Why White People Love Saying “Stop White People”
I don’t actively use Facebook all that much anymore. Between having been drawn in to a much stronger degree by Twitter and not having close friends that spend a lot of time on Facebook, there’s not much for me to do when I mindlessly click the app on my phone to kill time. That means that I spend a lot of my time on the site looking at the posts of people I don’t care about, seeing a bunch of links and videos and articles that don’t interest me.
As a white guy in his mid-20s from suburban Philadelphia, there are two Facebook-related activities that are far more common than the rest: obligatorily smashing the like button on wedding-related announcements and pictures, and shaking my head and muttering “fuckin’ white people” under my breath.
That’s not that unusual a response. In the past couple years, shaming white people in general has been pretty commonly co-opted by white people themselves, and Facebook is just the most popular outlet that provides reasons to do it (with the Facebook-owned Instagram close behind but forever in second place, since most pictures deemed worthy of sharing by Instagram users get posted immediately to Facebook as well).
This is likely because there’s a perception that Facebook and its algorithm-based newsfeed lags behind other forums like Twitter and reddit that are based (at least in theory) more on news-breaking and content-sharing than on personal relationships. Just as jokes and memes can take weeks or months to make their way to Facebook, so too can ideas and attitudes. That’s not to say that Twitter and reddit users are immune from being corny or stereotypical in this particular fashion, just that their constructions, which encourage relationship-building and horizon –broadening, don’t purposely lead to the sort of echo-chamber that directly encourages it.
Why, though, has the #stopwhitepeople2k16-style post from white people themselves become so prevalent? Prevalent enough that a state university in New York is offering its resident advisors’ a training course entitled Stop White People? Part of it is probably embarrassment. Being associated with idiots, however tangentially, can be mortifying. Having something in common with the type of person who holds, like, a Game of Thrones-themed dog wedding or whatever, is similarly embarrassing to the way being from Philadelphia and therefore associated with that guy who purposely threw up on a little girl at a Phillies game is embarrassing, or having gone to Penn State and being associated with idiots who cape for Joe Paterno is embarrassing. Unless they’re getting paid for it or it’s a personal kink, people generally try to avoid embarrassment.
I think the main reason white people like me say things like “fuckin’ white people” is an extension of that embarrassment. I mentioned earlier that social media-type sites like Twitter and reddit thrive on community building, and part of that can be integrating oneself into a community that one isn’t “naturally” a part of. This leads to a certain cross-demographic ideological gap-bridging.
A white person could see a stupid story about how Brad and Kaiylyn ran a 100m dash to determine who took whom’s last name, and they could simply ignore it. Purposely bringing it up is like me purposely bringing up that asshole Phillies fans or those asshole Penn State alumi — it forces association as an excuse to deny that you’re part of that group. It’s meant to say: “I’m not like those white people, the weird ones who think they’re vampires and say that slavery wasn’t actually that bad and jump off mountains just because. No, I’m actually one of the good ones, and you can tell because I’m in on the joke.”
People think that their own views on anything are the absolute rational ones. No racist or sexist person thinks “man, I’m racist/sexist as hell, and I love it.” They justify it with whatever life experience or anecdotal evidence or even pseudoscience they can grasp. The same likely applies to people like me. I think I’m the “good” type of white person, just like someone who’s voting for Donald Trump thinks “I’m the GOOD type of Trump supporter, I’m not racist, I just think that America has been poisoned by immigrants, which it OBVIOUSLY has, as a fact, you can’t be racist about facts.”
If you see #peakcaucasity-style language from white people, though, take note of what it’s in reference to. It’s probably not about a congressional or Supreme Court decision, or a police shooting. It’s probably about some dumb bullshit that doesn’t affect anyone but the specific, corny, and undeniably Causcasian targets of ridicule. It doesn’t hurt anyone, but as nothing more than method of assuaging our white guilt, it doesn’t help anyone either.