Stuff White People Like

I’ll be damned if we aren’t going to take our reader’s complaints seriously and start thinking criticially about things like the dominance of north american anthropology and our tendency to post inane shit. Like this blog. Which is the funniest and most incisive thing about Race I’ve read since Gloria Anzaldua.

Christopher M. Kelty is an associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has a joint appointment in the Institute for Society and Genetics, the department of Information Studies and the Department of Anthropology. His research focuses on the cultural significance of information technology, especially in science and engineering. He is the author most recently of Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software (Duke University Press, 2008), as well as numerous articles on open source and free software, including its impact on education, nanotechnology, the life sciences, and issues of peer review and research process in the sciences and in the humanities.

23 thoughts on “Stuff White People Like

  1. Is it fair to say that ‘Stuff White People Like’ could also be called ‘Stuff Anthropologists Like’? (At least for about 4 out of 5 North American anthropologists.)

  2. hmmm… the more I read that blog, and the responses to it, the more and more amazed (and disappointed) I am that issues of class have completely disappeared from the table to be replaced by issues of race. White people like “grad school”? What the hell is happening there?

  3. I have to agree with Rex on this one. I started reading it and got some laughs here and there, but it seems more and more to me like the author sees race as equivalent to class in America. Which is sad, since I know plenty of middle class non-whites who fit his stereotype very well, and plenty of lower class white folks (trailer trash, or whatever you like to call them) who don’t fit his stereotype at all. He really should retitle it “Stuff Middle Class America Likes” instead, although that doesn’t have quite the same euphony to it.

    I would love to see an equivalent blog on “What White Folks Like”, where reviews of Nascar®, lite™ beer, racism, cheap bourbon, and pickup trucks are given in a deadpan ethnographic style.

    Better yet, I’d get tons of hilarity from “What Canadians Like”…

  4. “I would love to see an equivalent blog on “What White Folks Like”, where reviews of Nascar®, lite™ beer, racism, cheap bourbon, and pickup trucks are given in a deadpan ethnographic style.”

    That is already a movie/TV/book genre (‘neo-redneck’). You Might Be A Redneck If…, Joe Dirt, Run Ronnie Run, the Hemi Guy, Dukes of Hazzard revival, Larry the Cable Guy, Talladega Nights, My Name is Earl…

  5. Yeah, I’m with Rex too. I’ve been reading it on and off whenever I StumbleUpon it. Some of the entries are funny enough, but as many point out ion the comments it really should be called, stuff “white twenty-something hipsters like”, if even that. And the article Strong pointed to basically sums up the grander scheme of why I ultimately dislike it.

    The Gentrification entry is particularly odious, since that is mostly a class issue, though in America class and race of course have a close relationship.

  6. check out this article regarding SWPL and class/race: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-rodriguez25feb25,0,1952462.column

    According to Rodriguez:

    One irony-deficient reader complained that the blog was less about white people than it was about yuppies. And without knowing it, she was cutting to the heart of the joke. Lander is gently making fun of the many progressive, educated, upper-middle-class whites who think they are beyond ethnicity or collectively shared tastes, styles or outlook. He’s essentially reminding them that they too are part of a group.

  7. p.s. and thank you to ckelty for demonizing reader feedback, but actually SWPL is an interesting ethnographic experiment. unfortunately, it’s also totally passé. the blog hasn’t been good since the author signed a deal with random house a few weeks ago and has been keeping his best material for the forthcoming book. alas.

  8. One paper in an edited volume I’m working on at the moment has a fascinating analysis of the rise of the concept of ‘indigenous’ in the 1970s and Goad’s “Redneck Manifesto” — it claims that both are ways of talking about ‘identity’ rather than ‘class’ which result because of shifts in capital which simultaneously make class more important than ever and yet also more obscure than ever. Fascinating stuff… make sure to but the book when it appears! :)

  9. I’m with and without Rex, and I think Clugo pretty much nails it in comment #2 based on my personal experience.

    I’m with Rex and Calugo: As one of these poor white people that sort of stumbled into academia (social science) and decided I’d take a stab at making a career out of it (because factory work sucks), I laughed looking over “stuffwhitepeoplelike” as it reminded me of all these strange customs that I have literally had to consciously learn just to advance. I’m not joking; I had to deliberately read several books that my peers had read in high school just to begin to grasp the significance of places like San Francisco to this community.

    I’m without Rex: Keep in mind that most of middle and upper class America and Canada are white, and whites in every sense dominate this class. Becoming middle class often doesn’t just mean having an increase in income, but also, in large part, accepting or at least acting out the Anglo-Saxon norms that constitute it. Finally, I’m sure that I have had an easier time adjusting to academia because I am poor white and not poor anything else.

