"White People: What's It Like Being White?"

Fascinating "Ask Reddit" thread posted a day ago, asked by a humble minority male:

White people: what's it like being white? As a non-white person, I've always wondered what it's like to be white. How is it being white? Do you like it? How do you think being white has affected your life?

Highlights of the thread pasted below, with the funny stuff first and then we get serious. All are direct quotes (with some light editing) from various random, weird reddit handles.

  • from what I can tell we require more sunblock but less cocoa butter
  • Fried chicken is my favorite food and I don't get made fun of for it
  • 6'5" and I can't play basketball for shit
  • They have "hot" and "white boy hot" which is medium for them. Was told this by the chef in a thai restaurant
  • Well I can't dance, so I cry myself to sleep in a bed of money.
  • Whenever people try weird handshakes with me I full on grip their hand in the normal fashion and force them to shake my hand. While doing this I say "I'm white and this is the only handshake I know." Always gets lots of laughs plus it has saved me from those awkward moments tons of times.
  • I've found at least four five handshakes among the Black community:
    - There's the "Jamaican Shake", which is when you just put your hands together like death fish and sort of move it a little.
    - There's the "Brother-hug", which is when you lock hands and then hug and pat the person on the back. Pretty common and not always confined to the Black community.
    - There's the "African", which is an actual African handshake where you shake hands around thumb, palm and thumb again before pulling in for the second half of the "Brother".
    - Then there's the "Slip and Side" which is when you start shaking hands down at the bottom of the palm and end in a full handshake. I call it the "Slip and Slide" because you slide down the other person's hand until you're in full handshake mode.
    - In addition, there's another one I have yet to name, when you lock hands around the fingers in a raised position. Sometimes this is followed by a hug. Sometimes, it is not, but always with a firm tug on the hand of the other person shaking.
    - There's also that one that nobody ever gets--usually it's when people try to combine handshakes and it fails miserably. My family exclusively uses the "African", so whenever someone expects a "Slip and Slide", it ends up in this horrible mess with the other person look at my hand like: "What the hell did you just do to my thumb?" Sometimes people just go with it and do it anyway, but make no mistake--everybody fucks it up.
    - Mexicans have another handshake which I have yet to understand, which is sort of like the "Haitian Shake", but with a palm-downwards technique. I don't get it.
    Source: Black. [Editor's note: HA!]

And now...the serious. I think it's best summed by up the first response below, with color and anecdotes from others that follow.

Being white is like not needing glasses. You never think about it unless someone else brings it up, or you're surrounded by people who are otherwise. And it doesn't really make you better than anyone else, but it makes your life slightly easier.

  • I've experienced both - I was an ethnic minority in my country of origin, and I am "white" here. There is a certain amount of having to be on guard all the time that one experiences as a minority that one does not experience as a white person. When I took a recent trip to a country where I was a minority, it really came back to me - just how suspicious one becomes of everyone's statements and motives. On the other hand, being a minority means that other members of the minority will be much warmer and more welcoming to you.
  • "I'm not expected to fail...Lemme 'splain.I'm white. My best friend is black and in a relatively similar position in life...Both raised middle-class/upper middle-class. We went to the same academically advanced private school on scholarships, went to bigger state schools, and then on to grad school. She's done and is making 6 figures in her industry. I'm 2 years out. The stuff she encounters on the daily, I never do. We talk a lot about race and how the world is different for us. For example, people are always praising her for "doing so well" and "being so successful." She says it seems like a compliment, but really, it often feels like they're saying, "wow, you're successful AND black, you must have overcome some real shit." It bothers her that people assume that because she's black, she must have had a rough life. Because she's black, her parents must not have been successful. (Note: every one in her family including her 3 siblings are post-grad educated.)Also, people tell her ALL OF THE TIME that she "doesn't sound black enough." And she hates that more than anything. I mean, what is "sounding black?" Ebonics? Slang? And what's so wrong with that anyway? Take a linguistics class and jump off of your high horse. Then what's sounding white? Why is speaking in a business tongue in an industry where such speech is expected considered so odd? She gets these sort of almost backhanded compliments all of the time, and I never get them. It's weird, being so similar, how we are treated so differently by our industry circles."
  • It's like not having a race. It's like being the color "clear", or the sound "silence". You can't have "white" as a part of your identity, you need to go further down--for example, I'm not just white, I'm half Irish and a quarter Scottish and I have some weird Austrain/English/Netherlands thing going on on my Grandpa's side. You can be proud of being Irish or Scottish or whatever, but you can't be proud of being 'white'. Most of the people in America are white, so it just means "not black" (and 'not mexican' and 'not asian'). Being proud of being "not black" is terrible.
  • “Without the presence of black people in America, European-Americans would not be "white"-- they would be Irish, Italians, Poles, Welsh, and other engaged in class, ethnic, and gender struggles over resources and identity.” ― Cornel West, Race Matters
  • I don't feel a sense of community to other white people. I don't know if other races do or not, but I feel like they do. Black people might not all like each other, but I feel like there's maybe a vibe of "we're all in this together". I don't have that. I find community in other places. I'm not the token white person, I'm the token democrat, or the token Doctor Who fan.
  • No one stops you unless they are absolutely sure you are not supposed to be doing whatever it is that you are doing. When I am walking around places that I am not really supposed to be, people rarely say anything. I see black people getting hassled all the time when they are doing no more wrong than me. It is kind of weird to see that happen.
  • Everything has been built to be easier for me, and as a result, no one will hold my hand, but no one will get in my way. If I want to do something, there's nothing to stop me, but there's nothing to give me the push. I feel like minorities have so much more standing in their way, and as a result, there are people who try to help them overcome these obstacles.
  • as a white male living in a ghetto community, you get accused of being racist every 5-10 sentences.
  • As a white male who once lived in an all black and mexican neighborhood I felt like a minority. When I walked from the parking garage to my apartment everyone kept their eye on me. Mothers would pull their kids closer to them. Nobody would look at me directly, let alone speak to me. If I said hi, I usually got a stare back or maybe a slow nod. I have to admit that I felt a little uncomfortable.
  • I am white and I live in a bankrupt city in a mostly black neighborhood. I have been the target of muggings, assaults, racial slurs, my house and vehicle have been broken into numerous times, and generally receive the feeling that I am not wanted here. I dress like a clean cut white person, I try to avoid eye contact, and run away when I can. It sucks being white in Vallejo, Ca.
  • I feel the need to be successful because there is no reason for me not to be. I mean, looking at all the adversity that other people face, I've had a really easy life. It just wouldn't be fair if I didn't take advantage of it and succeed in life.
  • There is a difference between race and class. Higher class people get it easier because connections are there.

So to sum up...

"Seriously, if you're not white, you're missing out. Because this shit is thoroughly good. Let me be clear, by the way. I'm not saying that white people are better. I'm saying that being white is clearly better. Who could even argue? If it was an option, I would re-up every year." -- Louis CK

*Editor's note: Very sorry for the weird formatting. I don't know how to make spaces between bullets.


Leave a comment
  • C'mon, you really do not care. Nor do you care on any level: humorous or serious.

    You care about turning people into victims as groups, instead of seeing them as individuals.

    Again, you see only the color of a person's skin. When will this sickness ever go away?

    Here is a better question:

    What is it like to be evil?

  • I would say the following post sums it up


  • In reply to Icarus:

    spot on. i enjoyed scalzi's follow-up responses to commenters too, since it seemed to address every possible angle on his piec.e thanks for sharing this!

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