By now, you've probably seen Stuff White People Like, a hilarious send-up of hipster/urban, upwardly-mobile and aspiring-upwardly-mobile
-basement (mostly male) white folks between 18 and 35 and their sense of self-satisfaction and intellectual superiority. (I added the link to the side of my blog exactly 9 days ago, but I'm not mentioning that for your information so much as to impress you with how I knew about it before you did.) If you haven't, click on that link.
What's emerged in a number of the responses, of course, is how particular the author's sense of whiteness is - my specificity in the last paragraph, for instance, has a certain ridiculousness but also encapsulates their target subject (and target audience) perfectly. For instance, from the entry on '#84 T-Shirts':
"It is also imperative to understand that faux vintage shirts (”Getting Lucky in Kentucky”) are completely unacceptable. They are beloved by the wrong kind of white people, and must be avoided at all costs."
While this "wrong kind of white people" is implicitly present throughout the list, they're only mentioned explicitly in the rare entry. This makes sense since they are, within both the logic of this list and, I would argue, hegemonic racial logic on the whole, not white - or, at best, off-white. In Bobby Noble's first book, he argues that "whiteness often emerges as a distinct racial identity when it can be identified as somehow primitive or inhuman". I would suggest that there's a bit of a critical slippage between white people (in the general sense) and whiteness (in the theoretical sense) in this quote - that the whiteness Noble describes is actually the off-whiteness of certain white people that I described above. I think this is what Noble is getting at when he subsequently says that "[t]o see a white as a white rather than as just 'another person' that white needs to be marked out as different from those white who observe him/her". This sort of work is most often subtly (and effectively) accomplished through the denigration of the "wrong kind of white people" as 'white trash', the invocation of 'taste' or 'class' (in both the economic and cultural respects), or any number of similar variants. Stuff White People Like manages, in its hyperbolic way, to be quite revealing of these mechanisms.
It also manages to prevent white people from turning invisible once the passing blow is made at off-white and non-white people. Numerous critical race scholars have noted that whiteness is characterized by an invisibility - it is, contradictorily, so hypervisible that it assumes normality and a taken-for-grantedness, and so escapes notice as a race or color. A number of my white friends have admitted a certain ambivalence or discomfort with the site that they simply can't articulate, and my guess would be that some of that discomfort relates to the blog's refusal to let whiteness remain invisible and to scrutinize its taken-for-grantedness. As far as subversive gestures go, this isn't a grand one - but it's a start.
Two related but not entirely connected notes:
-One of the most amusing features of every entry is the section that tells off/non-white people how, in understanding why white people like the given item, they can turn the situation to their advantage. Often, interestingly, this advice would have the effect of rendering those same mechanisms of white privilege invisible once more - to the white person, anyway - since they encourage affirming whiteness or assuaging white guilt. Sure, the knowing off/non-white person isn't fooled, but were they ever fooled?
-It's also been interesting to see how many of my non-white friends are troubled by their resemblance to the white person that the blog interpellates - with respect to both the implied white subject and the implied (white) reader. Whiteness is, after all, a concept and a label for a field of racialized social power, and not actually a reference to an essentialized body or type of skin. That's no clearer than when someone who identifies as non-white realizes that s/he is, according to the website, white as a daisy.