  10. I think the concern about class and etc is misplaced as well. At least one of the points in the SWPL joke is that it sucks to be identified as part of a group based on characteristics you don’t actually share. This is a step above the difficult realization that you’re part of the group when you do share the characteristics, but is even more important – after all, not all African-Americans wear huge jeans, shoot hoops, etc and yet what defines the ethnicity in our imagination? If you don’t like “White People” defined as “Grad School” and “Whole Foods,” well, tough shit: welcome to America.

    Also, all of this has already been beaten to death so much better here:
    http://www.unfogged.com/archives/week_2008_02_10.html#008245
    than we’ll ever do.

  11. Regarding the conflation of class and race…

    Since that blog appeared back in January or February, just about every single comment I’ve read or heard about the blog has been a variation of this point (seriously, this is the subject of every other post on the blog itself). I’m pretty sure the guy gets it. Part of the reason that the blog was funny was that it was about “the right kind of white people” and that it purposely excludes the “wrong kind” (not middle class, or if they are middle class, not hipster/yuppie-types). There’s an offhand line about Dane Cook in the Sarah Silverman post that supports this.

    (And I just saw where posts #8 and #13 address something like this, but I typed all of the above, and I’m posting it–sorry if it’s redundant.)

  12. Huh, and I thought the guy who makes the SWPL like website was making a really funny richly ironic set of jokes about the idea of whiteness in America (as distinct from say, the real lives of American citizens of European descent–let’s call them Euro-Americans?) with all of the assumptions of class belonging (or rather, the transcendance of class) that characterizes the “white” elite positioning. You know, the things “white people like” being the most tired sort of corporate monoculture (or “creative” rebellions against/within it) like, uh, “coffee.” I also thought it was an even richer joke, touching on the ways that the mass media imagines

  13. The trouble with all the comments about class in this thread is that class doesn’t exist in the US. (Not really!) Whiteness absorbs class, so that whiteness of a different sort needs a modifier — poor white trash, WASP, etc. Off-the-shelf whiteness presupposes a class position (and a gender position!).

    In mainstream (non-academic) US society, the only reason to raise the issue of class is to dismiss it. So I have lots of students who respond to, say, an article about the continued (and worsening) segregation of American schools by saying “I think it’s really class, not race”. Fair enough, except class and race aren’t seperable like that. What they *really* mean is that it’s not *racism* that’s responsible, because everyone knows that went away when MLK gave his “I Have a Dream Speech” and the only racists around anymore are KKK nutjobs on Jerry Springer. No, it’s “class”, which means that really, it’s them minorities own damn fault, because really, class doesn’t exist, it’s just people who don’t try hard enough.

    So, yeah, SWPL (which is also the acronym for the Southwest Pistol League, which white people also like) is about a tiny part of the “white” race. And if you’re not from that tiny part of the “white” race, but you’re white, you’re probably defective white. Maybe you “…belong to the shiftless, ignorant and worthless class of anti-social whites of the South…”, as Carrie Buck (the first victim of legal forced sterilization in the US) did.

  14. “And even where widely attained norms are involved, their multiplicity has the effect of disqualifying many persons. For example, in an important sense there is only one complete unblushing male in America: a young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual Protestant father of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight, and height, and a recent record in sports. Every American male tends to look out upon the world from this perspective, this constituting one sense in which one can speak of a common value system in America. Any male who fails to qualify in any of these ways is likely to view himself–during moments at least–as unworthy, incomplete, and inferior; at times he is likely to pass and at times he is likely to find himself being apologetic or aggressive concerning known-about aspects of himself he knows are probably seen as undesirable. The general identity-values of a society may be fully entrenched nowhere, and yet they can cast some kind of shadow on the encounters encountered everywhere in daily living.”

    Erving Goffman, *Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity* (1963) – a work of evil genius.

  15. Well my intro class is finishing up Bashkow tomorrow, and also reading Karen Kelsky on why Japanese women want to sleep with white men. I’ve just sent them the link to Stuff White People Like, so we’ll see what happens.

    My initial take, is that yeah, it’s about class, and maybe that’s just fine, and given the degree to which it is completely focused on the PMC it probably knows its about class, at least at some level. The thing to think about is what it’s saying about class.

  16. A cute essay about the “Stuff White People Like” demographic in New York, recent college grads (I assume) who have come to NYC for the “diversity” find themselves dating (and, most likely, marrying) the “right kind” of white people. Like the people they dated in college, presumably. The essay makes the point that this race/class/ethnicity/education level is completely endogamous.
    http://www.nerve.com/personalessays/rubin/thesushisexuals/index.asp?page=1

  17. Well, I’ve got to say, I’ve been studying white people for a while now and SWPL makes sense to me.

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