University of Arizona graduate, Christian Lander hosted a humorous, politically incorrect reading of his blog-turned-best selling book, Stuff White People Like at the UA Bookstore this afternoon. As someone who hates how easily others get offended, I was one of the few in the packed audience that laughed without a hint of nervous hesitation.
The Stuff White People Like blog started out as a joke between Lander and his friend, Myles, who contributed to the blog and appeared at today’s reading. An asian self-proclaimed racist “as a result of Canadian upbringing,” Myles told Lander, “I don’t trust any white person who doesn’t watch The Wire.” This sparked further dialogue on the behavior of whites, and after laughing about the way white people get divorced, take yoga classes, have bad break-ups, and go to therapy, Lander decided to start blogging about stereotypical white behavior patterns.
Lander and Myles based most of their blog ideas off their high school experience at Jarvis Collegiate of Toronto, which Lander described as “diverse.”
“You don’t have to be white to like these things. Just rich,” Myles said before noting that the inspiration for the Shorts entry was a high school Chinese boy named Long who always wore shorts.
“I didn’t meet my first Republican until I moved to Arizona. Toronto hasn’t had a conservative MP since the 1950’s,” Lander joked, describing the types of people he based his blog off of.
Once the blog got over 250,000 hits a day, Lander was offered a book deal, and by July 14, 2008, the book version of Stuff White People Like became a New York Times Bestseller.
There’s more to the blog than immediately meets the eye, Lander insists. He said that many think Canada is an escape from “bad white people, like Republicans,” but that there is no escaping trying to be different when drinking tea and free-trade gourmet coffee is so popular and common among whites.
“Things [like Organic food, Indie films, etc] may be fundamentally branded as white activities, but everyone participates somehow. White people think they’re so unique for doing yoga, but everyone does it,” Lander said.
The blog and book especially poke fun at white people who like international travel, awareness, understanding other cultures, and Study Abroad, which Lander did during one of his undergraduate years at McGill University.
“You hear people say, ‘Oh, I’m so unique! I drank beer in Prague and hung out with Australians! I’m so much more cultured now!'” Myles said, evoking laughter from the audience.
Myles and Lander read popular and specific passages that they felt related to the UA somehow. Before satiring on Graduate School, Lander let Myles read one of the most controversial categories in the book/blog, Asian Girls.
Guilty of many of the passages themsevles, Myles and Lander created self-depracating dialogue at the reading, but not everyone can take a joke. Lander and Myles described the Asian Girls online responses to be an “all out race war” among commentators.
“It’s a very racist post, but I think it’s more sexist than anything else,” Myles said.
“Would you consider yourself more racist or sexist?” asked Lander.
“I’m just going to read the post,” Myles said after a brief pause.
Lander read the Graduate School post “in honor of [his] time at the UA,” which he thought was “fantastic.” He dropped out of the Indiana University Ph.D program because he “stopped caring and became anti-grad school,” so he remarked on the often elistist mentalities of graduate students who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for “useless information.”
It would be easy for some to say that they can’t relate to the entries in the blog. At the end of the book, there’s a “How White are You?” quiz, and I’m glad to be only 27% white, according to Lander’s formula, but I think that has more to do with the nature of this book. With posts like carbon offsets, Obama, Tibet, Whole Foods, and Free Health Care, I’ve always thought it should be titled “Stuff Liberal People Like,” but as Lander said, this book is a representation of all people today, especially those who are ashamed of being white. Even I’m guilty of enjoying coffee, yoga, making people feel bad about not going outside, not having a TV…
The best quote of the reading came from Myles, who repeatedly proved that white people aren’t the only racists around.
“People dress up for Oscar parties every year, so does that mean everyone will dress up as poor Indian kids this year?” Myles said in reference to the popular film Slumdog Millionaire, and no one crucified him for saying it.
In the end, we’re all guilty of whiteness.