The most recent example of this common white tendency occurs in another suddenly famous blog (with an eerily familiar title), Stuff White People Like. That blog's take on whiteness, which is really a take on a certain kind of white people (that is, financially comfortable, latte-sipping liberals), is couched in humorous terms. White people "like," for instance, coffee: "white people really love FAIR TRADE coffee, because paying the extra $2 means they are making a difference." They also like gay people: "Once a white person has told you about their gay friends, it is recommended that you say 'I wish more people were like you,' every few months. This will allow them to feel good about their progressive choice of friends and remind them that they are better than other white people." And so on.
The site has become extremely popular, and the authors even have a major book deal, all within the space of a couple of months. Their site does have serious observations to offer about white liberal narcissism and complacency, but again, its white readers (and judging from the comments, many of the readers are non-white as well) are unlikely to turn their attention to such observations were they not delivered in a humorous, and thus smoothly palatable, format.
The humor on Stuff White People Like echoes another, earlier look at whiteness. In the mid-1980s, comedian (and current visual artist) Martin Mull and co-writer Allen Rucker produced a pair of books, The History of White People in America and A Paler Shade of White, as well as a one-episode TV show.
The humor of Mull and Rucker is a bit downscale from that of Stuff White People Like--more middle than upper-middle class. Take, for instance, their offering of "The White Man's Credo":
I am a White person. My skin is white.
My family is white. My house is white.
My friends are white. My elected
officials are white. My teeth are as
White as I can get them. I like White.
I am open to other colors. I like my
lawn green. I like my juice orange.
I like my meat red. I like the
"purple mountain majesties" part of
"America the Beautiful."
I like the Cleveland Browns.
I believe that sex is for babies.
I may have said that wrong, but you
know what I mean. . . .
I shall stay white until I turn blue.
Both of these sustained looks at whiteness function satirically. Satire is humor, but it's a more serious form of humor--it has points to make about something out there in the world. What's noteworthy here, though, is that humor seems to be the only vehicle by which whites in general will pay sustained attention to any analysis of their own race.
Traveling further down the class scale provides a sudden plethora of sustained attention to whiteness, but mostly delivered, again, in the form of humor. Jeff Foxworthy still gets laughs by insulting himself and his friends and relatives, a shtick that's proven so successful that it's grown into a full-fledged, multi-manned barrel of laughs, "The Blue Collar Comedy Tour." Some solid analysis does work its way through a lot of beer, burp, fart, and hound-dog jokes, and again, it's another example of how humor seems to be the only way whites in general will accept delivery of such analysis.
Michael Moore's 2002 movie Bowling for Columbine also pauses to analyze the white psyche in a brief animated sequence, and again, humor seems a necessary ingredient:
Of course, a lot of humor involving lower-class whiteness offers no serious analysis at all. And after all, when people just want to relax and laugh, why should they also be asked to think? Still, the thoroughly nasty, hateful, and stupid movie Joe Dirt, for example, seems to have a serious side-effect, that of reinforcing pernicious stereotypes about an irredeemably subhuman class of white people. David Spade, playing the title character, bumbles and stumbles his way through the biggest dumping of spite onto working-class whiteness since, oh, 1932, when Erskine Caldwell published his lurid rural-white potboiler, Tobacco Road.
Laugh, laugh, laugh. That way, you don't have to cry.