Issue Of The Week VI Fall 2011-2012: Getting Real About Race Relations

October 24, 2011
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University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, Sociology Professor, Abby Ferber.

Each week, the White Privilege Conference and the Matrix Center for the Advancement of Social Equity and Inclusion, housed at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS), hosts a half hour radio show called Intersections Radio that features an interview with a different author, scholar, and/or speaker. Last week featured Christian Lander, author of the “Stuff White People Like” books and blog, and the week before featured a dialogue on micro-aggressions.


altIntersections Radio is hosted by Dr. Eddie Moore Jr., founder of the White Privilege Conference (WPC), which is held annually in cities across the United States; and Daryl Miller, who works with the WPC and other programs of the Matrix Center. The WPC is an award-winning national diversity conference that serves as a yearly opportunity to examine and explore difficult issues related to white privilege, white supremacy, and oppression, and works to dismantle systems of power, prejudice, and inequality. College students from around the country participate in the conference for academic credit.


Please click here to listen to the 30-minute broadcast.


What do you think about the work of Christian Lander in fostering a better understanding of white privilege? Does his work help us understand the ways that race and class intersect?


 


Author Bio: • Abby L. Ferber, Ph.D., is a Professor of Sociology, and Women's and Ethnic Studies. She is the Director of the Matrix Center for the Advancement of Social Equity and Inclusion at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. She is the author of White Man Falling: Race, Gender and White Supremacy, Rowman & Littlefield, (1998); co-author of the American Sociological Associations' Hate Crime in America: What Do We Know? (2000) and Making a Difference: University Students of Color Speak Out, Rowman & Littlefield (2002); co-editor, with Michael Kimmel, of Privilege: A Reader, Westview Press (2003); and editor of Home Grown Hate: Gender and Organized Racism, Routledge (2004). She has co-edited two new volumes: The New Basics: Sex, Gender and Sexuality (Oxford University Press, 2008) and The Matrix Reader: Examining the Dynamics of Privilege and Oppression (MacGraw Hill, 208), both designed for classroom use. Ferber is widely recognized as a leading scholar of the far right, and her articles have been widely published in academic journals (including Ethnic and Racial Studies, Rural Sociology, Sociological Perspectives, Social Identities, Men and Masculinities, Sociological Focus and Teaching Sociology) as well as news outlets including The Denver Post and The Chronicle on Higher Education. Ferber is a frequent presenter at the meetings of the American Sociological Association and the Society for the Study of Social Problems. Ferber has also conducted many workshops on the far right, hate crime, and teaching about hate. She has been widely interviewed by the press, and served as a panelist for the American Sociological Association's 1999 Press and Congressional Briefings on hate crime in America. Ferber received her Ph.D. (1994) in Sociology from the University of Oregon. She received her M.A. (1989) from the University of Oregon and her B.S. from American University. She currently teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses in the areas of race, gender, and sexuality. Ferber is a co-organizer of the national White Privilege Conference, and the Knapsack Institute: Transforming the Curriculum summer workshop, both programs of the Matrix Center. She is also on the board of the non-profit organization, Smart-Girl.


 

Comments

I think its a comical way, yet serious way to better understand what privilege. People are more likely to read this book than an actual educational book on race. Having read the book, I think its a great way to include some humor on a serious matter. It also shows the differences in class and privilege, yet it shows why we should not allow it. Yes, we make jokes about race and things specific to the white race, but we should not do that. We also should not show that minorities are different and would not like certain things because they were not brought up the same. We should not be able to make these separations.

However, the book separates and points out the likes of the privileged whites so that we can see everyone has their difference, and everyone has faced some sort of oppression. Rather than keep it separate and make things a racial issue. Realize we are similar and embrace differences and become one.

Lander's work fosters a better understanding of white privilege since he shows why white people like certain things. He shows they are used to and like certain things because that's what they were brought up with. It is not that they like things because they are white and greedy, but this is what they were brought up knowing and what has become the norm for them. It is what they are commonly perceived as and what they are perceived of liking.

