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I for One Am Offended

When I first heard of Stuff White People Like I took a quick glance at it and was vaguely amused. Oh, ha ha, making fun of white people, how clever. But I don’t really look to the internet for humorous commentary so I quickly forgot about it.

A recent comment from Garvey caused me to go back and take a second look. I was mighty surprised at what I found. It seems this site isn’t making fun of white people at all. It’s making fun of middle class liberal Americans.

Case in point: NASCAR. A search for NASCAR turns up a “not found” result. 102 entries (and counting) about “stuff white people like” and not one mention of NASCAR? Come on.

Second case in point: The entry on bumper stickers contains the following passage:

If you have decided that you want to improve your status with white people by applying a bumper sticker to your car do not make the assumption that you can just use anything! Stickers that support right wing politics, guns, patriotism, war, or hunting are all unacceptable. It is also unacceptable to use a sticker with a clever slogan that does not support a left wing political cause. Any of these stickers will likely end any chance you had of befriending a white person.

What kind of limited exposure to white folks does this author have? Where I grew up, and indeed in much of our nation, white people are noted for their love of God, guns and guts. Not to mention NASCAR.

The more I look the more obvious it becomes. NPR? The Wire? Free health care? The site is a collection of screeds against what Jeffrey calls the Yuppie Left. They attempt to skewer hypocrisy, with mixed results. This should be called “Stuff Hypocritical Middle-Class Liberal Americans Like.” That’s not such a funny title, is it?

So what agenda does it serve to characterize all white people as middle-class liberal Americans? What value in promulgating a worldview in which the poor are all nonwhite? It strikes me as some kind of vast rightwing conspiracy, another attempt to further discredit liberalism and make it look ridiculous. But I’m not sure it’s that simple. Maybe it’s a liberal attempt at self-critique, because the humor only seems sharp when it’s directed against hypocrisy. Actually it seems incoherent. A commenter over at the rightwing American Scene says it best:

I think in a sense the blog does precisely what it complains about white people doing, claiming to support the poor but expecting them to remain in poverty. It purports to support wealth creation for the nonwhite, but it defines wealth and upper-class identity as an aspect of whiteness.

Anyway, I for one am offended. And yes, I know “Being Offended” is #101. Spare me the withering irony. Frankly, your irony couldn’t wither my lily-white dick. (Um. Apologies to my parents for that line. It was rude.) But unlike the hypocrisy effectively skewered in that write-up, I’m not offended on behalf of someone else. I’m offended on my own behalf. I’m offended by the racial stereotyping that’s not even accurate.

I’m also offended by the general lack of funniness once I realized this was really about attacking liberalism and not about race at all.

Granted, “Stuff White People Like” is still funnier than my blog. But I’m not trying to be funny, folks. Not everyone is a comedian.

Published inGeekyPolitix


  1. My father-in-law is a lot whiter than me and loves Fox News and Wal-Mart. He’s offended that these are not mentioned as Stuff White People Like, too.

    The irony is that, like certain members of the Yuppie Left that they mock, they got a book deal out of their blog and accepted.

    Dude who started it is from Toronto. Figures.

  2. It seems this site isn’t making fun of white people at all. It’s making fun of middle class liberal Americans.

    Yes yes yes and yes again. And this is precisely why I loooovvvee that site as much as I do. The self-aggrandizement of the Yuppie Left is always as bad or worse than the injustice it purports to sloganeer against. (This is not to say the injustices themselves are tolerable either but…. well you see my point)

    What Maitri says is also true and unsurprising, really.

    Everything and everybody pretty much sucks in the long run. The best writing finds ever-funnier ways to make that point.

  3. Garvey Garvey

    The site is pretty much devoted to skewering Yuppie hypocrisy and ignorance. For that, it is brilliant. I wouldn’t take too much umbrage, B, unless you believe that liberal = hypocrite, as a rule.

  4. Garvey Garvey

    B, I don’t understand at all what that comment from the American Scene is supposed to mean. The site doesn’t purport to support wealth creation. It is simply saying, mockingly, “Here’s what you need to do to be an inauthentic, politically correct sellout.”

  5. Marion Marion

    Another site with a similar intent seems to be much more positive in its approach…I wonder why that is?:

    To quote a 20th century philosopher…(you know what I going to say)…”why can’t we all just get along” RK

  6. The site does have its funny moments, but mostly I hate it for the simple fact that it’s racist. If the site were about any other race there would be a public outrage. And that is what I call hypocrisy.

