Why all white people look the same too
After my writing about Why All Black People Look the Same, it seemed only fair to clarify that incorrectly perceiving the Other as homogenous has more to do with ingroup/outgroup distinctions than minority/majority distinctions. In other words, White people (e.g., majority members) aren’t the only ones who fall prey to the outgroup homogeneity effect. A few years ago, one of my (non-white) research assistants introduced me to a popular but controversial blog called Stuff White People Like. It’s essentially a primer on white culture stereotypes in which a white guy named Chris dispenses satirical advice on how non-white people can impress their white friends. For example, Chris lists “outdoor performance clothes” as stuff white people like and adds:
The main reason why white people like these clothes is that it allows them to believe that at any moment they could find themselves with a Thule rack on top of their car headed to a national park. It could be 4:00 p.m. on a Saturday when they might get a call “hey man, you know what we need to do? Kayak then camping, right now. I’m on my way to get you, there is no time to change clothes.”
Though it is unlikely that they will receive this call, White people hate the idea of missing an opportunity to enjoy outdoor activities because they weren’t wearing the right clothes.
If you plan on spending part of your weekend with a white person, it is strongly recommended that you purchase a jacket or some sort of “high performance” t-shirt, which is like a regular shirt but just a lot more expensive.
Are you laughing? Are you offended? At any rate, there’s more where that came from. Chris’s list of “stuff white people like” includes unpaid internships, religions their parents don’t belong to, Arrested Development, ugly Christmas sweater parties, Wes Anderson movies, basketball assists and microbreweries.
The humor in Stuff White People Like heavily relies on the outgroup homogeneity effect. You see, Chris’ satirical humor is overflowing with stereotypes and banks on the fact that the reader will recognize the caricatures, chuckle to herself, nod in agreement and say: Yes, this is how white people are. They are all the same. According to research on the outgroup homogeneity effect, non-white people (outgroup members) should be more likely to make this assumption, which is convenient given that the tongue-in-cheek blog is supposedly written for non-white people. On the other hand, white people (ingroup members) should be more likely to note the vast differences among white people.
“I’m not like that,” white people might insist.
“Not all white people are like that,” they might say.
According to research on the outgroup homogeneity effect, white people are most likely to reach this conclusion. However, non-white people are likely to chuckle and keep coming back for more.