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Typical: I know you are, but what am I?

December 1, 2008

by Julienne

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that said, “Typical White Person.” Somewhere between feelings of disgust and humor I thought, what does it mean to be a TWP? Is there really a set definition, and does it define me? Why would I want to celebrate being typically white, and its corresponding stereotypes?

The driver of the car was a Caucasian male in a pick-up truck. From this description, I’m sure you’re thinking he fits the bill. But do TW People even drive Chevys? (Don McLean thinks so, according to his song, American Pie.) Do TW People eat meat and potatoes for dinner every day at 6:00 p.m.? Are they bad basketball players, and even worse dancers? Is there a difference between TW North Americans and TW Europeans?

In his 2008 book Stuff White People Like: The Unique Taste of Millions, author Christian Lander humorously outlines what makes white people white (www.stuffwhitepeoplelike.com). Lander states that his book is really a look at classism, rather than racism. He seems to say that the hobbies and opinions of the American TWP are really born out of discretionary income rather than racial tendencies. This leads me to say that the title could have just as easily been: Stuff Loaded People Can Afford to Do – although admittedly it’s not as catching.

If you believe Lander’s point that race is not the issue, it is classism, then, which breeds ignorance, and at any position on the spectrum. You might remember the controversial speech on race that Barack Obama gave in March of 2008, a speech in which, some critics say, he slandered his grandmother. During a follow-up interview on a Philadelphia radio show, he explained himself:

“The point I was making was not that my grandmother harbors any racial animosity. She doesn’t. But she is a typical white person who, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know, there’s a reaction that’s been bred into our experiences that don’t go away and that sometimes comes out in the wrong way…”

I have to disagree with my (future) President on this one. No offense, Nana, but I feel that this is an issue of ignorance on the part of the person – regardless of color. I acknowledge that people of this opinion do exist, but generalizations are always dangerous. (Pun intended.) If Obama is implying that a TWP crosses the street when he or she sees a black man, I have to disagree – then, again, I am not typical; certainly not according to Lander’s definition.

Some of Lander’s listed characteristics do define me perfectly. I love kitchen gadgets, Arrested Development, hummus, graduate school, St. Patrick’s Day, Facebook, and living by water. Some characteristics, however, do not. I don’t like New Balance, bottled water, Juno, hating my parents, snowboarding, marathons, or promising to learn a new language.

But do I love hummus because I’m a vegetarian? (A choice which the TWP adores, according to Lander.) Do I enjoy St. Patrick’s Day because I’m proud to be Irish? Am I a fan of Facebook simply because I’m an American, young person? Conversely, is it because I’ve already learned a second language that I don’t keep promising to do so?

At this point, it’s Chicken-and-Egg. Do I behave this way because I am white, or am I white because I behave this way? Is white-ness a color or an attitude? Regardless, I don’t think I’m a TWP, or even a Typical White Woman.

So, can we blame my TWP driver in the green pick-up truck? Might it be that he was simply trying to defend his race or celebrate his typicality? Unfortunately, I think his bumper sticker is only perpetuating idiocy. I find him guilty by association.

Needless to say, I don’t think that the TWP is the next big thing. I find it incredibly ignorant and ridiculous for one to call themselves, or others, typical in any regard. Who wants to be average? Very few people strive for a 2.0 GPA. In our goal-oriented society, the TWP will face extinction long before he sparks an Average-Man Revolution; although, it would take singles’ ads by storm. I can see it now: “TWP seeks SWF for serious relationship. Independent Thinkers need not respond.”

Links

Huffington Post (To hear the Obama interview, search for “typical white person”)

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7 Comments
  1. Nuejam permalink
    December 9, 2008 12:05 am

    Do you mean Arrested Development the TV series (this is new information to me), or 3 Years, 5 Months, And 2 Days in the Life

  2. Julienne permalink
    December 10, 2008 3:24 pm

    Yes, you’re correct. I was referring to Arrested Development the FOX TV show.

  3. Nuejam permalink
    December 10, 2008 9:46 pm

    I like Arrested Development, it was the first ‘rap’ album I ever heard, and it balanced out Ace of Bass back in grade school.

    They even won a grammy for ‘best New Artist’ in the early 1990s. The band sued the television show, which was parodied in a few episodes on TV.

    Ironically, the band was focused on black identity while the TV show seems to be focused on white identity in an all-white family. I haven’t seen the show, so I’ll ask: is it funky, fused with political, socially conscious screenplay, and does it fuse progressive styles?

  4. Julienne permalink
    December 11, 2008 9:46 am

    Thanks for the info on the court case. I had never heard of this, and found more information on http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1067350993925.

    If you are unfamiliar with the show, then this would seem as a blatant act of infringement. However, the title family, the Bluths, run a development company. After being found guilty of treason (SPOILER: by building houses for Hussein in Iraq) the patriarch is arrested and jailed. Hence: Arrested Development.

    It is hard to categorize the show as politically-charged, but it is certainly socially-conscious. (Granted we’re treated those as mutually exclusive.) It is virtually impossible for a viewer to catch all social references, as they are made so discretely. For instance, I do remember a few instances of referrals to copyright laws, and now have a better grasp on the joke.

    Regardless of this scandal, the show is smart, sarcastic, and witty. I definitely recommend it if you’re interested in being challenged for 30 minutes!

  5. Nuejam permalink
    December 13, 2008 1:25 am

    Thanks, I’ll check it out.

  6. Bear permalink
    January 15, 2009 2:05 pm

    “Very few people strive for a 2.0 GPA. In our goal-oriented society, the TWP will face extinction long before he sparks an Average-Man Revolution; although, it would take singles’ ads by storm”

    Best thing I’ve read in a long time!!! I laughed out loud. Is that typical?

  7. Julienne permalink
    February 3, 2009 9:35 pm

    Lander says nothing about it. However, I do think that singles ad could be a likely addition to the list. =)

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