frustration and connection in the city?
July 28, 2012 6:25 PM   Subscribe

How have you negotiated being frustrated with the culture and experience of young-white-people-in-the-city without alienating friends or becoming a hypocrite/cynic/other mopey monster variant?

(I have a strong streak of self-imposed outsider in me, meaning that while I am drawn to people, I periodically wander off the map and become increasingly in my own world of research and books and stuff. That's an important emotional context for this question:)

I'm a year out of school and trying to stay connected and healthy in this city. Most of the time I think I'm doing pretty well. But recently, I've become very sharply disenchanted with that whole effort. I'm half Mexican but grew up without connection to that family/culture. Most see me as white, and many of my peers are white, and while I know it's equally prejudicial to reject any group, I can't help but see things as "privileged white young kids adventuring around together" and become very, very frustrated. Some of my friends are lurching towards adult-life by discovering their love of fine things, furniture and money and blah blah, and others are reveling in the minimal bikes-and-beer aesthetic, and while this is not evil or anything, it just makes me feel disconnected and sad, kind of. On one hand I love that many folks I know are creating music and art and celebrating each other's efforts, but another part of me is frustrated that these efforts don't seem to extend past the contexts of the lives they're leading, and have so little or nothing to do with the suffering that's going on out there in the world.

As you can see, I'm trying not to frame myself as being judgmental, but maybe I'm doing just that. I devote my working life to service and community things, and this does energize me. I suppose it's kind of like, when I get to the part of life that's supposed to be the relaxed moments, the celebratory moments, the we-worked-all-week-for-this! moments, those are actually the ones where I feel saddest and most lost, wand I have to hide that. It's not my party, it's the wrong party, the motions are mimicked.

Also as I'm sure you all can infer, I've struggled for years with social anxiety. However this has improved hugely over the last 3 years or so. But I don't really want to think of this struggle in terms of an individualistic diagnostic framework, you know? I think many people are probably feeling exactly as I am. I'm concerned with how to take practical steps to not feel like the life I'm choosing, as we all choose this all every day, is not in bad faith, and that I'm reaching out in the right ways.

tl;dr: What are some strategies you have to readjust your involvement with social circles and urban spaces and whatever so that you don't fall into trap of privleged adventurism for its own sake? Is this the sort of thing where "discovering my roots" and diving into Mexican culture could help? How do you not take yourself too seriously and at the same time, be compassionate to yourself so that weekends don't end up so wounding, in a sense, and are instead about connection and other people? (This needs its own tl;dr, ha)

(p.s. - i have been reading these HR posts over the years and find myself incredibly soothed by the discourse that always emerges. so thank you in advance. it's like with any kind of research - figuring out how to think about the issue in the first place is most of the battle.)
posted by elephantsvanish to Human Relations (28 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Can you connect with a community more based in civil rights or social justice? I'm not saying drop your existing friends, but find some new ones who are trying to do something that matters to help the world.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 6:29 PM on July 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

...but another part of me is frustrated that these efforts don't seem to extend past the contexts of the lives they're leading, and have so little or nothing to do with the suffering that's going on out there in the world.

Everyone has their reasons for this, whether they're good or not. Some people don't engage because of ignorance, some people because of apathy, some to preserve their own psyches because things for them are bad enough -- yes, even if they're white and privileged! -- that their own problems are all they can put up with.

Part of not falling into what you're feeling is that realizing that everyone has a whole mess of shit they carry, some more, some less. Whatever you're seeing about the context of their lives is such an incomplete picture as to be a completely useless basis by which to judge them in any sort of way. You're feeling disconnected because of assumptions; get closer to these people and you'll realize that a lot of them are good, even if they don't engage the way you think they should. And, naturally, you'll realize that others are as vapid as you think they are right now.

Is this the sort of thing where "discovering my roots" and diving into Mexican culture could help?

I can't see how this could possibly hurt.
posted by griphus at 6:33 PM on July 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yes, you're being judgmental. That's not necessarily a bad thing- one of the huge reasons I feel like my life is way better in my 30s than it was in my 20s is that I've learned the kind of people I want around me. Now I when i meet someone who isn't really my "type" I say "nice to have met you" and go on my merry way to look for folks I can connect with.

However: I think you're being a little harsh on people who aren't engaged in politics or social issues. Remember that period after 9/11 when everyone was praising police and firefighters to the point where anyone who did anything else was apologizing for doing something "not as important?"

