Hip Christianity: Part 5, Stuff White People Like

I was teaching our Sunday School class this week.  I always write my notes for the class in a Moleskin notebook I carry with me (with all my blog, lecture and research ideas inside).  After class many friends reminded me that Moleskin notebooks recently appeared on the list of Stuff White People Like.


I know most of you know of Stuff White People Like.  But if you don't, it's an Internet sensation with a new book coming out.  So it's worth mentioning the site given our discussions of hip.

Recall from Part 1 that the origin of hip is the interface of black and white culture.  Thus, the list "stuff white people like" is a list of squareness, of the non-hip.  That is the engine of the site's gimmick.  That there is something kind of forced, odd, uncool, weird, needy or nerdy about white culture.

Interestingly, not everything on the list is unhip.  There are some hip things on the list.  The issue, given the spirit of the last post, is that hip becomes unhip when whites fetishize aspects of black culture.  That is, when whites try too hard to embrace the accouterments of hip they come off as "trying too hard."  The embrace comes off as inauthentic and needy at best or an act of co-option or theft at worst.  See the entries on Bob Marley and on hip hop references for reflections on this subject.

The point is, Stuff White People Like seems to support the notion that hip is a balance between white and black culture.  Hip can't be too white or too black.  But it begins with the minority group.  (To use missional church language, hip is going to come from the stranger.)  Thus, being in the majority position whites tend to struggle more with hip as once the phenomenon goes mainstream (goes "white") then the hipness starts to wane.  

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6 thoughts on “Hip Christianity: Part 5, Stuff White People Like”

  1. I wish whites would take greater pride in their Anglo culture. All racial issues aside, Anglos have contributed enormously to the modernization of the world, yet receive nothing but the "dance like a white girl" "white men can't jump" stereotype. And white people don't seem to mind. I think a great bridging of the culture gap between whites and blacks would be bridged by the honest admission by minorities that we have lots to offer and a lot of it is worth attaining. I mean, there is no reason to be selfish about anglo culture - any one can enjoy it.

  2. Biggles,
    A few thoughts about Anglo "pride."

    First, I don't think Anglos have a pride problem. It's just that asserting "pride" from the dominant position in a culture is unseemly at best and paranoid at worst.

    Second, related to the first point, "pride" is a healthy feature of minority groups. Given the power differentials minority groups will need to be much more intentional about keeping their distinctiveness and cultural integrity. Related to this "pride" are attempts to poke fun at the dominant culture. The goal for the minority group member is to remind themselves that the dominant group isn't a god, doesn't get to define worth, value and goodness. Because it seems that way day in day out.

    Third, the youth in a majority group will struggle to find distinctiveness. One of the only movements available to them is a move to a minority culture. Thus, the defection seems to go only one way. But, again, I think this has less to do with a lack of pride than how the cultural asymmetries shape the directionally of "rebellion" in a particular cultural context.

  3. My gut reaction to that list is revulsion. I dont know what that says about me as a person so I will have to think about it more.

    What I dont understand is why "minority" group automatically refers to race. Now, I understand that the context of the discussion is race related (hence the name of the list) but if we are attempting to move this conversation into a broader sphere then why does skin color have to be the dominant indicator of group status? Is it because its something that you can't give up? (like a belief/commitment) Personally I think that's a bunch of BS, especially if we are talking about "dominant" culture. If there really are multiple cultures (i.e. M. Love's blog), and I suspect that there are, then the notion that minority groups bring down the majority culture by subverting it is basically nonsense. What is the majority culture? What is the minority culture? Is anything black people do automatically "minority" culture? Is anything white people do automatically "majority" culture? If these stereotypes continue to hold (which they shouldn't) then all we get is a perpetual cycle of antagonistic otherness where each group's self-understood distinctiveness produces notions of otherness which, in turn, produces more self-understood distinctiveness.

    This is why I think the discussion of "hip" is fundamentally flawed. What exactly is "minority" Christianity? Who decides what hip is? What if two "minority" cultures have opposing notions of hip? For that matter, who or what decides what is "hip" about a minority culture? My guess is Leland would say that it isn't chosen it just happens. Well, that's convenient isn't it...

  4. Gotta love this part: "Much like virtually everything else that white people like, these notebooks are considerably more expensive yet provide no additional functionality over regular notebooks that cost a dollar. Thankfully, since white people only keep their most original and creative ideas in the Moleskine, many of them will only be required to purchase one per lifetime."Hadn't heard of these before. SWPL spells it "Molskine," while your post, Richard, has "Molskin." Get with it! (Says the guy who had never even heard of them.) Is it pronounced "skin" or "skine"? I guess it would be appropriate if it were pronounced "skin" but spelled "skine": The extra 'e' would in that case provide no extra functionality, but just make for a more pretentious name.

  5. I don not know that it is accurate to say that Anglos "receive nothing but the "dance like a white girl" "white men can't jump" stereotype." Here in the United States, Anglos also get the ability to determine the cultural underpinnings and the power structure of our society. Surely that must count for something.

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