’s perhaps more a sub-set of class privilege.

            • JSebastian says:

              So what you’re saying is white privilege is bestowed upon individuals by society and therefore is NOTHING TO APOLOGIZE for. Don’t complain about something someone else has given me, especially if I haven’t asked for it. Talk to the giver about that and leave me out of it.

            • I’m not saying people need to apologize for privilege…but they do need to recognize it. “Society” isn’t some abstract entity…it’s just a collection of people, all of whom perpetuate the norms created. So be aware of privilege and, if possible, do what you can to help unravel it.

            • “So be aware of privilege and, if possible, do what you can to help unravel it.”

              Why unravel it. I thought you were just observing. Remember.

              “I’m not supporting such groupings, or rejecting such groupings. I just observe them. “

            • Two separate comments. In one I was just commenting on what I observed, in the other I was being more prescriptive. Heck, in one I was replying to Jut and the other was to J Sebastian.

            • I seriously do not understand how the mere mention of privilege leads some people to think they’re expected to apologize for it or feel guilty over it. You’re not. If you are able to capitalize on the opportunities you are given, great! Now let’s all work to be more aware of the fact that not everyone has those same opportunities, simply due to the circumstances of their birth vs. social constructs and bias, and do what we can to minimize that. End of story.

            • I seriously do not understand how the mere mention of privilege leads some people to think they’re expected to apologize for it or feel guilty over it.
              Simple. Some are really afraid to acknowledge their privilege. Some truly have had people beat them over the head with it to the point where even if they agree with what privilege is all about and the fact that it needs to be addressed they just cringe at the use of the word.

          • Assman, acknowledging privilege and feeling guilty about it are two different things. I have many sites of privilege, and I am aware of that, but I don’t feel guilty about it. And asking others to acknowledge their own privilege is not about making them feel guilty, either. There’s this huge misconception that somehow being insightful and aware of power dynamics is about making someone feel guilty. It’s just simply not the case.

    • I just don’t understand why some people act as if it would kill them to have a little humility and a little compassion for others.

      It took me awhile for the notion of privilege to really sink in, but it certainly hasn’t hurt me to recognize it. It’s made me a better person, I feel. It doesn’t make me feel guilty – simply more grateful that I have had opportunities that many, many people don’t. And it makes me realize that many people need extra help just to believe in their own abilities and have the tools to succeed that I do, in order to realize the very great potential they may have.

      What’s the problem with recognizing that? It doesn’t diminish you in any way. In fact it enriches you. Sounds like some people need to get to work on disentangling compassion from guilt.

    • white guy says:

      This fact: it sucks being poor. white or “not white” it sucks being hungry, im white and have suffered more than most “minorities” … being white sucks because everyone thinks we have people to help us when sometimes HONESTLY some of us DON’T. If people like you would stop seeing color or non color the world would be better if we were all just one: Human beings.

  2. Hi Oliver,

    It’s Josh here. I wrote the “Having the Talk” article that you hyperlink to above. Can you please provide a bit more context for your statement about a smug sense of superiority? Thanks.

  3. What do you mean, “not controversial?” There hasn’t been a new post for two years and it evidently is still afflicting the comfortable (and it’s not like yours is the first piece in the genre).

    Also, N+1 is very much a Stuff White People Like publication, so liking to it and saying it publishes the kind of thing White People don’t like is strange.

  4. Okay so I hadn’t heard of Stuff White People Like until I read this, and after scanning through a bit of it I can safely say I don’t think I’ll be going back. It just doesn’t seem all that funny to me. That being said, it doesn’t anger me or frustrate me or anything. It almost sounded to me like you’re offended by the site, Oliver. Which is a bit interesting, considering it looks like it’s supposed to be silly, not even particularly satirical or socially relevant. I have a hard time being offended by anything that’s just supposed to be silly, even when it is as stupid as the stuff I saw at Stuff White People Like.

    So sure, it’s not challenging any stereotypes or assumptions, and sure it’s directed at an audience that probably likes to think of itself as being more cynical than it actually is. It’s just a poor attempt at taking the piss out of itself.

    Also, I found your paragraph about how white people don’t like “facing up to the facts,” to be problematic. People, in general, have a hard time acknowledging hard truths. It’s not a white thing…it’s a human thing. And I mean, bringing up Rwanda and the Tea Party into this conversation is a bit of a stretch. It seems to me like you’re taking a whole bunch of very different events, social paradigms, and cultural trends and throwing them all under the heading of ‘white privilege and white people burying their heads.’

  5. A few things.

    #1. I have never heard of that website, and I took a look around to see what it is all about. The site is rarely updated, and there’s not a lot going on. Also, it is, essentially, what hipsters like.