I thought that was so absurd, because imagine a world where no one was anything but a cop or firefighter. It would be a world without art, without literature, without garbage collection for that matter!

So what's wrong with people who play in bands? doesn't the world need music? If someone's thing is playing in a band and not social justice, that doesn't necessarily make them shallow and unworthy of being your friend, does it?
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:44 PM on July 28, 2012 [10 favorites]

In the above example I mean someone who is serious about being a musician. If you mean someone who just fools around on guitar so he can get high and meet girls then yeah, maybe not the right friend for you.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:46 PM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, make new friends. Maybe seek groups that socialize in the context of service, like volunteer at a soup kitchen or with Habitat for Humanity every weekend.

With your existing friends, you might try to instigate the kind of events you'd like to attend, like having a potluck at your house, attending a fundraiser, going to the youth poetry slam, checking out the local artist street fair, or whatever.
posted by salvia at 6:54 PM on July 28, 2012

White person here! But, um, white person who has a lot of experience of the culture you're talking about? And worries a lot about the way it works and the whiteness angle? And has their own issues vis-a-vis queerness and young-straight-people-culture? And is always an outsider?

Anyway. If you're in Minneapolis or St Paul, you should memail me for local suggestions, but you're probably not.

I think I'd find some specifics about your social circle helpful. Are these the kind of people who believe in reverse racism and want to make lots of money? Or are they hipsters who wear headdresses? Or are they activists who despite paying lipservice to anti-racist ideas still either accidentally or through laziness do dumb stuff? What kind of unhappy interactions are you having?

Now, as I say, I'm white. But in my own case I've found spending time around other queer folks really helpful in terms of shared assumptions. I find that I am less bothered by straight-culture stuff and feeling like an outsider if I have some queer-people time regularly. It makes me feel more normal and less like a giant freak. Also, most of my POC friends seem to have a POC social/political circle as well as the sorta-integrated one that I'm in. I get the feeling that this is important to them. Also, this social circle is often via politics or the arts - people meet through working on immigration issues or Native issues or through, say, a Native arts project. So it's not just that everyone has known each other since high school or whatever.

I've also found being involved in social projects where I can have a place and some respect (for me it's activist stuff but it might be arts or other culture things) helps a lot.

With your white friends, can you talk about race? Are you close enough and are they those kinds of people? I feel like being able to talk about race is an important part of my friendships with people of color - not that this is, like, the only thing we talk about, but it seems like without being able to have those conversations there ends up being a big gap in the friendship, sort of like if I couldn't talk about being queer.

As a white person, I think a lot about how being white is constituted by blindness and coldness. Because of white supremacy, many white people (like me) grow up without the skills to perceive suffering and inequality. We learn to crush our empathy because white supremacy couldn't work if we felt it - we are taught consciously and unconsciously not to empathize, to be radically individualistic and to blame individuals for social problems. I think about when the early working class white colonists would run away to live with the Natives, or when there were rebellions where whites and Native or whites and blacks worked together - that's the natural empathy and community that had to be broken in order to produce white that white people could look at slavery and genocide and stay unmoved because it was happening to beings who didn't really count as people.

My point is, I feel like as a white person I am often ignorant and frustrating and self-absorbed and I do dumb stuff, so while I try to work on that, I am not under any illusions that I am as perceptive about race, inequality and social justice as my friends of color tend to be, and I feel like it's a good thing that they have other social circles and not just me!

I imagine that it might also prove helpful to find a few close sounds like your social circle is a casual one. I know that in the same radical/arts social circles I've found people who, on closer acquaintance, were really perceptive and non-shallow and had non-standard experiences, but in the general whirl of events and actions and parties and so on, this is not always immediately evident. Also, if you're like me and you tend automatically to think of yourself as this back-to-the-wall outsider, you are probably seeing the people around you as more homogenous than they really are. I tend to have this mentality that everyone besides me is part of and endorses the worst behavior that's going on in a group at any time, for example, so if one person is being a privileged idiot, I assume that everyone else is okay with it.
posted by Frowner at 6:57 PM on July 28, 2012 [8 favorites]

Thank you for the thoughts so far!

Just wanted to clarify: I'm thinking more of the broader social scene and how it's structured than flat-out-rejecting all people in my vicinity and their prerogative to go and be a musician if they'd like to be. My few close friends here are white, and musicians/writers, and I respect the hell out of them/where they're coming from. What I'm thinking I have to do is place more impetus on myself to diversify my community, dig deeper into things. I'm not trying to place blame on others.

