Saturday, September 26, 2009

struggle to define "white culture"

So far I've avoided paying much attention here to the reactionary, absurdist melodrama that is Glenn Beck. He reminds me way too much of a neglected child, who will say and do anything just to get attention (like say, sneaking into the kitchen when Mommy's gone to boil a plastic frog).

Glenn Beck is like a troll, swimming around in the blur and glut of corporate media culture. As with trolls in the blogosphere, ignoring him seems like the best strategy.

But then along came Katie Couric, who interviewed Beck this week and asked him an especially interesting question. Beck had recently enhanced his notoriety by saying that Barack Obama has "a hatred of white people, of white culture"; Couric asked him what he meant by the latter, "white culture."

Beck initially responded like I think most white Americans would -- he stumbled and sputtered, and failed to define white culture. Then Beck carried on like so many conservatives do these days when their bluff is called -- by playing the victim card, which he did by insinuating that the question was some sort of "trap," sprung on him by another member of the so-called liberal media. His inability to answer the question became his refusal to play Couric's evil little "game."

So, aside from Beck's weasel-like squirming here, what do you think about the effort in this interview to define "white culture"?

Is there such a thing? If not, is that why Beck had trouble defining it?

I do think that white people have culture. But that's not quite the same, is it, as saying that there is one white culture.

Most Americans do have some idea of what "black culture" is, and could probably put together a definition of some sort pretty easily. But then, how accurate would that be? Is there really just one black American culture? So again, is there one white culture? Or, in both cases, and in the cases as well of other American subcultures, are there several, perhaps overlapping cultures within a larger subculture?

Complicated, isn't it? Not that I'm expressing any sympathy for Glenn Beck's struggle with Katie Couric's question.

Part of the problem that white people have in discerning any "white culture" is that whiteness has long defined itself implicitly, by defining what it's not, instead of explicitly defining what it is. Irish and Italian immigrants, for example, became assimilated "Americans," and thus white people, by suppressing that which marked them as "un-American," including their culture.

"American" meant "white," but the whiteness embedded within such concepts as "all-American" gradually became invisible to most white people (though not, I would imagine, to most non-white people). White people, and whatever could be called "white culture," morphed instead into "normal" and "ordinary."

Although I don't think Glenn Beck is normal and ordinary, his struggle as a white person to define "white culture" is completely familiar.

Interview transcript:

COURIC: A twitter question is, [from] adrianinflorida: "what do you mean by white culture?"

BECK: Um, I, I don’t…

COURIC: You said he had a deep-seated hatred for the white culture, what is that? What is the white culture?

BECK: I guess it’s…gosh. I’m so tempted to make news here today.

COURIC: No no, I’m just curious, this was actually adrianinflorida.

BECK: What to do? What to do? Adrian, Go to Listen to it. You can hear all of it.

COURIC: No, but you didn’t really address white culture, I think, in your explanation about President Obama, I haven’t seen the whole show, but can you? Just for our purposes?

BECK: Just for your purposes? So this will be a little secret between us?

COURIC: No, for this show, can you explain what you mean by the white culture? Because some people say that sounds kind of racist.

BECK: Really? It’s amazing to me that, for the first time, I think in history, somebody can ask a question and say, “Don’t you think that maybe we have several pieces here?” We have several pieces. George Bush says my grandmother was a typical African American that had, that had her views bred into her. You don’t think maybe we would ask questions about that comment? How is it that the first time I think in history, you should check on it, somebody says, “Hey. There’s some red flags here maybe we should look at?” has become the target. How am I? How am I the target for asking questions?

COURIC: People just want to know. What is white culture?

BECK: I’m going to see if I can play your game. People just want to know.

COURIC: You know, well, Adrian wants to know.

BECK: That’s good for Adrian.

COURIC: No but I mean it’s fine if you make a statement though, shouldn’t you be able to defend exactly what you mean by it. I’m not –

BECK: Katie, how many times have you said, how many times have you said something where you’re like, “I didn’t think. What’s white culture? I don’t know. What’s the white culture?”

What? What is the white culture? I don’t know how to answer that that’s not a trap.

COURIC: Mm hmm.

BECK: You know what I mean?

COURIC: Yeah I’m not, I’m just, I’m not trying to trap you, I’m just, I think people wanted to know what that meant exactly.

BECK: Well we know Adrian does.

COURIC: Yeah, and you’re not going to answer her?

BECK: I’m not going to get into your sound bite gotcha game which we already are. We already are.

COURIC: No we’re actually, this is completely unedited so if you felt like you wanted to explain it, you have all the time in the world.

BECK: Mm hmm.

COURIC: No? Don’t want to go there?

BECK: Nope.

COURIC: But basically, you stand behind your assertion that in your view, President Obama is a racist.

BECK: I believe that Americans should ask themselves tough questions. Americans should turn over all the rocks and make their own decisions.


  1. In my experience, it seems most white people seem to think they are part of a "default" culture, like some sort of normal base mix. And everyone else is different.

    I wouldn't know how to define it, but I deal with it daily. Strangely, they don't find it too hard to peg me as being part of Mexican culture.

  2. I've thought about this a lot.

    I think that the reason most white people have such trouble defining white 'culture' is because white culture is the first culture in history to be made up almost wholly of corporate creations and propaganda spread via mass media. I know that there is a ton of preference for, deference to whites in basically all forms of media... but the flip side is most white people think they are what they see on TV (although maybe that's not just confined to white people). Furthermore, many aspects of white/european culture have leaked out and spread, begun significant elsewhere. It makes it really hard to get a sense of what the culture is. I think you would have a lot easier time defining white culture one hundred, two hundred years ago.

