Monday, June 11, 2012


If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you probably already know where this is going ;)

I have a problem with white people problems.

If you are not really down with the internet scene, whitepeopleproblems is a thing going around (a meme?) where white people talk about some minor conundrum or annoyance that exists in their lives and at the beginning or end they say, #whitepeopleproblems.

Here are some examples:

I have to recycle after my housekeeper does all the cleaning #whitepeopleproblems

My wife and I got upgraded to first class, but they had no adjoining seats. #whitepeopleproblems

I have also heard them called #1stworldproblems. I guess is that this is so people who aren't white, but also want to complain/humblebrag/attempt to be funny won't feel left out.

I don't know why, but I have been neglecting my bullet points! I think now is a perfect time to bring them back.

--#whitepeopleproblems is a lot like the swagger wagon video. With the minivan commercial, it was like look how unhip we are because we drive a minivan. With the meme it's like, look how petty and spoiled we are because we get irritated by such unimportant things.

The problem with both of these situations is that we're supposed to think the white people are making fun of themselves. But it doesn't come across that way to me, and I have a hard time believing that it comes across that way to anyone else, regardless of race.

What's left unsaid is the mocking and minimizing of the group that is not part of the meme.

It's like, it wouldn't be funny to explicitly say,

black people don't have housekeepers!
black people don't fly first class!

So, what makes it funny to imply it? I don't get it.

--another problem with wpp (hey it's like opp, but different) is that it continues to perpetuate this myth that white people don't have problems. That to be white is to have not a care in the world. You don't see on twitter:

eating disorders #whitepeopleproblems
meth #whitepeopleproblems
drinking yourself to death at a frat party #whitepeopleproblems

And yes, I know that the things that I listed above do not happen exclusively to white people, I am trying to make a point. The meme problems are never anything serious, when we all know that white people do in fact have lots of real problems.

There seems to be a lot of real discomfort around discussing white people as a group. So much so that it is rarely ever done, and when it is it is usually in some sort of joking manner.

--It is important to note that most (all?) of the #whitepeopleproblems are closely tied to being from a certain socio-economic status. Like having housekeepers and flying-- these are things that low-income white people don't have a lot of experience with. It is just another example of the idea that white and upper middle class are synonyms, and you can't really be one without automatically being the other.

This puts a lot of pressure on white people, because if you want to live up to the white ideal, it involves presenting this image of living a certain lifestyle. If you don't do this, you can be labeled white trash and from what I have gleaned, that's something that no white person wants to be. You can read more of my thoughts on the white trash label here.

--Another problem with conflating whiteness and money is that it can harm people of color who like money and decide that they want to try and legally make some. If they decide to go to college, pick a major that will actually make them money (i.e. not, Sociology ;) and get a well-paying job, they are often accused of acting white. And contrary to what some white people might think--that is not considered a compliment. Some people are so concerned with being perceived as a sellout that they will consciously make choices that harm their chances of being traditionally successful in our society, believing that it makes them more authentically black/latino/etc. The reality is there are many (ok, some) people of color that do fly first class and have housekeepers, and they should be free to do such things without having their racial identities questioned.

--So it would really make more sense to call this meme #problemsofpeoplethatappeartohavemoney. #1stworldproblems doesn't work because not everyone in developed countries has money, and there are people in developing countries that do have money. Plus 1st world, and 3rd world, are rude, imnsho. And I said, appear to have money because we all know that just because you have something, doesn't mean you can actually afford to have it--keeping up appearances, ykwim?

But my suggestion is wordy and not a lot of fun. It also doesn't allow for the detrimental myths to continue to be perpetuated. So I am not expecting it to catch on anytime soon ;)

That's pretty much all I've got to say; but I am interested to hear what you think. Leave me a comment.


  1. I've actually never heard the term "white people problems." I have, however, heard and used "first world problem."

    I never thought of it in racial terms, though if I had thought about it, I would have considered the socio-economic angle.

    For me, it's short hand for "my family is healthy and happy, we have a roof over our heads, etc. But I have this thing that is annoying the crap out of me. I feel stupid even complaining about it, but I figured other people would commiserate. I am, however, still grateful that I don't have cancer and still have a job." For instance, the home key on my iPhone was broken. I had a workaround, but it was a pain. Not going to ruin the world, but annoying as hell.

  2. I think any time we stereotype we loose compassion for people and that can't be a good thing, right? I hardly know any white people who struggle with these "wpp's." It has been an eye opening experience to live in Baltimore for 6 years where there is a distinct line between races, not to mention the population is about 60% black and we were the minority. The thing that struck me was that no one talks about it like they do in CO for example. Maybe because I was in the wrong peer group or something. I made several friends of different races, especially one beautiful woman who died of cancer a few years ago from Liberia.

    Great post, I didn't know you had a blog but now I'll start reading!

  3. And by "eye opening" I mean racism is more alive than I thought...unfortunately.

  4. Anonymous7:08 PM

    I agree, #whitepeopleproblems is racist and offensive. I see your point about #firstworldproblems. How about #upperclassproblems?

    I still think the meme is funny if appropriately framed. How about "#whiningaboutstupidstuff?


  5. Anonymous7:53 PM

    I'm not even sure I fit in to the "appear to have money" category. Thinking back to my pedicure/nap fb post, the hash tag that fits best would have been #problemsofamomwhoneedsanexcusetospendmoneyonherselfandsouseslivingsocialdeals. Hmmm ... also not too catchy. - Anna

  6. I've been seeing references to this wpp business for awhile and wasn't really sure how to take it. Was it an insult? I'd like to thank you for realizing that plenty of us wp have a boat load of serious problems. Such as unemployment, loss of insurance, and incurable illness, to name a few I'm well acquainted with.

  7. Anonymous Black Guy8:55 AM

    Not too long ago i ran into an article on "Hipster Racism" while surfing the net. the premise being that subtle racism is not necessarily so subtle depending on your perspective as u have quite adroitly pointed out in your blog post. the examples it uses to illustrate its point are things like a famous young Hollywood starlet (who was white) returns from a trip to her apt where she bakes cookies & watches TV until she passes out. she tweets this with the hashtag "Thug Life." Other examples included writers for the new TV show "Girls" tweeting racially charged statements & then defending said statements & denying that they are racist. Question 1: do u also feel that there is implicit racism in such comments? Question 2: many white people suggest that there is not. how can a consensus be reached for a resolution to the implicit racism in such statements if no consensus exists on the merits of the argument alone? *article was in Jezebel mag online

  8. I get your point about #whitepeopleproblems. But as someone from a "third world country" I can relate more to the term #firstworldproblems. Because what it does is envelopes COUNTRIES in a bracket to identify what they have access to. You don't hear someone from a country with poor access to clean potable water saying "uggghhh. Someone used up all the hot water this morning." (#firstworldproblems)

    See, outside of countries where race is such an in your face issue, some things are coloured by class and status.

    So here in Jamaica, I saw somebody tweet: "ughh. I have to drive all the cars down the hill to full up at the gas station" to which someone replied: #uptownproblems.

    That's where our great divide lies. So perpective changes the nature of the problems i guess.