    #2. This talk of privilege really frustrates me. In fact, it infuriates me. Privilege is something on an individual level and there is no inherent privilege to being a white male. I’m a white male, but because it is widely assumed that all white males get all these special benefits, I became the ultimate ignored minority; a poor white male from a broken home. There are tons of programs for disadvantaged minorities but almost no programs for disadvantaged white kids. Privilege is a result of socioeconomic status. Citing white/male privilege also completely discounts the work that people do. Are many white males extraordinarily privileged? Absolutely. So are Sasha and Malia Obama. So are Carlos Slim Helu’s children. Privilege comes from wealth.

    And yet, we ignore the fact that there can even be disadvantaged white people. I find it incredibly offensive! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that I am privileged to be a white man, even though I grew up under circumstances worse that the majority of people living in this country.

    • As to #2, you are misunderstanding the term privilege. There is a class privilege in our society, and it sounds like you were part of the unprivileged poor class. But just because you were part of one unprivileged class (poor) doesn’t mean you weren’t also part of a privileged class (white). Privilege is not an absolute; you aren’t either privileged or unprivileged.

      I am white, and therefore I have racial privilege. I am middle class, and so I have economic privilege, though not as much as if I were rich. On the other hand, I’m also a lesbian, so I am most certainly not privileged when it comes to sexual orientation.

      So then, am I privileged? Yup. Am I unprivileged? Yup. It’s called intersectionality…the way ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, economic class, etc all intersect with each other.

      “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that I am privileged to be a white man, even though I grew up under circumstances worse that the majority of people living in this country.”

      Unfortunately a lot of people misunderstand and misuse the term ‘privilege,’ resulting in situations like what you describe. So someone sees that you’re white, and misappropriates class privilege onto you, but labels it white privilege.

      • White “privilege” almost exclusively IS economic privilege. There are very few benefits that white people get just as a result of being white. Whatever white privilege I have has such a negligible benefit. What benefit do I get because I’m white? Also, any benefit I have gotten because I’m a white male has more than been over taken by lack of opportunity because of my assumed privilege. I don’t get special loans for my business; I don’t have the opportunity to bid on many government contracts; I was penalized when applying to college for being a white male, etc.

        There is not a single, tangible point in my life where being a white male has proven beneficial to me. I can say without any doubt that my life would be much better were I a woman or a minority.

      • Jennifer says:

        So what you’re saying is that everyone is privileged in some ways and not privileged in other ways, which kind of renders the whole concept of “privilege” meaningless, doesn’t it?

        • No. The point is that a person’s specific privilege (or lack thereof) doesn’t always come into play. So, as I mentioned, I’m a lesbian and heteronormativity and straight privilege exists…but does that mean that every single thing I do is affected by that? No. A hell of a lot of things are, because our personal relationships affect a lot of other aspects to our lives, but not everything. My ability to get into university, for example, was not affected by it. How much money I’ll earn at whatever job I get won’t be affected by it. Assumed innocence (or guilt) when I go through the security line at an airport isn’t affected by it. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist; just that it’s dependent on context.

          In any given situation, various social identities can come into play, and it’s important to recognize when that involves privilege. That’s part of why I have a problem with this article, actually. It’s throwing a whole bunch of different events (Rwanda, the Tea Party, the SWPL website) under one huge heading of ‘white privilege’ and seems to be saying that is to blame. The reality is that all sorts of different social systems and social identities have gone into the mainstream west’s response to all of these things. The point is that it’s not simple.

          • No. The point is that a person’s specific privilege (or lack thereof) doesn’t always come into play.
            If that’s the case then how can you say that person has that privilege? That’s one thing that bugs me about the way people use privilege. It often becomes a quick stamper so that people just write off a person with the convenient clause of “if you disagree with me its only because you’re denying your privilege”.

            Unfortunately a lot of people misunderstand and misuse the term ‘privilege,’ resulting in situations like what you describe. So someone sees that you’re white, and misappropriates class privilege onto you, but labels it white privilege.
            And that’s the problem. People do stuff like that and get away with it because supposedly if folks like Collin disagree then its just “his privilege showing”.

            Its often used a multiple binding argument in order to shut people out.

            • I totally agree that the way it’s often used ultimately undermines its very definition. That’s why, as I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t really like the term. It’s not the concept I disagree with…but the term has been so misused.

              “If that’s the case then how can you say that person has that privilege?”

              So privilege isn’t that a white person will always have a better life than a non-white person. Obviously that’s not true. Privilege is about how society places certain benefits on being white, and how in certain situations those benefits come into play. It’s not absolute, in that it isn’t always informing a person’s experiences. But on the other hand it is absolute, in that it applies to all people who are white in a given situation. The example I gave about me and getting into university is a good one, I think. Just because straight privilege didn’t affect my getting into university, doesn’t mean straight privilege doesn’t exist. It does exist…and with regards to perceptions about parenthood, marriage, representation in media, there is straight privilege. It just didn’t affect university admissions.