    I think I will unpack this more in a bit, when I have time to comment.

  3. There is no White culture, and there is no European culture--there is French culture, German culture, Lithuanian culture, Romanian culture etc....If you don't agree, it's like me saying there's African culture and Asian culture.

    North America's culture started as British and French culture, and as more immigrant groups arrived, the culture changed to include parts of those cultures.

    Culture is made of different things, such as music, food, clothing, values and traditions. As a recent Eastern-European immigrant, I (along many others) believe that Canada does not have its own culture; it's a mix of different European cultures and recently, of Asian/African/Middle-Eastern cultures.

  4. And no, J.M. Perkins, European culture did not start somewhere else, we do not need to copy no one else, we have our own culture, thank you very much. Please don't disrespect our ancestors like that and learn more history.

  5. @El Chavo Yes white people often say they don't have a culture (like theirs is default culture). They don't have a culture, they are 'normal.' And often times that make cooing noises of faux envy to the ethnic people who have 'culture.' More on this in a bit.

    Ooh a history challenge. (Cracks knuckles) let me see if I have learned enough history to avoid disrespecting 'our ancestors.'

    First of all a minor correction, when I typed "Furthermore, many aspects of white/european culture have leaked out and spread, begun significant elsewhere." 'begun' was supposed to be 'become.' But begun is correct too, insofar as all kinds of crap Europeans and the descendants of europeans take for granted originated elsewhere (Arabic Numbers which actually originated in india, wheat which probably came from around present day Iraq, even Christianity originated in Israel with massive early development in northern Africa -St Augustine anyone?- et al).

    I will agree with your point that what we commonly ascribe to be culture (in this case 'white' culture) is a tapestry of earlier collections (namely, an interplay between national cultures). But why stop at the nation state?

    To whit, using the UK as a case study the nation in question consisted of four kingdoms (maybe more) England, Scotland Whales and Ireland. Each of these kingdoms have subgroupings and ethnicities which all at one point or another felt that they had their own unique culture: celtic, scottish, welsh, briton, angle, saxon, norman/french. I bring this up only to point out that saying there isn't a 'white' culture but that there is a 'national' culture stops to early. If you really want to split hairs, you have to keep dialing back and down until you considering individual towns or bands or even single individuals.

    'White Culture' doesn't exist as some objective ideal... but rather white culture exists because asshats like Glen Beck use it as a rhetorical device to make a points and or because enough people believe that they have a common culture with others who resemble them. For historical instances of this concept, think about arguments about 'manifest destiny' in the United States or 'the White Man's burden' which all justified the actions of the 'white' or 'civilized' races because 'whites' were either genetically or culturally superior, and as such definitely preached an idea of a 'white culture' with certain 'superior' features.

    Now, you can argue that there doesn't exist a common cultural identity between people who self identify as white... but how many people have to believe they have a common culture before you concede that maybe they are right? Or at least that its important to understand what the hell they are trying so say?

    So, let's start at the easiest place first. European Culture.

    I would definitely argue that there is a common European Culture even as I accept that there are constituent national cultures.

    Namely, Europeans have employed three lingua francas in my opinion: Latin then French then English. These were the languages that the 'educated' needed to speak and were utilized as trade languages. And I don't think you can share language with someone without sharing culture. Furthermore, Europeans utilized a system of Feudalism and a court obsessed Monarchy which was markedly different from the rest of the world. I could go on and on, but I would assume that you are ready to concede that there were/are certain commonalities amongst Europeans that one could label as 'culture' even if culture in this case is more meta then we usually like to use.

    Have I referenced enough history, or should I keep going?

    (continued in next comment)

  6. Moving forward, if you forced someone to pick out halmarks of 'white' culture, they would probably pick on certain things: democracy, christianity, capitalism (maybe communism) education, industry. If they were focusing on the 'positive' aspects. If you were on a militant antiracist website, they would probably pick: warfare, disease, colonization. I think most of these latter are human issues as opposed to white ones but whites were the last winners so to speak (whites weren't the first to kick in the teeth of their neighbors, but maybe humans have learned enough that they will be some of the last). And white people have taken these horrors to such dizzying heights that people worry that they can prove to existential threats to the world.

    Whites have a common culture insofar as enough white people think of themselves as white, behave according to a set of rules, habits and backstory, and believe that other white people will or should do the same.


    The reasons people have trouble defining 'white' culture is the same reason that many white have trouble thinking themselves as having a culture. Namely, that nearly everything that whites could point to as 'their culture' is mass marketed, mass produced and omnipresent.

    When whites are taught european history more often then not it is simply referred to as history. It is default, it is normal.

    As for the corporate aspect, lets look at a cultural value like 'believe in yourself.' How many times did you parents tell you this versus how many times did you see it in movies? Think about cooking or food. How many times have you cooked yourself a traditional irish dinner vs how many times did you eat at burger king? 'White' culture is that which the average white person has very little to do with shaping and making. It is the prepackaged consumer good designed to maximize profit.

    And its taking over the world.

    Fast food might have started as a white cultural (and specifically white american) cultural creation but it now exists on every continent, in the vast majority of countries. Movies which focus on self identified white people are translated into every language, shown everywhere. And when the average which person is wholly removed from the creation of value, of meaning and of morality is it any wonder most white people don't know who they are? They don't know who they are because they were never taught who they are. They were only taught who they weren't.

