Monday, September 8, 2008

stuff white people like?

This weekend my roommates and I were reading the "Complete List of Stuff White People Like." I'm not sure how I feel about this list.

Initially it was really funny to read a list of things that are so "white," that are part of the "white" culture that for some reason these days provides a lot of late-night TV humor. I guess we can consider it a good thing that we have come so far as to be able to laugh at ourselves. And, in reality, some of the things "we" like are pretty ridiculous, like "Self-Aware Hip-Hop References" and "Threatening to Move to Canada." At some level, it's actually pretty fascinating to read what is often spot-on insight into my own "culture," insight that I never before recognized as something that I do actually like or dislike. It's fun in the same way that taking personality quizzes in 17 magazine is fun - learning objective facts about yourself that aren't positive or negative but just...facts. Like learning idiosyncrasies about yourself that you never knew but that your friends love about you - i.e. fun and endearing insights into what makes you uniquely you.

It might be that I am super defensive because i am already struggling with white guilt, so I feel like this is just another jab at my snobby, privileged, always-the-winner, culture-less lifestyle. It might also be that some of the things that white people (meaning I) like I should feel guilty about ("Knowing What's Best for Poor People", when I really don't?) But could it also be that some of these facts are unnecessarily demeaning towards "white people?" I know that I have participated in my fair share of laughter at stereotypical, derogatory, ultimately racist jokes, emails, stories or youtube videos. Maybe this is just what it feels like. And in that case, it sucks. I would like to think that I can distinguish between what is overtly racist and what is just good, slightly non-PC humor. I mean really, PC has made it much more difficult to just laugh at ourselves and the way the world works, right?

Except I'm not so sure. It's funny until people are laughing at me and my culture, until people are stereotyping me and my culture. There's still a part of me that insists "Stuff White People Like" is unnecessarily demeaning and harsher than other, more innocent stereotypes. And I hate to admit it, and maybe this is where my white guilt/latent racist tendencies/all my racial issues confusions come out, but sometimes I allow myself to think that blogs such as "Stuff White People Like" come out of jealousy of white people.

(Now that I've written that, please don't attack me for that statement, I realize this is incorrect and flawed and blatantly against all politically correct and even Christ-centered racial sociology that I have ever studied or heard and am supposed to internalize. But that is honestly what I have thought, and before I can ever adjust my thinking to be more Christ-centered, I first have to admit the wildly flawed, and most often embarrassing, thoughts that come into my head.)

I know that these blogs are just stereotypes, and they are not meant to seriously demean me, personally, and my own-self worth lies in Christ not in my identity as a white person. And, honestly, a number of these things are true. And while a number of them are definitely not true for me, neither is the fact that all Asian women are terrible drivers, something I realize is obviously not true but yet I still (secretly, lest I appear too non-PC in public) enjoy those jokes, and blame those crazy Asian women drivers when I'm in a fit of Beltway road rage.

At some point, I have to come to terms with the fact that I am white, and I am fully, 100%, tried-and-true a part of "white culture." I have to understand that there is such a thing as white culture, and just because it isn't "ethnic," and it's the majority culture, doesn't make it any less valid or real. White culture is not just about consumerism, it's not just about fundamentalism, it's not just about fanatical patriotism. While I'm not sure exactly what it is about, it is my culture and I don't have to be ashamed of it. I don't have to be ashamed, or guilty, of being white. I have to embrace it as the life that God granted me, that he blessed me with, and that he wants me to use to its utmost potential. Instead of worrying about what I have that sometimes I wish I didn't have so I wouldn't be hated for it, I should spend that time figuring out how to use what I have to help those who don't. Or, more importantly, simply (or not so simply) becoming more like Christ, and stop trying so hard to do it on my own.

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