  7. Thanks for mentioning the site; it’s an interesting read.

    I, for one, am not that offended by it. In fact, I find it far more anti-hipster than racist. Mind you, I’m only up to (down to?) 94, but most of it is funny because it’s true. Grammar Nazis? Adults playing children’s games? Hi-Larry-us.

    To me, it seems to be the upper middle class white equivalent to the “Bill Cosby Essay.” I think people get upset because it’s a rather unflattering mirror. Does it use gross generalities? Yes. Are those stereotypes somewhat based in reality? Absolutely.

  8. Jeffrey, Garvey, Duff, and anyone else who thinks SWPL is funny — help me out here. How do you parse a sentence like, “All white people support the legalization of marijuana”? I’m assuming you have to replace the phrase “white people” with something like the Yuppie Left. So, my question, doesn’t the conflation of “middle class liberals” and whiteness bother you? I assume you’re aware there’s a huge number of poor white people in this country. Does perpetuating the stereotype that all white people are upper middle class not bother you?

  9. B,

    It’s difficult for me to see how a satirical website which uses the term “white people” as an obvious short-hand sarcastic pejorative for “yuppie” or “PC” or “phony” can be read as “perpetuating a stereotype” unless one is being intentionally blind to the obvious context. In fact, criticism from that point of view strikes me as disingenuous on its face. In fact, if I didn’t know you as well as I think I do from reading this blog over the past few years, I would have assumed that you either had no sense of humor or were intentionally discounting it for the sake of starting an absurd argument.

    Maybe there’s something I’m missing but I just take it as a given that people understand that not all white people are upper middle class and I’m certain the authors of that satire understand this as well. But perhaps they are expecting too much of their audience.

    Also… I should have shared this link as well.

    No irony in it but it’s fun anyway.

  10. I often feel like I have no sense of humor, especially when I read stuff like SWPL that’s obviously intended as funny. But I think the real difference here is my upbringing and life experience. I was not surrounded by yuppie PC phony types in the lower middle class and overwhelmingly white suburb of Indianapolis where I grew up. Ever since I was old enough to live on my own I’ve preferred the company of grungy bohemians. This humor just doesn’t resonate with me because it doesn’t connect with my experience of whiteness in any meaningful way. Just the same as I don’t understand your railing against the Yuppie Left. Then again I’ve never believed in so-called “political correctness” either. The KKK is still active in my hometown, by the way. When I think of “stuff white people like” I think of flaming crosses, not Starbucks. Just to give you an idea.

  11. Garvey Garvey

    I have nothing to add to Jeffrey’s summation except to say that I think it’s odd, B, that you would think there are more a-holes in robes than hipsters with five dollar coffee drinks from SBUX. There are far more hipsters–prolly by a factor of 100 if not 1000. I know you said it doesn’t connect to your upbringing, but what, you’re like 40-something, not 19, right? You’ve presumably grown since then. Besides, poking fun at dominant hipster culture is funny and somewhat innovative. Pointing out rednecks has been done already, beyond cliche.

  12. Michael Homan Michael Homan

    Lighten up B. As an educated liberal middle-class white guy who likes NPR and the Wire, I find the site to be funny.

  13. Garvey, just so we’re clear, I’m not recommending SWPL should make fun of rednecks instead. Goddamn, that would be horrible. And I resent the implication that I have grown up since age 19. I have not. Also, I disagree with your hipster ratio estimate, but until the definitive survey is published that will remain shrouded in mystery.

    And Michael: You would.

  14. Garvey Garvey

    BTW, I didn’t say “grown up” but “grown.” So you’re still the same provincial lad from BFE, Indiana, who thinks every white person is a racist? I doubt it.

  15. Garvey Garvey

    That didn’t come out right. Sorry. I meant that you should have different lenses to view the world now–not to imply that you were or weren’t provincial then.

  16. I don’t know… I suppose I don’t need to connect it directly to personal experience. But if I did I’d say that growing up in this area exposes one to every possible variation of “white people” And here I can’t speak for anyone but myself but what one learns primarily is that no particular variation is without its faults. And eventually… speaking only for myself… the most offensive and common fault lies in the presumption that anyone’s lifestyle consumption choices entitle one to some recognition of moral superiority. And that, I suppose, is why I find the kind of humor that attacks that presumption particularly appealing.

