Thursday, June 2, 2011

Stuff White People Like by Christian Lander

I’ve just finished reading this book. It was a really interesting experience, and certainly nothing like I expected when I casually picked it up at the library last week! According to the blurb, this is a book that “investigates, explains and offers advice for finding social success with the Caucasian persuasion”, and it covers topics such as tea, music festivals, acoustic covers, vintage and t-shirts (you can read some of these and more on the website). It’s quite funny – I laughed out loud at this part of the ‘Whole Foods and Grocery Co-Ops’ chapter (page 62):

These stores are excellent places for taking children, as there is nothing that they actually want.

“Oh, Mommy, look, chocolate!”

“No, Joshua, that’s carob.”

“I want it.”


The child will then take a bite and realize that nothing in the store can be trusted.

It didn’t take too long, however, for the truth to begin to sink in: “This book seems to kinda be about me... and not only the current me, but also who I aspire to be. Should I be worrying right now?” And then, not too long after that, came the big realisation: “OH MY GOODNESS! This is me! I’m so predictable! I’m so pretentious!”

That was the point at which I stopped chuckling and started freaking out.

The fact that Lander’s descriptions of the stereotypical white person so closely fit so much of who I am or hope to be has to mean (for one thing) that I don’t want to one day renovate my own place because I enjoy creative challenges, I want to renovate my own place because “it is a well-known white fantasy to purchase a home or apartment that has disgusting carpet and then to pull it up to reveal a beautiful hardwood floor underneath” (page 193). I’m not unique, I’m a social construct!

I borrowed the book for some light entertainment, not an identity crisis. It’s taken up far more mulling time than I originally allocated to it, so I’ve had to reshuffle my whole thinking schedule.

The answer I’ve come up with? I don’t think it’s to smugly celebrate the points at which I veer slightly towards the darker end of the colour spectrum (I don’t drink caffeinated hot beverages! I own just one Apple product!). Nor do I think it’s to work out what the opposite type of person looks like and aim for that (keep the television in order to watch Two and a Half Men, buy cage eggs, or – horrors! - start voting Liberal).

I’m pretty sure the answer is this:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2

I need to remind myself of this passage more times than I read the paper, more times than I watch the intelligent and hip and renovating people on the tv, more times than I am tempted by the world around me to believe that this life is all there is and that others’ opinions matter more than God’s, so I should therefore BUY STUFF and LOOK COOL and BE CLEVER while there’s still time.

I’m thankful for this unexpected lesson, though I’ll exercise far more caution when choosing my library books in future.


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