    And Mackerel, this may well have been different for you as an immigrant from Eastern Europe. What I'm describing is my best attempt trying to describe why growing up white in the US can be so confusing.

    All love and respect to our ancestors. If we go back far enough, all the ancestors are the same. Well, except our asshole ancestors... screw those guys.

  7. When looking to uncover a culture, the "white" approach is to look for whatever customs the "other" has that seem different or exotic. Style of music, clothing/"costume", strange foods, entertainment, etc. But what's much more core to culture is not the things people in a group tend to do, but the things they don't do.

    Culture is what you're embarrassed to ask about or tell someone. How much does your job pay? Who are you voting for? What type of underwear do you wear?

    Culture is what you're ashamed of, what makes your face turn red. Your parents knowing about your intimate partners. Your friends knowing you didn't go to college. Your child saying 'dirty' words in front of someone. Buying condoms.

    It's easy to change how you dress, what music you listen to, what you watch on TV, where you hang out, etc. But the core things you're programmed from your earliest memories to see as shameful or taboo are very very hard to change. And, perhaps not a coincidence, this aspect of culture is the one most closely tied to racism. Taboos are also one of the primary filters through which we judge people whose culture differs from our own. As soon as we see someone else who is comfortable doing something we've been brought up to consider taboo, we either look down on them as primitive and sub-human, or we exoticize and fantasize about their lack of inhibition. Both are problematic.

    How about a discussion on "white culture" from this standpoint?

  8. I love how Couric stuck to the question completely & stripped away all the excuses he came up with to wiggle out it until he had to say he just wasn't going to answer it.

  9. What's white culture?


    Yes, that's a joke. I think.

    It's very white to resist group categorization for ourselves, but even if some of us don't identify with a huge chunk of the stuff on that list, it doesn't mean those things are not tied into white culture in some way.

    We tend to get very defensive if we don't identify with something that's stereotypically white, as if our individual experience wholly negates the stereotype. We take our individual experiences as proof that group identities are flawed and useless, and instead try to treat everyone as an individual rather than as a member of a group.

    Failing, of course, to acknowledge the socialized group identities that we cling to unconsciously, and that are threaded through the fabric of our society.

    And culture is a fluid thing: it doesn't usually have clearly delineated boundaries (except in the case of legal, economic, and social boundaries enforced either explicitly or implicitly by those in power). So it might be an uncomfortable thing for us to accept that whiteness has gone hand in hand with stuff like colonization, Christianity, capitalism, etc., as the US was founded and developed, just because we might not personally identify with some of those values--but to deny that those things were involved in the construction of white identity and culture is just ignorant. And to deny that we're part of, and beneficiaries of, that white culture... well, that's ignorant, too.

    I'm not saying that white culture is defined by something like StuffWhitePeopleLike, just that our reactions to a site like that reveal something about white culture, too.

  10. Hey Macon,

    Please believe that Glenn Beck "knows" just what "White Culture" is all about. And surely he can define it at the drop of a hat.

    The trouble here, or his reluctancy, is due in large part to the fact that he has lost about 50% of his sponsors since his statement about Obama. He was careful not to say the wrong thing or anything period. He did so because of the fall out due to the activism of against him for his vitriolic comments recently.

    So yeah, to him Katie Couric was setting him up since the media is so "liberal" and all.

  11. I love how Beck wants us to ask ourselves tough questions but he outright refuses to answer the tough question Couric poses him. What a farce. It sounds like he's projecting his own feelings when he says Obama can't stand whites/white culture. Beck can't stand blacks and whatever he perceives to be black culture.

  12. White culture is a combination of a lot of little things; that's why you can't define it. Try defining any kind of culture, and it will be very difficult to do. The only way to really understand it is to experience it for yourself.

    The etiquette, the style of dress, mannerisms, languages and words used, the history, among other things are all a part of white culture.

  13. Boy I want to comment but usually by the time I get here everything has been so well articulated I'm at a loss for words. I did notice one guy really had his "asshat" handed to him by J.M. Perkins. I'd like to repost JM's comments.

    But I would imagine if I where white it would be rather tricky to define my culture as it is as pervasive as the air we breath. I remember in my college years gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of my own culture. There were so many things I took for granted and didn't understand their worth and molding of my person. I also remember a group discussion about "white" culture in America and thinking, "there isn't one... they don't have one!" As I too lived and breathed that culture as a partial base "software" of my African American existence. It was so built in it was as if I were a fish trying to define the water I was born in and that I had never thought of before.

    I think Beck was genuinely at a loss. I don't think he thinks that deeply. I remember people in my African studies group who learned just enough rhetoric to appear learned and more importantly developed "cultural" debating skills that could quickly and handily put 99% of people, white and black, to shame and embarrassment. It was like verbal cultural judo. Quick incisive quips, righteous posturing and cornering impervious retorts that would leave you feeling like black Bruce Lee just slap the race out of your mouth! But when confronted with real questions of substance like Beck, they would quickly change subject or retreat to victim status. Which really allowed them to shout racism. I watch the fox team weasel around these same tactics today. It blows my mind that they still work. I guess that they have developed quite a culture that uses similar tactics of code words, emotional hype and leveraged sentiments. Like most racism and power structures built on it, they really become quite predictable after a little study.

  14. I wish I could explain this more concisely, but here are my thoughts.

    I've struggled to define my own culture as a white American. I believe that the crux of the problem is that so many white Americans don't have an ethnic identity.