  17. Oh good heavens no. I don’t think all white people are racist. I was just giving an indication of the breadth of what white means to people. I guess I’m inclined to think broad terms like race should be used — um — broadly, if they’re used at all.

    I usually don’t enjoy stand-up comedy that veers into “Men Are From Mars” territory for the same reason. I don’t find narrow conceptions of gender particularly funny, any more than narrow conceptions of race.

    Oh, but SWPL isn’t about race. It just says “white people” in the title. But it’s not about race. How very clever, how very sly. Not.

  18. I think that’s the greatest criticism in that site…that not all white people are privileged hipsters.

    It’s like that class from L21 based on the premise that the danger of privilege is that you don’t know you have it. The “white people” lambasted on the blog strive for “authenticity,” but exercise the subtle classism/racism that only non-whites can be “authentic.” It refers time and again to the perceived “diversity” of one’s friends, even though they are exactly like them (the gay parents, for example).

    I guess I just didn’t see it as a critque of all white people, just the pretentious ones that play kickball, drink PBR, and cite obscure central american revolutionary poets.

  19. Civitch Civitch

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I wholeheartedly agree with Jeffrey. This is satire in the tradition of some of our finest Mardi Gras krewes.

    Mockery in general is in poor taste, but self-mockery almost always gets a pass.

  20. More thoughts, generated by these comments.

    1) Essentialism. That’s the word I was looking for. SWPL reeks of essentialism.

    2) I acknowledge I have enjoyed a remarkable existence, free from virtually any contact with pretentious hipsters. Either I have extremely good taste in friends or I just see the best in everyone or I actually am a pretentious hipster myself. Anyway you slice it this “joke” isn’t funny to me.

    3) Some of the political causes lambasted on SWPL are near and dear to my heart. Legalization of drugs and universal health care to name two examples. I extremely suspicious of any effort that attempts to marginalize and ridicule these important ideas.

    4) Perhaps most important of all, as I read the list of “stuff white people like” I found that, yes, I like most of these things and, yes, I’m white. But this isn’t about whiteness, remember? It’s about hypocritical liberals, or something like that. Well (no surprise here) I don’t consider myself a hypocritical liberal. But that’s how this joke paints me. I take it personally. And so these ideas are offensive to me.

    This last of course raises the question: Am I in fact a big, fat hypocrite? I am of course the last person qualified to answer that. Perhaps my negative reaction to SWPL is because it makes me uncomfortable in a hypocrisy which I am too blind to see.

    But of course I don’t believe that for a moment.

  21. Personally, I think the site’s worse offense is that it’s not very well written. Tighten up the prose and I might laugh. The other site my husband pointed out might be offensive, were it not so damn well written, and therefore hilarious.

  22. Bart, Bart, Bart. You’re forcing me to agree with Homan. Do you realize how awkard that is for me? Homan is a malaka through and through but I’m afraid on this issue you’re being an essentialist malaka. Hell, I even agree with Mr. Gloomy Pants. See what you’ve driven me to?

  23. Michael Homan Michael Homan

    I strongly disagree with Mr Malaka’s comment above. One thing that white people don’t like is Adrastos.

  24. I’m very alarmed that Adrastos and Homan are throwing the M-word around. No racial slurs on my blog please.

    Hey, here’s a question for all y’all that find SWPL so amusing. Are you laughing because you see yourselves reflected in a funhouse mirror? Or are you laughing down your nose at other people, with the sense of smug superiority we’re supposed to attribute to liberal elitists?

  25. Even though Jeffrey uses McCormick’s ground pepper rather than freshly ground, I think he skewers the hypocrisy quite well here: “The self-aggrandizement of the Yuppie Left is always as bad or worse than the injustice it purports to sloganeer against. (This is not to say the injustices themselves are tolerable either but…. well you see my point)

  26. Civitch Civitch

    Editor B: I am laughing because I see myself in that blog. Apple products, renovation, Netflix, David Sedaris, traveling, grad school, non-profits, dogs, grammar….. they pegged me. And many of my friends. Who, by the way, also think this blog is hilarious.

  27. Anthony Anthony

    it’s very simple.. the site is probably san francisco based and in san francisco the white people are the liberals. If you look at it all as being SF based it makes a whole lot more sense.

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