by Eric Anderson
Question: What do bakeries, documentaries, re-usable shopping bags, and scarves have in common? If you guessed they were all things white people liked, you would know your stereotypes.
The items listed above are taken from Canadian author Christian Lander’s book, “Stuff White People Like: The Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions.” Published in 2008 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (New York), the New York Times bestseller is based on Lander’s blog postings of satirical observation revolving around white people. Even the title of the book is full of irony. How can the tastes of millions of people be unique?
Lander’s postings are narrowed down into 150 separate items that range from specific objects (bicycles) to historical figures (Che Guevera). In a 2008 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Lander said his words were not meant to anger minority groups of reinforce stereotypes. “I’m writing about the white people who think they’re absolutely unique and individual. I’m calling them out and poking fun at myself. The things I post are all the things I like, too.”
I received the book as a Christmas gift from my sister and found myself laughing and nodding in agreement at many of Lander’s items. Number 80 on his list, “The idea of soccer,” really hit home.
Lander says that many white people like to tell their friends they are into soccer, and their passion is usually based on a long vacation to Europe or South America. If a white person were asked to discuss an important moment in soccer history they would be at a loss for words. To quote from the book, “In fact, the main reason white people like soccer is so they can buy a new scarf. As you may or may not know, many soccer teams issue special scarves, and white people cannot get enough of them.”
A Sparta Prague scarf and jacket hang in my bedroom; souvenirs from a semester spent abroad in the Czech Republic. I loved soccer when I lived in Europe, but now I would much rather watch Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert on television than David Beckham. (By the way The Daily Show and The Colbert Report are number 35 on the list.)
I decided to conduct an unscientific study one afternoon on campus. I chose 20 items from the books and asked nine white people if they liked or disliked it. The results were surprising.
There were some consensus winners amongst the white people I talked to. International travel and recycling were extremely popular, as were all things vintage. Yoga and wine was not everyone’s cup of tea, while premium juice and organic food would be more popular if they weren’t so expensive.
Wes Anderson, the director behind such films as Rushmore and The Royal Tenanbaums, would not have appreciated the blank stares shot back at me when I asked people if they were fans of his movies. Apparently Wes has a long way to go in order to crack that key demographic known as white people.
However, the one item that unified all the white people I surveyed in joyous approval was brunch.
White people LOVE brunch. As one participant astutely pointed out, “Brunch is awesome cause it’s breakfast and lunch put together.”
Brunch is truly the best of two wonderful worlds and is a popular weekend activity according to Lander. “To a white person, there is no better way to spend a Saturday morning than to get up late, around 9:30, pile into the Audi or Volvo, and drive to a restaurant and eat brunch with friends,” writes Landers.
Brunch, recycling, and international travel are just three of the 150 stereotypes Lander pokes fun of in his book. If “Stuff White People Like” is read with tongue firmly planted in cheek, people of all colours will have a good laugh at the expense of white people.