    Take me, for example. My last name originates from a man who came over from Germany to the US pre-Civil War. But I don't think of myself as German at all. I'd say I'm much more influenced by English culture, and by blood I'm so fractured that I couldn't in a million years define for myself a single ethnic identity. And I'm by no means alone. It wouldn't surprise me at all if this were true of the majority of whites.

    Oh, lots of people will tell you, "I'm 1/4 German and 1/4 English and half Polish," and they'll say things like, "Mmm, potatoes! See my red hair? I'm so Irish." But it's almost completely meaningless. They don't come from Ireland, they're probably only 5% Irish by blood, and despite their sporadic attempts to learn Gaelic, no one in their right mind would argue that they are really Irish.

    Really, they are just Americans. And I think it's pretty valid to say that there is an American culture.

    But that identity is shared with non-white people. So when you try to define "white American culture" it seems exclusionary. You're just American, and so are they, so you can't claim "American" for whites, but neither can you find any other identity. You could say that to be American is to be white, but that is racist. Or you could say that white American culture is all kinds of negative things. Things like "bland," "nonexistent," or "colorless" - or, worse, "oppressive." And of course, that's supremely unsatisfying.

    But if you try to define "white American culture" in terms of shared history and values, you run into problems because American culture (not just white American culture, but American culture in general) is highly individualistic, so we tend to see differences between people instead of similarities. And, to be fair, America is a big country and there are quite a few regional subcultures, and urban/rural splits, liberal vs. conservative, etc. So it actually is kind of silly to lump white Americans together. They are a fractured bunch, not just within each individual's family tree, but intra-group as well.

    So that's the main problem. Most white Americans have no ethnic identity. All they have is a broad, nebulous racial identity and a national identity that can't be defined as "white."

    If race wasn't a factor we'd probably categorize ourselves very differently. Whites and blacks of long American lineage (as in, those whose families had been here for quite some time) would both call themselves "American" and everyone else would either assimilate into that or use hyphenated ethnic terms, like "Ethiopian-American" and "French-American" and "Bangladeshi-American."

    It seems to me that black Americans would face the same dilemma, except that, as a minority, they have been forced into solidarity by the white majority.

    So it is that white Americans have unsatisfyingly vague and fractured identities. Isn't the "tragic Mulatto" trope ironic? If only we were all mulattos, we'd know who we were. As it is, to be white is to be racist, and to be black is to be the victim of racism, and the end result is that American culture is tragically binary.

    It gets more complicated when you factor in other groups, like Hispanics and Asians. But put very simply, they've been worked into the white/black dichotomy, which, with their inclusion, has become the white/non-white dichotomy.

  15. ignore beck at your and our peril. that 'lone wolf' that killed 3 cops was a fan. another, a woman armed to the teeth, was arrested casing a national guard base. he inspires and encourages those already on the edge nevermind the more organized and sane.

    along with his freedomworks buddys he was able to get about 60-70k teabaggers to rally at washington.

    he lied and distorted which cost van jones and another fired, fucking up the greenjobs initiative which was the real target.

    he has led the charge against acorn, sieu, other czars and the msm has followed suit without any real reporting themselves.

    he's overtaken limbaugh in terms of influence among the far right wingnut unwashed masses.

    despite losing 60 advertisers, major ones, faux news sticks with him.

    ignoring him is like ignoring racism.

  16. Glenn Beck ain't no intellectual. He's a cable news/talk radio entertainer. When I watch this, I see a guy who didn't have a ready answer to the question, and was worried that anything he said was going to get him in trouble, which was probably a reasonable fear since the dude is a dumbass.

    Re: culture. There's a prevailing, dominant culture in this country. Let's call it American Culture. All of us born here have a good idea of what this culture is. It's the American version of the english language, it's capitalism, it's two-party politics, it's Hollywood, it's Disneyland, it's Cadillacs and Mustangs, freeways, hot dogs, apple pie, hamburgers, jeans, basketball, football, rock n roll, jazz, etc.

    On the one hand, this American Culture is very much a "white culture" in the sense that most of the people in this country are white, and this dominant culture is made up of mostly white, european traditions and practices. On the other hand, it's not an exclusively "white culture" because America's minorities are able to understand and operate within it, and are to varying degrees welcome to join it.

    So, dominant, mainstream American Culture is mostly a white culture, yes, but it's not a "white culture," if you get my drift.

    Living alongside American Culture are all sorts of subcultures, in particular, ethnic and/or racial subcultures. Black culture, latino culture, the asian cultures, jewish, middle eastern, scottish, irish, polish, italian and on and on. The members are usually able to operate in both the dominant American Culture and their own particular subculture. Some minority groups are significant in size with histories of being excluded or oppressed, and that history has contributed to their subcultures being rich with very distinct dialects, arts, religious practices, etc.

    Other groups, like say German-Americans (my background) have had a much easier time assimilating and so their cultural heritage has either merged with the larger American Culture (like beer drinking from germany) or relics from it are preserved in sort of a quaint way (like Oktoberfest) or they've lost their cultural link to their motherland completely (very few German-Americans speak german).

    After that there are a zillion other subcultures based on "less deep" things like youth music fandom, professions, hobbies, collecting, you name it. Americans love their subcultures.