              I think when discussing privilege it’s important to use the term properly, and not to overuse it. Also, to remember it’s a descriptive term…it’s meant to describe social phenomena, not to ascribe guilt.

            • Just because straight privilege didn’t affect my getting into university, doesn’t mean straight privilege doesn’t exist.
              I can agree with that but that’s not quite what I’m talking about.

              What I’m talking about is more like this.

              A male is abused/bullied/raped by a woman. Said male is not believed, disregarded, shamed because he’s a male victim of a female aggressor.

              Just because male privilege exists doesn’t mean that it played into that male’s experiences.

              I think when discussing privilege it’s important to use the term properly, and not to overuse it. Also, to remember it’s a descriptive term…it’s meant to describe social phenomena, not to ascribe guilt.
              Agreed. Problem is even people who recognize that its meant to describe social phenomena still like to use it to ascribe guilt.

            • Well first, male and female privilege both exist, which makes discussing privilege with regards to gender especially complicated. And second, your example is certainly one where privilege is being misused. Privilege can be used to understand general cultural trends, and to understand why and how cultural systems work. It shouldn’t ever be used as a way to discount an individual person’s experience.

              “Problem is even people who recognize that its meant to describe social phenomena still like to use it to ascribe guilt.”

              Unfortunately I don’t know the answer to how to fix that, except to continue to explain to people what privilege actually means.

  6. oh boo hoo. A whit guys complains that one website isn’t catering to him. BIG DEAL. The rest of the world caters to you already.

  7. I don’t really get the reference to Rwanda as an example of “white smugness.” People didn’t exactly shrug off the massacre. I recall it being on the news constantly, and people were sickened by what was going on. It’s not like Americans rushed in to save the civilians in Bosnia either, and they were all white.

  8. To me it had the opposite effect. It didn’t make me feel angry at them; it made me feel awkward about how stereotypical I was. It showed me just how much I lack diversity and am probably a little bit stuck up in my own way.

    Generally, I just avoid that book and site and try to be less stereotypical. I never got the sense that they were trying to perpetuate a self-congratulatory set of tastes. To me it was actually the opposite: pointing out how self-congratulatory the rest of us can be. It was a subtle, but effective jab for me personally.

    I don’t know. I guess I’m not offended by it because I saw it all in good fun. But that’s okay.

    • “Generally, I just avoid that book and site and try to be less stereotypical.”

      I’m all about diversifying your life and opening yourself up to new media, experiences, etc. But I don’t think there’s a problem with necessarily fitting into a stereotype. It’s okay to be a total hipster-type, or a total preppy-type, or whatever.

      • Heather, I definitely agree.

        I just mean that while I can like what I like, it’s a good reminder once and a while to step out of my shell and try something different. It’s just a prompting. :)

  9. wellokaythen says:

    I keep thinking it would be nice to destroy these racial categories instead of reinforcing them. Let’s not forget that “white” is itself this very fluid historical construct that keeps changing membership.

    (Arab Americans might be surprised to learn that on many equal opportunity forms they are in the “white” category. Because they have the same experience that WASP’s do? I wonder how Jewish Americans feel about being branded as having with “white privilege” – has American society always been on your side?)

    I look at Rwanda not simply as a case of white racism against nonwhites. It is even more a case of taking totally arbitrary, stupid, unsustainable categories like “race” and killing people on the basis of their status. The Tutsi/Hutu distinction is completely arbitrary, invented by the Belgian colonizers. They essentially look the same, speak the same language, and have the same culture. Most Rwandans can’t tell by looking at a stranger or talking to them if they are Hutu or Tutsi. The Rwandan genocide is a tragic example of the fact that racial categories are completely asinine and ultimately insane.

    • True, which again brings up the issue of the terms used. Perhaps “Euro-ancestry-privilege” would be better? WASP doesn’t really work because that brings in the issue of class, which is a separate form of privilege, really. I dunno, labelling someone is always problematic, but we do what we can to discuss the social phenomenon we observe. :)

  10. This is a straight out lie by the moderator concerned.

  11. “If there is an ideological experience at its purest, its zero-level, it is at the moment when we adopt the attitude of wise ironic distance and laugh at the follies we are ready to believe – at this moment of liberating laughter, when we look down on the ridicule of our faiths, we are pure subjects of ideology, ideology exerts its pure hold on us.”

    –Slavoj Zizek

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  2. [...] I can’t help but relate this back to Oliver Lee Bateman’s post criticizing the blog “Things White People Like“… I assume both “Coachella” and “A Hologram of Tupac” are on that [...]

  3. [...] one, and I’ve neither the desire nor the need to rehash it here.  Furthermore, West, who appears to agree with me regarding the tame critique of “white people problems” offered on sites like [...]

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