Frowner what you're saying is super helpful, thankya. My direct community is full of people who, like myself, are combining some kind of activisty or artist energy with their attempt to figure out how they'll be connected in the city. So not too many folks curating tumblrs of electronic music + polaroids, but also community with a notably minimal intersection with POC or specific dug-in activist groups.
posted by elephantsvanish at 7:08 PM on July 28, 2012

I have a strong streak of self-imposed outsider in me,

Keep that in mind and remember that you might be subconsciously alienating yourself because you see yourself as an outsider and you're comfortable in that role, so you're recreating it for yourself.

Look, everyone has their own problems. You said you have social anxiety. Everyone else has stuff going on in their lives that you don't know about, so when people have the opportunity to enjoy themselves in those "celebratory moments," they're going to suck them up and enjoy them for all they're worth. And then Monday they are going to grapple with having their art projects rejected/being threatened with losing their jobs/wondering if they can make their college loan payments.

Is this the sort of thing where "discovering my roots" and diving into Mexican culture could help?

Yes, and I'll tell you why-- because, first, it will expose you to a totally different social circle that you wouldn't otherwise have encountered, expanding the sort of people you interact with in your city; and, second, because you will realize that the people you have the most in common with and connect with the best are the people you share a similar academic, professional, and temperamental background with, regardless of whether they share your same roots or not, and it will give you a new-found appreciation for your friends.
posted by deanc at 7:13 PM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Possibly Completely Unhelpful Data Point: I'm a half Mexican who was raised culturally white and is accepted as an honorary white, as well. I have diagnosed Social Anxiety. I am perfectly happy with bikes-and-beer. And now I'm wondering what's wrong with me.
posted by Juliet Banana at 7:29 PM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

You mention a feeling of sharp disillusionment. I can totally imagine feeling a sudden disappointing realization, but I can also imagine the feeling being influenced by good old post-graduation depression and anxiety. Be well and stay on top of preventative mental hygiene, y'hear?
posted by Nomyte at 7:32 PM on July 28, 2012

I devote my working life to service and community things

How nice for you. If I were in your age group, I could well choose to devote my working life to high art and shopping, and why is that any of your business?

I think a lot about how being white is constituted by blindness and coldness

Except when it's not. Thinking this way might make you feel all superior and special and groovy, but so what? Accept people as individuals and try to see past skin tone.

In short-- go your own way. Live your life. Meet people as individuals and try not to get sucked into class/race/politics as a way to stereotype everyone.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:51 PM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just dropping a note here: POC, Mexican or otherwise, do not automatically care more about, "the suffering that's going on out there in the world," or helping the community or any of that. If you want to dig deeper into your roots, go with the mindset of simply learning more about what Mexican culture is like. Activism, service, and community is not shared across the culture, though this may be the lens through which some people outside the culture see it.
posted by Mister Cheese at 8:00 PM on July 28, 2012 [4 favorites]

(That came out wrong: There are so many ways to do things that matter. Wish there were a post-comment (post-post) delete key!)
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:10 PM on July 28, 2012

(Just to clarify - I didn't mean to imply that people of color are all creepily, magically, movie-stereotype caring (although I think it's reasonable to read my comment that way and I apologize) - I was thinking specifically of an activist/progressive/radical milieu where there's a certain expectation that you perceive and are concerned with social justice. Honestly, it's been my experience as a white person that white people in that milieu are less perceptive, and god knows I have perception problems - and I've certainly heard that said about white folks often enough.)
posted by Frowner at 8:13 PM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've had similar feelings to you at times and the best way I've found to counteract it is to have a diverse a group of friends as possible. Old, young, black, white, latino, asian, physicalyl/mentally disabled, etc. each friend offers a unique perspective from their own background and it keeps you from getting stuck in one group, and annoyed/frustrated by homogenous views.
posted by bearette at 8:13 PM on July 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

How old are you? I'm guessing early-to-mid twenties? Here's one thing I've noticed. In my early twenties, with the exception of a few super-privileged folks, just about everyone I knew was somewhere on the spectrum from actually-poor to playing-poor. Now that I'm in my mid-twenties, many of my peers are beginning to consciously join the mass consumption class with all its attendant trappings. For me, this provokes a strong "do not want" reaction, and I've found that the friends I treasure the most are those who have made it through that period where many peers are transitioning, and rejected the consumeristic lifestyle, or at least maintained a critical eye towards what's really necessary to be a person and a citizen. Not to fetishize poverty-- but I have a lot of trouble identifying with people who have stepped directly into the silhouette left by the mores and values of the previous generation.
posted by threeants at 8:22 PM on July 28, 2012

I was thinking specifically of an activist/progressive/radical milieu where there's a certain expectation that you perceive and are concerned with social justice.