I think it is common for people to like things because it is their 'norm' and what they are used to. I agree with you that it is a great way to add humor to a serious issue. I think the humor also helps us remember what we read.

I like the idea that the white population has a group, just like other races, to talk about their complaints or problems. It gives people an opportunity to voice their opinion no mattter what race they are. Every race has their own opinion and should be able to have their vocie heard.

I was able to attend the one-day WPC symposium this year and it was an enlightening experience. A variety of privileges and intersections of privilege came up in the workshops I attended and included disability, race, gender, sexuality, and class among others. For me it wasn’t so much an opportunity to share my complaints as it was a chance to look a little closer at my unearned privileges. The way privilege functions in my life is certainly a problem that I have to address first by examining my own life.

As long as White Privilege remains an unspeakable phrase in society, it will continue to be more difficult to fight against than need be. The act of speaking about it helps people to better understand what it is and more likely to identify it in their own lives.

In my own experience, I never thought of what I lived day to day as tainted by White Privilege. Now, I can see much more clearly instances when my race positively affects how I am viewed or treated. Even in subtle ways that most do not see as discrimination, I can see my skin color changing my life.

I think that Christian Lander’s approach is innovative. I love the manner in which he presents ideas about race and class without actually coming out and saying that it is also about privilege. In his interview he made it clear that his priorities are to be humorous and to start a discussion. I admire the fact that Lander is opting to write books that are a starting point rather than some sort of ultimate solution. I feel that this approach is realistic without losing all hope that something can be done.

I perused Stuff White People Like online and I have to admit it is hilarious. I can see myself and plenty of white people I know in this book. Lander discusses writer’s workshops (I’ve been to a few, though not as high-end as described), David Sedaris (just bought my third book by him a few weeks ago), and the outdoors (I live in Colorado, I’m sure you can imagine). I can laugh about the white person who loves to travel to film festivals, go backpacking, and manages to “find” themselves in foreign countries. I can also choose to look a little further and think about having the privilege that gives some of us white people the free time and disposable income that permits that sort of travel. I really admire what Lander is doing with this book.

I think Lander does a great job of talking about what privilege really is. It isn't the most direct way of saying that privilege is this and this, but yet still gets the point across. I definitely think its a better way to understand it for people. He puts it into a text for the average person so they can understand it rather than a long definition that doesn't really have any meaning to it

His work definitely shows the way race and class intersect in society. These two most definitely go hand in hand and he does a great job of telling us that and how we do.

I agree with you! Privilege is a delicate topic, especially if you don't know anything about it. My first experience with privilege was very "in your face" and it somewhat turned me off to the idea at first. It stirred up a great deal of emotions with me, but Lander's approach to introducing privilege is a lot more subtle. I like it because it gives people a chance to "warm up" to this new and different perspective on race, gender, etc. Instead feeling like ideas are being shoved down your throat, you can just get the idea put in your head before delving headfirst into these revolutionary thoughts.

Presenting the idea of what privilege is the way Lander does, it may be easier for some people to see that it in the style of writing rather than explaining it in a very technical or historical way. People might find it easier to put themselves in others shoes if information is presented this way. This might enlighten those who are ignorant because his distinctions are more true to life than just a definition on a page.

I very much agree with your statement. I think when people are able to relate to the person trying to educate them they are more accepting of his or her ideas. Lander's tone, diction, and intelligence are all positive characteristics that enable him to convincingly and realistically teach his audience. I am happy that such a bright young man has takin the initiative to start conversations about race. His comment about constantly using comedy is the other factor that I think has accrued to his success. It is key that we encourage these types of people to gain public recognition--while not forgetting that historical and scholarly dialogue is necessary as well.

I think Christian Lander has taken a great approach to help people understand white privilage. By adding in his humor, it makes the younger crowd remember what he wrote, and it gets people talking. When you read a book you liked or you thought was funny, you told your friends about it, and you probably recommend it. With his book, I definatly think that the word is being spread. He brings up a lot of good points but keeps it from being boring. I skimmed through some sites with reviews of the book and I thought some of his list was really funny such as 'white people like apple products and vintage tees make them weak at their knees'. I don't think the list is offensive, I think he is just showing that every race has stereotypes and they might not be true.

