Book Review: Stuff White People Like

The recently published, Stuff White People Like, by Christian Lander, is a first-hand description of upper-class, white, liberal culture. In many ways, one could say that Lander’s demographical satire resembles the acts of Dave Chappelle and George Lopez in that the approach feeds itself on the stereotypes of a given race. Instead of stand-up comedy, however, the book reads like a manual for getting into the good graces of white people.

Still, several of the Lander’s entries are items or concepts that have been accepted into mainstream American culture (although Lander is actually a Canadian). Coffee is the first entry, and did you in fact know that “the best place for white people to drink coffee is at a locally owned coffee shop that offers many types of drinks, free Wi-Fi, and some sort of message board that is peppered with notices about rooms for rent and bands looking for bass players?” T-shirts, for example, are not just another article of clothing; they are in fact “one of the most complex and expressive items” in one’s wardrobe.

One of my favorite entries is “assists,” which, according to the book, is white people’s way of giving back for slavery, colonialism, and the crusades. The entry “Barack Obama” had a similar explanation. The ever-present reason for anything of this nature is for white people to feel good about themselves.

Another favorite is “knowing what’s best for poor people,” which is based on the belief that the only reason poor people are poor is because they do not have the means to make sufficiently “white” choices. This entry includes the warning that you make it clear that poor people do not do things based on free will, for suggesting anything otherwise would crush their “hope for the future.”

Other things that white people like include “Oscar parties,” “threatening to move to Canada, “Arrested Development,” and “Toyota Prius.”

A consistent theme pervades each entry: white people acquiring or doing certain things not because they are functional or because they want to, but rather solely to fit-in with other white people. I found these quite amusing. However, as with Dave Chappelle and blacks or George Lopez and Latinos, I think you have to be white to get most of the jokes. This book, while entertaining, is also mostly available free online in the “Stuff White People Like” blog—which has had over 53 million visitors in the last year. Perhaps this would make a good gag gift for a liberal, white friend, but given that most of this material is available online, I think a gift-card for Fairtrade Coffee might be appreciated more.

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