Stuff White People Like: White is the new black

I like to think that I am different.

Well, I DO.

But here’s the thing, no matter how awesome or cool I am, there is someone out there who is just a bit more awesomer or cooler than me. I know, shocking as it may seem, someone out there is living a life similiar to mine but doing it just a bit more edgier, a bit more hipper and well, a bit more stereotypical-er.

Indeed, I never really thought of myself as being totally rebellious or mainstream — I was always just me. And I never thought my actions were completely reactionary or followed a set of protocols that are seemingly unwritten, but, I recently found out that perhaps I was oh, so, terribly wrong.

A week or two ago, I was reading one of the daily emails that Salon sends as a wrap-up of their daily news. The feature story was about a guy named Christian Lander, who on a typical boring day at work, was having an argument with a friend (who happens to be Asian) about whether or not white people watch The Wire. According to the article, Lander claims the friend couldn’t trust anyone who was white and watched The Wire and he and Lander came up with different ideas of what white people actually did in their spare time. The result became a blog that Lander updated with new “tidbits” of “stuff white people like.” The results, however, were frightening. What started as an inside joke that spread to a few friends, has taken the blogosphere over with questions of what it means to be “white” along with questioning whether or not this is truly satire, racism or some sort of sick joke.

But going beyond the argument, the scary part is that it is all true.
Well, mostly.

Am I that naive? Maybe. I never really thought of myself as a sheep but the more I read the list on the blog and the extended list in the book, I became a bit more stunned at how much of the general population that Lander was lampooning, I was apparently the queen of. When I passed the blog and the book around to friends and co-workers, people whom I thought would be far “whiter” than me, were in fact, not. I stood there in my kitchy t-shirt, pushing my obligatory thick-framed glasses back up my nose and tapped my Adidas clad foot in frustration. Was Lander then mocking my choice of lifestyle? And more importantly, how did I become such a pretentious fuck-wit anyway? And even more importantly, were these decisions conscious based or am I really that much of a sheep?

Lander gleefully explains in the interview that he is perhaps one of the “whitest” people alive with a score of over 90% white — and he fully recognizes the fact that he is not only skewering a lifestyle, but is delightfully skewering himself. Something the author of the interview I don’t quite think gets and it is made even more hysterical by showcasing a link to David Sedaris in the “Read More” option above interview itself. Sedaris, by the way, is on the list of stuff that white people like.

[For a good time, go through the the list and read the comments on each entry. People are vehemently defending their reasons for why the like certain stuff over other stuff, regardless of race or nationality, which makes the list, the jokes and the people themselves even more hysterical. The indie music entry is particularly delightful as people, seriously, start doing the old piss-war about what bands they saw before they were big and how many 12″ they own. I happen to like the comment where a blogger quips that they just start making band names up in conversation to see if anyone will call them on their shit. No one, it appears, ever does.]

What I was mostly interested in is HOW I learned to like this stuff. Was it osmosis? Was there a secret brand of “white” fairies who were fluttering in the night, depositing suggestions into my willing ears? Thus, the next morning, I was drinking my organic, fair trade coffee while eating my granola cereal and reading my latest edition of The New Yorker?

Since listening to public radio, namely NPR, is a decidedly “white” trait, I decided to start with that. I’ve never really liked talk radio — I used to find it tedious and boring. I’m a music kind of girl and was much happier with an iPod packed with songs over podcasts and a car that is XM enabled over listening to chatter as I drove. But then, one magical day not to terribly long ago, I discovered NPR had a show called All Songs Considered, of which they have a weekly podcast. Since I had a shiny new iPod (of course), I trepidatiously downloaded the latest edition. To my dismay (and delight), I discovered that they did not talk during the podcast, rather, they would introduce the band, why they were significant and then proceeded to play the song in its entirety. To me, this was unheard of! No boring chatter? No pissing contests? No rebuttals and counter-rebuttals about artists and songs? Just music? FUCKING AWESOME! Then I discovered they had “Song of the Day,” where each day an email arrived with a new artist or song to watch. Not only was NPR showcasing a wide variety of music, but a lot of the music being showcased was stuff unreleased and or just having been released. (I realize how pretentiously fuckwitty that sounds and I’m totally okay with that.) And then I thought, “If NPR is this cool, what else do they have?” And suddenly iTunes was open and I was downloading shows from all over NPR and hitting other sites such as the Guardian Book Club and BBC History. Plus loads of other like minded shows that I’m now podcasting nearly 15 shows a week. It has become insane.

But for me, this is how the progression from non-believer to believer began — something I was interested in was available in a format that I could access. In less than a month, I went from a snarling anti-NPR believer to one of their biggest supporters. (Poor grad student dontcha know, we’ll see how the funds add up during their money drives.)

But a lot of this stuff isn’t about following trends, it also happens gradually do to common interests. When 006 and I were dating and subsequently living together, Sundays were our favorite days. We’d get up, walk the dogs, get dressed and head over to one of the plethora of brunch places we knew to eat brunch and read the paper, primarily the NY Times. We’d often ridicule ourselves about being “aging, alternative hipsters” because in reality, that is what we are. We were both born in the early ’70s and cradle that edge between clueless babyboomers and hyperaware Gen-Y’ers. But those brunches really stem back to one of our first dates when we went to brunch, held hands while reading the McPaper. And part of our schtick was to try new restaurants in the area that neither of us had been to and it wasn’t too long before we had a top 5 list of brunch places we liked to settle in to for a long, lazy afternoon. Our subscription to NY Times came about because the local paper was terrible and I was always reading the Times at his parent’s place.

And I could go on with other like-minded “traits of whiteness” that have stemmed from a more thought out and controlled hypothesis. “I don’t like X or Y for these reasons, but Z is available so let me try that.” I know a lot of my choices, conscious or not, will follow a stereotype that I will not be able to shake. But while a lot of me is “white” there is also a lot of me that isn’t, stuff that I am into that defies generalizations and oblique name calling.

Because at the end of the day, I know that deep down, I AM unique.
Just like everyone else.

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