I’m glad that Christian Lander’s book has led to discussion of white privilege but I hope that we are not content to only laugh at this reality. I hope that we will use it as a tool for change. Mr. Lander states that all humor comes from truth and honesty and I agree, but I would also add that much truth about the world is very sad. Using humor to ‘break the ice’ on a sensitive topic is great as long as we are following through on giving the topic the respect it deserves. If we don’t then it seems to me that we are saying these situations are O.K.
Maybe it’s because I just watched an amazing video on Martin Luther King, Jr. that brought tears to my eyes, but Mr. Lander seems to take a fatalistic view when asked about what he hoped to accomplish. The irony of Lander talking about ‘working in TV’ and ‘playing the game’ was hard to listen to. Maybe it is true "that white people want to make a change but don’t want to make a sacrifice" but for me that doesn’t work.

I appreciate the response that you have posted because while I was listening to the radio interview I was enjoying the light hearted discussion and cleverness of Lander but you have reminded me that the reality of white privilege is not necessarily a light hearted matter. I think it is okay to relieve the tension of awkward conversations with humor, but humor alone will not solve the problems “Stuff White People Like” represents. I also had the privilege of viewing the same video you did on Martin Luther King Jr. He sets an example for us that is still relevant today. Starting a conversation is good. Taking action is an entirely different thing. Wouldn’t it be a shame if Christian Landers ended up on his own lists of stuff white people like?

Thank you for your thoughts.

Christian Lander does an excellent job in fostering a better understanding for white privilege. As he mentions several times in the broadcast its all about the way he approaches it. Humor is a way to talk about a subject that is not very easy to talk about in a easier way. His work does help people understand the race and class intersect because the stuff “white” people like is directly related to class. The term “white” the way he uses it is interchangeable with upper class. He even mentions how people who aren’t “white” can identify themselves as “white” due to the environment they grew up in. Combining two give issues as one in a humorous way is a brilliant idea.

My view of White privilege is similar to Christian's. He humorously talks about the same things I joke around about with my friends all the time: that Whites like to view themselves as being unique individuals with their personalized schedules of tennis lessons, piano lessons, and their khakis and striped polos, but they have an unspoken culture that is actually quite monolithic.

The lifestyle of whiteness, so to speak, is the dominant western culture of excess consumerism and an ever prominent - often imposing - attitude of entitlement. And no matter how hard non-whites try to acquire that status, it's impossible to duplicate when part of the status is the unspoken rule that you have to be physically white.

I like Christian's way of airing these facts. No one ever openly studies white culture, or even views it as an 'other' worth researching...I know what I'll be reading this Thanksgiving break!

I think christian lander is doing a great job by talking on the radio and letting college students get involved on issues about race and white privilege. Its very helpful for many students because some students do not understand how your skin color or where you come from can benefit you.

I think Christian Lander’s book and website does help us have a better understanding of some of the habits and idiosyncrasies of liberal white people. The use of humor is an excellent way to get people to take a look at the societal advantages they take for granted as well as their resulting attitudes towards others. What a brilliant idea! To think, I’ve been wasting all this time attempting to have serious discussions with white people and men about their privilege with very little positive results. Wish I would have know about Christian’s book sooner or, better yet, wish I would have thought of it years ago. I also believe the fact that the book and site makes fun of white people and is also written by a white person is important for its purpose. I don’t think some people would find it as funny or have as easy of a time seeing themselves in it if it were written by a minority. I could be wrong about this though since, as Lander mentions on the radio show, middle class minorities also seem to recognize themselves in this book even though they are the exception. In this way, I do think this book can foster an understanding of some of the ways that race and class intersect. I haven’t actually read the book yet, but it sounds like the humor of it doesn’t really apply to poor white people. Therefore, class positioning is also part of what Christian Lander is poking fun at.

body It is definitely a good thing when there are so many things you want to comment on after listening to such a short interview. The idea that being white means being [upper] middle class is very true. The dominant culture that makes up our society is based off of money. It is those people that have the means to participate in activities that aren't essential to their survival that are put at the top of the hierarchy. I instantly related to this concept because just last week I signed up for Green Peace. I knew that my life wouldn't change if my bank account had $15 less in it each month.
Speaking about your own race is also another key idea. If our society was equal and everyone was accepted for who they are, joking about others would be fine. But we aren't. And joking about a race outside your own is oppression and disrespectful.