  17. the commenter who said describing white culture would be like describing the air we breathe is dead on. though i'd like to add one more thing: the biggest feature of what beck refers to as white culture, and exactly what he fears is the object of hatred by Obama and other non-whites, is the the privilege associated with being white. it is that privilege - social, economic and political- that beck and his followers fear is under threat and why they are reacting so very strongly in defense of it. and having a black president, with a large base of support and sweeping policy ideas marks the biggest attack on what beck-ists have treasured for so long: their ability to set the tone and content of debate and make decisions about who gets what (i.e., not 'illegal' immigrants - you know, because the best way to protect the country the europeans "discovered" is to block the path for anyone else who comes after. so, the key, before discussing whatever cuisine, social norms or other cultural signifiers for 'white people,' the first place to begin is the privilege that flows being considered white.

  18. My favorite part of this is how Becks is making it seem like Couric is asking a ridiculously over the top question. All she said was "what is white culture?" And he IS THE ONE WHO SAID IT!!!!!!! he's the one who said Obamam has a deep-seated hatred of white culture, but he can't even answer a question about what it is?

    I mean, I think most white Americans would be hard-pressed to be able to define it because as has been said before, they just think of themselves/their culture as the default, so everyone else has a "culture" but they are just normal.

    But seriously, all that hemming and hawing from him was just ridiculous as HE IS THE ONE WHO SAID IT.

  19. Beck didn't want to answer the question because he sensed that it was an attempt by liberal media to create a gotcha moment to discredit him.

    White culture is baseball, football, small town USA, etc. Many of the basic parts of the culture were defined before the Civil Rights movement came to fruition - which is not a good or bad thing, just the truth of it. Since that time, America has struggled to come to terms with integration of blacks and other races and ethnic backgrounds without totally unraveling the better parts of what the pre-1950s culture brought to the table. So when he talks about "white culture" he is trying to define that, without himself sounding racist - which is hard to do today.

    Unfortunately what we have seen in America is, instead of an integration of culture and acceptance that we can be different and yet equal - an attempt to continue racial divisions as a form of maintaining power. You see this in the teachings of the Black Christian Theology where they go to great length to change the meaning of Christ in their religion. This perversion of religion is being used by blacks to maintain power and control over other blacks, and unfortunately it also works to keep the races separate by emphasizing differences rather then commonality.

    Not that whites are partly to blame in all of this, but there are elements in the "black " culture that want to maintain their separation.

  20. As far as I know, historically, RACIAL divisions have ALWAYS been fabricated in the service of justifying social power hierarchies and resource acquisition. One example of many: the English defined the Irish as a different (and inferior) race to justify occupying Northern Ireland.

    I would be interested to know if anyone has done research on when and where the concept of "White" culture arose.

    My guess is that it originated in Europe during the colonial era to justify European land grabbing and exploitation in other parts of the world where people did not share one of the few common European phenotypes, relatively light skin.

    Of course, this is just a guess.

    I think it is important to distinguish between culture and RACIAL culture. The two are not synonymous. Racial culture is a subset of possible human cultures and as such arose and evolved in a specific historical context. I think the context needs to be defined and analyzed in order to characterize "White" culture specifically.

    I highly doubt that one can define "White" culture without some reference to how it was used to justify subordination of "non-White" populations.

    The concept of "White" culture is synonymous with racism, in my opinion. I profoundly disagree that it is neutrally defined by baseball, football and small town USA. Unless, of course, one wants to acknowledge the racist undertones of these cultures.


    Glenn Beck worried about being discredited if he answered Couric's question??? He discredits himself every time he opens his mouth. No one with multiple living brain cells takes this guy seriously. He's just too much of an idiot to fathom and deal with the repercussions of what he said about Obama.

  21. First, "white history" is not the default history taught. That's laughable. History class begins with American History (which encompasses all Americans) and yes it teachs about slavery and racism. It also includes early Chinese immigration and their poor treatment aswell as the Japanese and how they were rounded up and thrown into prison camps during WW2 The cruelty the Native Americans faced is also part of the curriculm. When you start college there is many history courses you can take and all of them focus on a specific history of a nation or people. This being said, there is no such thing as default white hisory in America. It is the collective history of all Americans in a broad and sometimes shallow sense.

    For those who say there is no white culture or it is borrowed I say this, your are now typing your reply using part of white culture, the English Language. White people all over the world share common languages, gods, and history. The term wstern culture refers to White Culture. Business suits, levi jeans, sandwhiches, all come from white culture. Many people across the world have adopted white or western culture and made it a part of their own. White culture has been adopted so thoroughly by other people that it's seen as their own and the reason it is hard to notice white culture is becaue you are a part of it.

  22. One more comment: I think people who define themselves as "White" are doing a disservice to themselves. This classification is infused with racist associations. Without such associations, it has basically no solid definition.

    On a personal note, I could pass as White by some people's standards, Asian by other's. But, these categories say basically nothing about who I am and how I see myself in the grand scheme of things.

    My Mother is of English and Irish extraction. Has English and Irish culture informed my personality? Hell, yeah. My Dad is Chinese. Yes, indeed, I have many characteristics in common with people from China.

    Conversely, Germans are considered White, like the English and Irish. I'm part White, yet I don't think much of my personality has been influenced by German cultural norms. Similarly, I am part Asian. Japanese people are Asian and so are Indians. While I find these cultures interesting, I don't identify with them, even though I'm part Asian.

    I think we need to abort the ingrained tendency we have in this country to box people in vague racial categories. I cannot think of how these categories do any good whatsoever in our society.

    Can someone offer an argument to support continuing to think in broad racial terms rather than a more subtle fine-grained way?

