Friday, October 16, 2009

White-ness, Class & Aesthetics

Stuff White People Like

I was looking at the popular blog turned book "Stuff White People Like" and it reminded me of a few issues that arose this summer during the New Start speaker series.

One of the speakers caused quite a stir when he explained to the group of students that by his definition of racism, white people couldn't be victims of racism because they are a part of the dominant hegemony. Now this flies in the face of the notion of reverse-racism, and I think that's what a lot of students took umbrage with.

Coming back to SWPL, I found myself going through the blog (which doesn't have that many updates since the book tour) and of course there are items I agree with and those I don't, but I also thought about bell hooks' Where We Stand: Class Matters (I experiment with Google Books embed below). It also reminded me that the sensibilities, which SWPL points out, align with what I observed on my last trip to San Francisco, home of both acceptance and pretension. In the multicultural city of SF, you can just as easily meet Asian, Eastern Indian and numerous other ethnicities with these tastes because they appeal to a certain bourgeois, middle-upper class cultural aesthetic.
Where We Stand

But the different posts on SWPL reminded me of those people who I sometimes feel buy things just so that they can talk about it, i.e.: 'I found this great little farmer's market that has the best organic avocados,' or 'I eat sushi at least once a week, but there are some great happy hours nearby.'

Some of what makes these comments grating can be the affect of elitism, which is consciously enunciated to overcompensate for whatever feelings of insecurity in the speaker. Although I also see how these choices attempt to create a culture for this group who associates with the label 'white' and will at times describe themselves as 'cultureless.' At the same time, those who aren't apart of this ethnic group will sometimes be victims of discrimination from within their own ethnicity for their willing acceptance of assimilation/transculturation.

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