Friday, March 14, 2008

Tipping my head in a currious way

Picture by Francesca Woodman

So I found this today - Stuff White People Like - a whole blog that, from the looks of it, is dedicated to telling some group (Non white people? Recent immigrants? ) about, well, what's popular with "white people", so they know how to blend.

On the one hand, I'm almost sure this is intended as a joke. It might be an angry rant, it might be meant to be irony, it might be meant as racism, or reverse racism, but I'm going for joke.

Full disclosure - I'm white. And I'm not laughing.

The funny thing is, to me at least that it's not really talking about white people. Not as a cohesive, stereotypical whole like you would expect from real racists. Example, from # 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." So there are the right kind of white people, the kind you use this intel to suck up to, and the wrong kind of white people. Now what are we doing when we divide a group, any group, into the right kind and the wrong kind? We are classing people. Yep, this blog is about class. It's saying "white people", but what is really meaning is "upper middle/upper class people", regardless of color. Really. Go look at the list, if you haven't yet, and come back. It's all about class, not color.

Funny thing. In this country, you can talk about race. But heaven help you if you talk about class.

Full disclosure - I'm at least upper middle class, if not upper class. And I'm still not laughing.

How do I know? I've been studying this for a while now, call it a hobby. Not that there is all that much written about it, discussing class is one of the last great taboos in the US. Paul Fusell, in his book Class, which was also meant to be humorous but has a grain of truth, I think divided up the classes best. The distinguishing mark of the lower classes is anger, they are not getting ahead, their lives are hard, and they are angry at "the man" for it. The mark of the middle classes is fear, fear that they are going to slip into a lower class, fear that their coworkers and neighbors are going to think they don't belong, fear of standing out in any way. And the mark of the upper classes is ease. Not angry or afraid, they tend to march to their own drummer, or snuggle happily in to the cohesive order of their class without a worry or thought.

This is how I finally figured it out. It wasn't my years in prep school, or my college degree, or any of the rest of it. I do my own thing, and don't give a sh*t what anyone thinks. That's the distinguishing mark of being upper class. If you're angry because you feel you've been put down all your life, you're not it. If you're worried about what your boss or spouse or children or neighbors or friends will think, you're not it. If you're neither, you're more likely to take risks, accept failures, and finally achieve success. That's what does it, right there.

I look at this blog and I see someone either very angry, or very afraid poking fun at members of the upper and upper middle classes, from the sound of it because they think we feel superior. Because we enjoy our lives, everything from the organic food to the college degrees, to the trips around the globe, to being outdoors, and so on. We're happy and unafraid, and you're not.

No, we don't feel superior to you. On a day to day basis, we don't think of you at all.

I'm going to go knit, and drink tea, and listen to NPR downloads on my iPod now. And odds are, at some point, I'll be enjoying myself so much, I'll be laughing.

(h/t to Doc for pointing out the blog.)

PS: Don't be surprised if I update this when I think it out more clearly.

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