  23. mthgk said,

    I think people who define themselves as "White" are doing a disservice to themselves. This classification is infused with racist associations. Without such associations, it has basically no solid definition.

    I agree that the fictional categories of race are just that, fictions, and largely pernicious ones at that. Nevertheless, I continue to identify myself as "white" because that's what so many people see when they look at me. That brings about all sorts of things, most of them positive, and most and I want to be more aware of that. I want to take responsibility for my whiteness, instead of running away from it, or pretending it doesn't exist.

  24. love love the question because if glenn beck can't define white culture, then what exactly what does the POTUS hate so deeply?

    Beck wanted to say that white culture was American culture and that cold sore masquerading as a human being couldn't do it without revealing exactly who has the bias.

    First Palin and now Beck.
    Keep up the now interesting work, Katie.

  25. Scorpion Fish, I beg to differ. As a teacher, I can assert that the history taught in America's schools is overtly white. The contributions of people of color are rarely mentioned. Except fo some incidents (e.g. slavery, The Trail of Tears, and in fewer instances, Chinese immigration), white males are primarily the focus.

    White culture can pretty much define itself as the default culture of the United States. The sad thing is that it's so mundane and common that it is not extraordinary to others.

  26. It's white culture to stop friends looking after each other's children because they're not registered childminders with CRB checks

    And it's white culture to laugh about it

  27. Scorpion Fish, I beg to differ. As a teacher, I can assert that the history taught in America's schools is overtly white.

    I totally agree. I'm taking a history class in college this semester, and the professor had us skip the beginning chapters where Native Americans first arrived in the western hemisphere. It was almost like, "Poof! Europeans!"

  28. J.M Perkins, voted most likely to kill a gnat with a multi-megaton nuclear bomb. :-) All kidding aside, great response!

    And Katie Couric is a good interviewer. Good interviewers don't get side-tracked by red-herrings, veiled attacks or attempts to change the subject. They keep hammering the question home, and the interviewee can either answer the question honestly, say the don't know (which is no shame unless you had claimed prior knowledge) or hang themselves with their own rope. This reminds me a lot of her Palin interview. All Beck had to do, and the only options open to him were;

    a) Answer the question honestly.
    b) Admit ignorance.

  29. Honeybrown, What percent of the population was white in our country from say 250 years ago till now? American History reflects the diversity of the people and white people by far have been and are the largest group of Americans. Do you suggest that we spend a disproportinate amount of time teaching about different races to be fair? The reason white males dominate our history books is largely due to the fact that they alone ran the country for so long. Our founding fathers, presidents, politicians, judges, scientist, business owners, were predominatley white males up till recent times. I'm sorry you don't accept white males as central figures of our history but the truth is they are and had a lot to do with the founding and building of our country.

    But what do you think the primary focus should be when teaching American History? While blacks and others have made a lot of contribuions to our country they have not made as much as white males and yes that is due to sexism, racism, and slavery but that does not take away the contributions whites made. All of our history matters not just being fair to one group. With the little time available to teach a class the lessons are condensed to fit in as much relevant information as possible. Black History Month along with American history touches on a lot of black contributions.

    If white culture is so mundane then please throw out your jeans and suits. Don't celebrate Thanksgiving, Easter, or Christmas. And please by all means quit using electricity in your house. It was given to you by the mundane white culture.

    Angel H- it's not uncommon for a professor to skip through books and focus on what you will be tested on. Every professor can teach and test you on what he wants. It's at their discretion. If you feel your not being taught properly or that he is a racist by all means ask him why he skipped over that or report him. But American History is usually geared more to post colonization then pre.

  30. "The sad thing is that it's so mundane and common that it is not extraordinary to others."

    Maybe you take it for granted and don't realize how much of white culture you enjoy and participate in every day?

  31. If white culture is so mundane then please throw out your jeans and suits. Don't celebrate Thanksgiving, Easter, or Christmas. And please by all means quit using electricity in your house. It was given to you by the mundane white culture.

    ...Fwaahahaha! Clothes are part of white culture eh? And...2 Christian holidays which had pagan origins anyway? Is that the best you could support your self with? I don't even know what you're getting at here other than being silly. Please tell me more about the great accomplishments of mundane white culture!

    Then again, if this is merely extremely effective satire, ace job.

  32. Preface: I apologize now if I'm merely reiterating what other people have said.

    White culture = "I want my America back!". That is, the way Glenn Beck would have it. As I understand it, what he means by "white culture" is that post-WW2 ideal of the nuclear family behind a white picket fence in a manicured, ethnically homogeneous suburb, which can exist only on the basis of individualism, which in turn can only exist through exclusion.

    That white picket fence ideal is the most pervasive and insidious manifestation of "The American Dream" because it necessarily requires exclusion. Exclusion of your nextdoor neighbor, exclusion of people who don't walk, talk, think exactly like you. "White culture", basically, the "American dream", is conformity. Ironic, as this country was founded on (apparently) everyone's individual, civil liberties. Less ironic, obviously, when you consider that those individual liberties required stripping freedom and dignity away from an entire race of people.

    Glenn Beck and other right-wing douchebags just want "their America back". An America where they can enjoy the liberty to exclude and trample on everyone who doesn't walk, talk, think exactly like them.

  33. "...Fwaahahaha! Clothes are part of white culture eh? And...2 Christian holidays which had pagan origins anyway?"

    Yes jeans were invited by whites and used by white miners. and these pagan holidays were white pagan holidays that were later used by the romans because people were use to celebrating on these dates.

