White People, Black Friends

I read his blog and I own his book; I gather with a few students and friends from time to time just to chat about this all but great anthropological book: Stuff White people Like. I was blessed to have parents that encouraged Michael (brother) and I to have diverse friends. And we did. Black, white, Asian, etc, we grew up with all types. Negative talk about one’s race, class, or sexual orientation was not allowed. I thank my folks for this lesson.

The author writes about things from the religion of white people to the music they listen to. One of my favorite chapters in the book is that on the friends white people keep. At first I did not know what to make of this work. But in the end, it is the Seinfeld of books.  Read this section below on whites and their black friends.

According to the book:

Since we are on the verge of electing a black president, it seems important to explain why white people want black friends. Every white person wants a black friend like Barack: good-looking, well-spoken, and non-violent. Obviously, whites want black friends so as not to appear racist (see earlier Obama post). However, if we dig deeper what we notice about white people is not if they have black friends but in fact, how many black friends they have. White people like numbers. They like to count things like stars in the sky and the death toll at Mt. Everest and the number of times they’ve seen Tori Amos and/or Phish in concert. Counting the number of black friends is then clearly a divine imperative. The number of black friends white people possess also illustrates their comfort with black culture. Here’s a handy guide to the number system:

1—The white novice. This black friend is the gateway to helping white people understand gang signs and Vietnamese beauty supply stores. This black friend is probably the only black friend for many white people and when they all hang out (because white people hang out) they bring their “mutual” black friend with them.

2—The white black club-goer. Two black friends serve as bodyguards when white people go to black clubs to see how exactly one “pops, drops and locks” it.

3 -4—The white BET-er. See Justin Timberlake/ Robin Thicke/ Jon B for more information. For old school reference, see Michael McDonald.

5 and up—Impossible.

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5 thoughts on “White People, Black Friends

  1. You’ve been to my part of the world… there just aren’t that many black people here (because you are all too smart to live in this cold, wet, God-forsaken chunk of rock…).

    Even though I understand the intent of this book, I still do wonder about the whole “us vs. them” mentality. I don’t know whether human beings can NOT separate themselves out into discrete groups, but it’d be nice if we could….

  2. Great point Chili! I failed to see it that way. But you are right. Though it seems to dismiss issues of race in a negative way, it still highlights the negative side. As I think about this more, there is a trophy mentality constructed here.

  3. This is hilarious. I own this book as well. However, I am ashamed to say that I probably would fall under the “white novice” category. Oh well, I do go to Houston Christian…

  4. I try and have Black friends all the time… But The environment that I work in and the only Sport I do (cycling) kind of leaves looking for them. Oh Lord. That and having season tickets to the Opera. I but I do Go to Jazz concerts, so that helps. I am still trying to hook up with one dude who teaches history too.

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