Tag Archives: race

Bicycles, Whiteness, Cigarettes

Look. At this. I see things like this, and I realize that massive sums of money are of little consolation. The best things in life are usually affordable. Maybe that’s a terribly ignorant (arrogant?) statement and revealing of my white, middle-class privilege.

I’ve been thinking about race of late. (That’s always true.) But it seems to me that whiteness is whatever everything else isn’t. When I look at a site like Stuff White People Like, I get a little upset at their attempts to ascribe middle-class triviality and self-absorption to white culture. I’m not sure why.

My intuition tells me that I have good reason, that this facade of critical, self-deprecation is little more than a cover for self-indulgent fawning. There’s an acknowledgment and a tacit acceptance of the notion that America’s class structure favors whites. It’s not obvious, but I doubt that the site appeals to any people of color unless they are forced to deal with what they perceive as the social conventions of the bourgeoisie, and that they see themselves as something else.

I think what bothers me the most is that the site functions as a corrective measure against the only good thing that whiteness has to offer, that is, it’s malleability. As far as I can tell, the more people appropriate middle-class values and achieve material wealth, the less ‘whiteness’ will be conflated with bourgeois culture. For any person of color who happens to like old school hip hop, they will suddenly feel the inadequacy of inauthenticity that so often demarcates white culture, even though the beat or a message in the music might truly speak to them, they’ll be pressured out of listening to that music because it essentially amounts to them being ‘white.’ In this way I think SWPL functions to maintain the color lines of other races as well. Also If someone reads about how only white people love coffee, they will have to think to themselves that these white people actually are ridiculously self-absorbed, to the extent that they think their excessive consumption of caffeine is in any way unique and therefore something funny. Things that aren’t true aren’t generally funny. You’d have to have your head stuck up your ass not to realize how popular the drink is just about everywhere on the planet.

Of course the site’s entire premise, be it tongue in check or not, is that there is something essential and categorical about race, so maybe I shouldn’t be particularly surprised by any of this. Still, I can’t stand it. I think it totally undermines the notion that there is such thing as class (which I believe) and that it imputes, in an ideal environment or system, some sort of meaning about a person (which I also believe). Somebody has to get exploited… right?

On another note, I can’t fucking stand living with people who smoke cigarettes. There’re two closed doors between me and them and this shit is still driving me crazy.

Not that I don’t have one now and then…

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