  34. I agree that white culture is insidious, and nor is it "culture" exactly. But I do think there is a culture of whiteness in this country, or that there is a social construct of "white culture." In trying to define it, I notice that I am better able to do so by comparing it to different cultural values. To me, white culture is individualistic, time-centered, and success driven. White culture values linear, hierarchical order, independence, and material/monetary wealth. It values work over leisure and direction and order over process. White culture formulated the US government system, education, the legal system, work places...all arenas that prioritize white values as universal and "right" even when unsuccessful.

  35. Really liked this:'s not an exclusively "white culture" because America's minorities are able to understand and operate within it, and are to varying degrees welcome to join it.

    Whiteness in America is the web of privilege you get from looking white or the racism you receive for not - it's a dysfunction that affects American culture but doesn't rise by itself to the level of a culture. Whatever is not charged with privilege/racism is American culture, available and accessible to all. Looking for food, clothing, music, or any other article of culture that is distinctively White American means that it there is a historical or current barrier of racism/privilege that is preventing non-white Americans from accessing it in the same way.

    The problem with defining whiteness as a distinct cultural group rather than a set of privileges conferred within the broader American culture is that it tempts anti-racist white people to say "I'm not white because I don't have such-and-such set of tastes/beliefs/values" which is seriously blinding.

    As an example, among white muslim converts it is not uncommon to feel no longer white because of the relative distance between our values and the prevailing culture. But the fact is that while being in some sort of counter-culture or sub-culture in opposition or sharp distinction to the mainstream may remove some of the privileges you were previously accustomed to receiving, it doesn't really affect the specific set of privileges you receive by being physically white and it doesn't immunize you from unconsciously acting in racist ways or taking advantage of your privilege.

  36. T.Rxands
    a History lesson for you- The Romans went through ancient Europe and completely annhilated all of the hordes of "barbarians". It proved to be a tuff task so the Romans took Christianity along with commonly used pagan symbols and holidays and created Catholicism (this cultural assimilation began during Emperor Constantine's rein when he re-united the western and eastern kingdoms of rRome through war). Adopting pagan beliefs allowed the Romans to gain alot of support from the pagans and there leaders which they would need to conquer the remaining lands of the "barbarians" that would not convert. All of the "barbarians" had pagan beliefs and followed astrology and astronomy closely (which use to be one science). They held their holidays on astronomical dates of significance. After exterminating the ancient european beliefs and culture the europeans conformed a lot easier to Catholicism. But still a few held fast to their pagan roots and were routinely killed for practicing it over the centruies. The pagans' art and writings were considered to be the works of the devil and were burnt. All of the ancient europeans had their belief structure and heritage systematically destroyed. The ancient europeans had a belief system similar to ancient India and the religions Hinduism and Buddhism. While many religions and people viewed these dates to be significant the Romans used the europeans holidays because they wanted support from within those they were to conquer. The cross was an ancient european symbol that the Romans took to represent Catholicism and proof that their roots in paganism came from ancient europeans. Ancient Christians on the other hand used a fish as their symbol until then.

  37. (note to moderator - link was truncated in the first message, this is a re-post)

    mthgk wrote:

    I would be interested to know if anyone has done research on when and where the concept of "White" culture arose.

    I'm not sure whether this will answer your question but here's one online source with discussions of the history of race (mostly US centric) -

  38. White culture is Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Anniston held up as standards of beauty. (Have you seen up close pics of these women?)

  39. I think what he's alluding to is the PERCEIVED difference between white and black culture. Which is often racist in nature. IMO, Glenn Beck sees white culture as hardworking people who would never ask for a handout (versus the perception that blacks are all on welfare). People who are truly family oriented (vs those who have no family ties or have children by numerous absentee fathers). People who are quiet, nice and humble (vs those who are loud, racous, and have no manners). People who are not afraid to fall then pull themselves up through capitalism (vs those who start at the bottom and stay there with no ambition). People who speak properly (vs those who speak the black street language). People who as a whole do not embrace & accept gangsters and their lifestyle and glorify it. Do you see what I'm getting at? He couldn't answer the question properly because as soon as he thought about the answer, he realized there was no way to make it sound "non-racist". Someone here mentioned the blog Stuff White People Like. It's a brilliant piece of satire. Really, whoever started that blog is a genius at understanding race relations. I ended up here by accident while I was looking for that blog. No offense, I just haven't finished reading all the threads yet. I like it so far!

  40. So this turned into an excuse to pretend like white people either stole all culture they have or that it's boring....terrific.

  41. So this turned into an excuse to pretend like white people either stole all culture they have or that it's boring....terrific.


    I guess a post on Beck is going to bring out his acolytes.

    "An excuse"? Whatev.

    "Boring"? No. Rape, enslavement, self-serving plunder, and willful oblivion to the costs to others of one's own group's ongoing comforts are many things, including "horrible," but they're not "boring."

  42. Sardine, thank you for stating the truth so boldly. Political correctness, especially when it comes to race, seems to be the first priority of almost any public figure.

  43. Sardine, now that you mention it, I think that's exactly what Beck means by "white culture." Great comment.

  44. this post seems quite popular with the fishies...

    nobody stole everybody's culture and everybody didn't steal nobody's culture - yes, some bits were stolen/copied, others borrowed/influenced/forced and sometimes groups of people came up with the same ideas as another group totally independantly!

    it seems to be hard for white people to define white culture but if you ask any PoC it would *seem* to be quite easy... except, a PoC would recount the superficial points of white culture same as how white people would list the superficial points of non-white culture(s) and then (some) white people would get upset but still fail to learn how they are hurting PoC by doing exactly the same.

    some people (both white and PoC) like to claim certain cultural habits that are actually just shared common human culture/habits... bizarre really but you still hear such and such group saying honesty, bravery, generousity blah blah blah is "part of THEIR culture" LOL well I'm gonna claim drinking water as part of MY culture and everyone is copying me!

