Everyone's laughing at Stuff White People Like

April 06, 2008|By Jill Rosen | Jill Rosen,Sun reporter

When you're not driving around in a Prius, you're standing still at concerts, eating expensive sandwiches, raising multilingual children, worrying about dinner parties, listening to public radio, joining Netflix, hating your parents, doing yoga and sipping fair trade coffee.

You're so white.

At least, you are according to Stuff White People Like (stuffwhitepeoplelike.wordpress.com), a blog that with a wink explores the art and science of being embarrassingly Caucasian. It's among the hottest sites on the Internet and even inspired a book due this summer. Less overtly, it's provoking people of color to think, talk -- and joke -- about race.

"It's bordering on some sort of cultural tipping point," says Dean Rader, a University of San Francisco professor who writes about American culture.

It all started with two guys messaging about The Wire, the Baltimore crime drama. Christian Lander's friend wondered why more white people weren't watching it. This sparked a riff about what whites were doing instead: shopping at Whole Foods, seeing a therapist, becoming vegan, browsing vintage stores, trying to be the only white person at ethnic restaurants.

Lander launched the site Jan. 18, mainly for the amusement of his friends. But they e-mailed the link to other friends, who did the same, who did the same and in 30 days, the site reached a million hits. Last week, about 19 million hits later, Lander, a 29-year-old, white Los Angeles copywriter, scored a six-figure book deal from Random House.

He's basking in attention he can't quite explain. Except to say he's found a way to call out the contradictions of his brethren -- educated liberals with money. And by doing so while Barack Obama's presidential campaign introduces more serious race issues into the national conversation, he's finding people more than ready to laugh about it, too.

"One reader wrote in to say that the reason the site isn't racist is because no one has ever been denied a job because they like yoga and expensive sandwiches," Lander says. "None of this is done in a hateful way. I grew up hearing it's wrong to recognize differences. But to think everyone is exactly the same is really misguided."

Rader thinks the key to Stuff White People Like's draw is how it skewers yuppies and their icons rather than white people as a whole. (As he points out, he grew up on an Oklahoma farm surrounded by white people, none of whom listened to NPR or ate expensive sandwiches.)

By talking about modern furniture, Mos Def and farmer's markets rather than inner city poverty and affirmative action, the site starts the conversation on a nonthreatening platform. Lander posts about one item a day and almost all of them inspire many hundreds of comments.

"As a black woman who wants to understand white people, this blog is great!" someone wrote on the site.

"Question? Does it make me a racist to laugh at white people? You guys are funny to me. Are we (black people) funny to you? I think the world would be a better place if we learned to laugh with each other."

Another person, a self-described white graduate student, responded to post No. 81, Graduate School, writing, "Funny, funny, funny!!! I fulfill so many of these I feel all ashamed and dumb, but still have to redeem myself by posting a reply to a blog telling everyone how inferior I feel because of your blog. It's such an evil circle."

Which is not to say everyone gets the joke.

Hundreds of people have fired off angry messages to Lander, calling him everything from humorless to racist.

One person wrote in, "Please remind me again how stereotyping people based on the relative dark or lightness of their skin is funny again. ... I must have forgotten."

The negative comments surprised Lander.

"You think going after wealthy middle-class white people is OK. What's the problem, right?" he says. "It's just amazing to see it really bothers people a lot."

Stuff White People Like has inspired people -- black, Indian and Asian -- to consider their own stuff. (There's even Stuff Stick Figure People Like).

Charlee Renaud, a law school graduate in New Orleans, started Stuff Educated Black People Like after a friend sent her a link to Lander's site.

"I have all types of friends, all races, and it zoned in on certain friends of white descent," she says. "The sushi. The coffee. I like some of those things too, but I guess just by them putting `white' on it makes it more funny, I don't know why."

Kesava Mallela, a Berkeley student from India who followed Lander with Stuff Brown People Like says he's heard from a number of Indian-Americans who his site offends.

"Brown people don't talk about these things out in open -- it's kind of taboo to point out these shortcomings," he says. "I'm trying to depict this longing for what we want to be instead of what we are. ... Everybody wants to be white, so ..."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.