Stuff White People Like, by Christian Lander

Random House, 2008. 224 pages. ISBN: 978-0812979916.

(Originally published in buzz magazine on 2/6/2009)

The definition of “whiteness” never stands still. Sociologists argue that people of Italian, Jewish, Irish and Eastern European descent entered the fold only in the 20th century. Now in a new era, prolific Canadian blogger Christian Lander has become the unofficial statesman (and humorist) of Caucasian traits with his popular WordPress column and book, Stuff White People Like. Founded in January 2008, the blog mocks the culture’s adoration of organic and vegan foods, bottled water, indie music and dozens of other fads.

The first thing you’ll notice about Lander’s satire is its sharp focus on a very specific portion of the white population: generally the college-educated upper-middle class folks who lean liberal and are between college and middle age. So what about all the Euro-North Americans left out of that category? The ones who vote Republican, drive gas guzzlers, have no qualms about eating meat and/or shop at Wal-Mart because they can’t afford Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods? “You are the wrong kind of white person,” he writes in jest.

Not so fast, scientists, engineers and business majors!

“Unless they become doctors,” Lander says, “they essentially lose white-person status (which can be regained only by working at a nonprofit).”

No, white people are liberal arts majors who “spend four years of their lives reading books, writing papers, and feeling great about themselves.”

What adds to the interest and complexity of Lander’s writing is that the more you read, the more you understand he’s not an Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh figure berating those who differ from him. He’s more in the self-effacing tradition of Richard Pryor (though the delivery is not as explosive and the laughs are not as uproarious). His blog and best-selling book operate under the conceit of a guide to understanding white people authored for the benefit of outsiders. Truthfully, however, his target audience consists of the same people he criticizes.

Lander’s talent lies in his articles’ irony, and as he himself notes in book entries 50 and 103, “white people love irony” and enjoy it “when people make jokes about themselves.” The more you read, the more you get a sense that Stuff White People Like is essentially Lander’s biography (not always auto-biographical since some articles were written by Lander’s Filipino friend, Myles Valentin).

It seems Lander left an entry out of his 150-part book: “Blogging about stuff white people like.”