I really enjoyed listening to Christian Lander and browsing his website because I think humor is a great stepping stone for a race relations platform. He made some really good points in discussing that race in America is still black and white and even in the 21st century, we are far from being able to discuss issues such as how white privilege and whiteness permeates society daily. I liked his point in saying that "Stuff White People Like" would not have been as widely received if he were not white because many people think there is a double standard for race in America in that other races can make fun of things that are "white" but if a white person were to make fun of things that are "black" or "hispanic", there would be a huge backlash. There are many reasons for this, but I think if someone like Christian Lander can come out and discuss just how much needs to be done to understand just how privileged one is to be white in America, it paves the way for other discussions as to how whites can use this privilege to take a stand against inequality because all races have to understand this, not just those who have been oppressed.

Christian was spot on in saying that many whites think they want to do something about the issues in our society, but they do not want to do something that will jeopardize their privilege. Many people are content in holding fundraisers for "those poor children in Latin American and Africa", but will still go home to their upper middle class/wealthy households with their housekeepers and think understand the plight of those that are not as fortunate. "Stuff White People Like" is a good way to start to rock the boat and facilitate these kinds of discussions about just how much needs to be understood about race and class in this country.

For any person to take a stand on such an “uneasy” topic, I applaud them because conversations and discussions related to racism and white privilege are discussions that are hardly ever taken lightly. Though Christian Lander’s approach may seem like a comical relief to some, I believe that this is a smart tactic to get a response from people who would otherwise say nothing about “white privilege.” Christian Lander also seems to have this “laid back but confident” attitude about him which, I believe, in return gives him the advantage to say certain things that some would not, and act in a way that would seem like an outcast to others, but overall is great for our society. The advantage of the “white man” is very real and it is important for not only Hispanics, Blacks, and Asians to know about this truth, but maybe even more important for Whites to understand just where, why, and how they have a greater advantage in our American society. When it all boils down to it, education is the key. The mind is capable of doing so many things, but what good is a mind when it is closed to learning and expanding? What good is a mind that continues to keep in only what it thinks is right? With education, issues of race can become discussions of race. Race enlightenment can become something that individuals will no longer be afraid to speak upon but yet, fill encouraged to be proactive about how they can make a positive influence.

Your comment stating that it is important for white people to understand the privilege and power structure that is currently in place is absolutely correct. Before white people can understand why people of color think, feel, or act any way toward anything, they have to understand who white people are and that white people are part of the race conversation. White people have to come to terms and understand the way their lives may be easier or better simply because they are white. I believe this is a key element in reducing power and privilege divides that separate Americans on a daily basis.

I think he is doing a great job in fostering white privilege through his intersection of class and race. After reading the complete list of stuff white people like I realized some of the things were me and I found this very humorous. At the same time a lot of the things weren't me because I realize the privilege I have but I do not take advantage of my privilege. I also like that he shows us that its not only white people who likes these things. He puts a focus towards how money also brings privilege. He notes that any race could like any of the "stuff white people like," but since white people, especially those with money are more likely to do these things that white people like.

I definitely think the work Christian Lander is doing is very important. He is bring the white race into the category of races. His works shows that white is a category of its own, not the 'norm'. Often times white people do not consider themselves as being part of a race, especially a race that is privileged! Lander's work brings this to light and also includes humor. The humor is key because so many white people become defensive or offended at the slightest mention of race, and this humorous element allows white people to enter the conversation on race in a manner that can be productive.