In the most recent issue of The Atlantic I read an article posing this question: Is White America done for? Is white American culture relevant any longer? What the hell defines White Culture anyhow? Should we even care?
I live in the second most diverse county of one of the whitest states (Maine) with the white population at 95.2%. The US average is 80.1%. New England culture is somewhat of its own strange beast, but I think I’m still qualified to throw in my two cents. The part of Maine I hail from originally is the whitest part of the state. Much of the cultural events are seasonal. Winter means snowmobiles, ice fishing, skiing and beer. Spring means driving your vehicle in the mud and then parading your muddy auto through the town, and beer. Summer means swimming, fishing, camping, hiking, and beer. Fall of course brings hunting, high school football, and beer. Starting to get the picture?
Much of the culture there would not be foreign to someone from anywhere in Middle America. Trucks with outfitted KC lights, terrorist hunting permit stickers, and the number of their favorite NASCAR driver, roam the streets. A Pu Pu Platter is authentic Chinese food. There is lots of beer, lots of cheap beer. For a man who enjoys a good beer it is a veritable Hell. It’s a low brow, lower to middle class “traditional” watered-down life. I’m not being judgmental, well yes I am. My hometown’s severe lack of anything left me bored to tears.
Does anyone looking for any sort of mental stimulation from Larry the Cable Guy? Can anyone be truly excited to attend a James Taylor concert? Are cars going around the same loop over 100 times riveting? Have the words “insightful” and “smart” ever appeared anywhere near anything written about Friends on purpose. When people speak of white culture these days they point to these things. White culture is a bland boring intellectual black hole.
This is why so many of us who would state we were white on a census identify more closely with our ancestors countries of origin or perhaps even nothing at all. What do we have to be proud of? White people are often the butt of jokes, from nerdy white rappers having a “tea partay“, to the new book Stuff White People Like. Those of us with baby boomer parents were raised to embrace multiculturalism (I hate that term. It makes no sense. A culture is a culture is a culture!) The result is a white identity crisis. Hell, James Baldwin even once said, “There is nothing positive about the white identity.” We are, as Matt Wray stated in The Atlantic, culturally broke.
Marketing agents are moving from racial and ethnic demographics to lifestyle and cultural demographics. “Environmentalist”, “hipster” and “Christian” have replaced demographics as “White”, “Black” and “Hispanic”. Research done at New York University has shown that sites like Myspace and Facebook have created “crosscutting social groups” that are only vaguely associated with race. Race is not yet disappearing, but it is becoming just one of a number of personal identifiers, holding no more importance than, say, what kind of movies one likes.
I would like to see our culture move past race. I would rather see the importance of race fade and a rise in national pride. Whites cannot be the only race that is moving toward this goal. Nor can whites be guilt tripped into a post-racial America. This is something Americans of every race must do together. This way we can all be proud of the outcome. My generation wont see it, but perhaps my daughter’s will. I fear the consequences if we things go in the other direction.