  45. I think Sardine is absolutely correct.

    The real issue is surely that Glenn Beck originally meant what Sardine says, and that he then didn't dare explcitly say what he meant so he woffled incoherently like the slow-witted fellow he is. He doesn't need to spell it out though, I'm sure his intended audience knew what he meant.

    Everyone feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, but I just don't see that there's much to be gained from trying to define 'white culture'.

    On the one hand, as Zayn Gregory says, there's really just "American culture", which belongs to _everyone_ in the US.

    There is a distict "black American" culture that is a result of the very particular pressures black Americans have endured, but I don't think even that is some sort of hermetically sealed thing, its still part of American culture, it was formed as part of the US experience (however grim much of it was) and as annoying as cultural appropriation can be, I don't think one can stop it filtering out and influencing American culture as a whole.

    There are no hermetically-sealed cultures on earth.

    The only way to define a distinct "white American" culture is to focus on all the negative things (rather as this blog does), but while I think its worthwhile to discuss those negative things, I don't think its helpful to call those "White culture", because that's, well just a bit defeatist and depressing.

    I think it also ignores the extent to which many of those traits are present in all cultures on Earth, they just have more opportunity to be _expressed_ (and refined) by White people.

    "White dysfunctions" might be more accurate. Black Americans have American culture plus Black American culture. White Americans have American culture, plus a set of dysfunctions (I think the analogous thing applies in other western countries).

    One thing that makes me feel a tiny bit sorry for white Americans is that when they try and 'reclaim' their 'ethnic' identities, with all those hypenations, the people from the 'mother country' are often scornful of the results. I've seen many Irish people roll their eye's at Irish-Americans' version of Irishness. Likewise with Scots.

    Also, 'stuffwhitepeoplelike' should surely be called 'stuffuppermiddleclassurbanliberalamericanslike'. I'm not sure its even necessary to include 'white' in that list of identifiers.

  46. Pollyanna,

    So, the largest group gets a say in the historical perspective of its country? Well, then, next time I'm in South Africa, I will ask why Afrikkan history is emphasized as the only history.

    They weren't the ONLY group to build this country and it's a slap in the face to the many other groups that built this nation. It's unfortunate that you can't accept that. Also, a lot of what is taught isn't the truth as it comes down to skewed and revisionist history. Often times, key elements are eliminated to give a misinformed view of what really happened.

    In addition, why is it that we have separate months to celebrate the histories of people of color? Integrate their contributions into the classrooms! You would be surprised that a lot of what you take for granted came from people of color or women.

    Your anger is arrogantly misplaced. The truth is that a LOT of truth is taken out of the classroom and it's not because of what will be tested. It's because of the preferred perspective.

  47. Furthermore, Pollyanna, I so enjoy the European standard of beauty and the way of life that I am supposed to conform to as a means of attaining the good life!!

    Your defensiveness is showing. Get a grip and explore the real life. "Your America" is not coming back.

    Dan, I agree with you wholeheartedly.

  48. I think another point that shouldn't be overlooked is that a large part of Beck's schtick is being the innocent put-upon regular guy that the government and the Elite Librul Media are always trying to shut up. His response fit into that mold perfectly. He sure didn't lose any followers in that interview.

  49. What a symptom of a sick nation that a know-nothing like this can hem and haw and dance around a simple question and end by saying "people should ask themselves hard questions."

    And that passes for news. And he passes for worthy of interviewing. Shit, I could interview a teenager here in my town who would have more to say about culture than him. And that's not the remarkable part, once again: it's how he is rich. That is the noteworthy part. A rich hatemonger sits in a shell of expensive fabric for this bullshit interview pricier than many truthful and wise people can put on their back, given the economic figures for this nation.

    It's a hate, murder, lie machine, this TVculture. It's a mind-chewer, destabilizer. You were right the first time ignoring him.

  50. bluey512 and Sardine your comments made my day. Well put both of you.

  51. @Polly Anna - so let's see, your logic is "such and such" did it first so no one can do the same... firstly very selfish, have you ever heard of sharing?

    secondly, the very very first ever human beings on Earth were dark skinned Africans... using YOUR logic, everybody should stop being human beings... only African people have the right to be human beings because they were people first and everyone else just copied them!

  52. For a good book to understanding the historical background and the emergence of "whiteness" and "white identity", check out:

    Abolition of White Democracy by Joel Olson

  53. LOL! White culture?? Hate to break it to you Beck, you idiot, but that doesn't make sense whatsoever! There's absolutely no such thing! HAHAHAHAHA!! So you're telling me the english and the french share the same culture?

  54. As a white person myself I do struggle to find culture, the fact is there are so many white people out there that we wind up separated into groups (Take emo kids for example, nearly all white) there are many other cultures such as Metal culture and country. I'm not saying that all Metal and or country is made by and listened to by white people but that's the majority. It seems to me that white people tend to pick a culture when they're teenagers. So I don't really think there is a white culture, metal and country are both very white culture's but not particularly related (yes I do know there is such a thing as country-metal but that is a VERY small group)
    Hope I'm making some sort of sense.


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