Friday, April 11, 2008

The Culture of You

What is the big deal about stuff white people like? - Samhita @ Feministing

When I first heard about the blog "Stuff White People Like" I didn't think much of it, much less visit the site. I thought it was mildly amusing at most. Samhita from Feministing actually has visited the site, laughed at some things and such; but she has also dug a little deeper into the whole issue of whiteness as a culture. Her point is, a question really, does poking fun at the material goods of white culture actually further the conversation on race, or does it hamper it by perpetuating a stereotype that what white people like is uncool, thus turning what non-whites like into something cool? I think in this case the answer is a yes and no, as Samhita has arrived at as well. The experience a browser of the site might get will differ from another browser and if that experience pitches the browser out of their comfortable spot within their culture then so much the better. White culture is the dominate culture in America so it does help to call it white culture versus simply saying that it's the culture of America. For whites to even minimally understand the black or latino experience in America they must first think of their culture as a culture just the same as any other. Not to say that one must tear down their culture just to get to this point, but merely acknowledge that the dominant culture is white. What happens after that isn't something a website can control but if it can posit in a browser's mind the question of what white culture is then it will have succeeded in furthering the conversation on race in America.
The converse of this acknowledgment is actually quite negative. If by viewing "Stuff White People Like" doesn't push the browser out of their comfort zone then it has failed to further anything except the stereotype that being white is somehow uncool and being non-white is cool. It's that question of hipness that affects the browser's experience. If all the browser gets out of the site is that assumption of white culture's inherent uncoolness then the site harms the conversation on race. While I don't begrudge the operator of the site for doing what he wanted, I do think that he has the opportunity to improve race-relations if he would simply look beyond the quick joke. It's not that he has to make white culture look cool but make it look like culture period--both cool and uncool as any other culture is.

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