This is a cultural expectation that is inculcated in college. I think there are certain colleges where it's a cultural norm, and certain colleges where, if you're a POC, you get drawn into this milieu during that phase where in college you start grappling with your identity and end up exploring different cultural and intellectual milieus and belief systems and approaching them with radical enthusiasm. And I can imagine it's disconcerting to leave that milieu and realize that not everyone thinks that way.

It's great if people can provide service to the community, but there are a limited number of things that any college-educated 20-something can do to provide "service" to the "community," particularly if he didn't come from that community.

Outside of highly-specialized professionals-- health care providers, social workers, teachers, architects, fundraisers -- people who believe themselves to work in "service and community things" are generally desk workers at anonymous non-profits. And that's fine: the world needs pencil-pushers; but I can see how when the choice is between that and pursuing your own personal intellectual and professional interests, you'll do the latter.

My point is this: part of your identity is being an outsider, so you're more comfortable feeling alienated, and are adjusting yourself so you become so. Also, you are in that phase in your life where you're encountering people who all have different value systems, backgrounds, and interests than you do. You're expecting a bit much out of people who have little to no professional experience and few if any connections to the city they just moved to.

When human behavior frustrates me, I just remind myself that, "they're all just people trying to get by."
posted by deanc at 8:30 PM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

This will probably fall on deaf ears, but I suggest you think in some concrete detail about:
  1. what the "suffering going on out there in the world" really is
  2. what parts of it "count" to you, which parts don't, and why
  3. how you see yourself as involved in solving the parts that count
  4. how you see your friends as failing to be involved
  5. whether expressions of privilege annoy you more than inaction
  6. how you reconcile your martyr streak with the privileges that you yourself enjoy
This is not to say you should not ditch friends you are uncomfortable with. By all means, do so. I just think it might help your thinking on this to differentiate friends who annoy you because of what they are and friends who annoy you because of what they do (or do not do). Is there anything your friends could do that would make them not be privileged white kids playing with bikes and beer, in your eyes? Can they, in your eyes, atone for who they are? Do you feel like they're obliged to?
posted by ead at 9:37 PM on July 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think there's probably something emotional in these moments (the going out-we worked all week for this moments) that is missing for you. I think you're smart to frame it in terms of a missing connection to a larger community and purpose. The terms in your question, "the aesthetic of beer and bikes" might ruffle some feathers, but I can definitely identify with that sense of frustration-- frustration not with the individual people doing those things, but maybe with the limited options and sense that society forces people to behave as stereotypes. Whether it's an individual issue or a social issue is harder to pin down in the question. Do you just need friends who you feel more of a close connection? Or maybe you need to scrap your current plans and look at some new directions you can take in your life? Maybe the research, or your work, or travel will help.

Hope this thread provides some ideas about how to find that. I have no suggestion except--follow your heart. I am sure this feeling sucks, but it will lead to interesting places-- as long as it's not in excess, I'm sure it's even healthy not to get too wrapped up in acting in a certain culturally prescribed way.
posted by kettleoffish at 10:17 PM on July 28, 2012

It reads like you have developed a view of the world and have labelled it the "correct" view. You have people in your social circle who are not striving towards your view and you are looking down your nose at them for it. You are also upset that they are looking down THEIR noses at you for not following their view.

It strikes me as being similar to the child-free/parenthood debate. If other people are living their life differently, are you wrong? Are they? Is there really only one correct way of living your life?

Realize that most people are not impressed by, nor do they respect, the same things you do. Humans in general tend to forget that everyone else sees the world from their own experiences and desires.

Maybe you are feeling conflict over the fact that you are doing something that you believe should earn you significant respect from you peers, and instead the beer swilling and fine wine sniffing don't place any value on it.
posted by Dynex at 10:30 PM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

What's actually going on in your city's local politics? Do you vote? Do you pay attention to the issues that affect long term residents regarding the education system, social services, transportation, property taxes, etc? Are you paying attention to where your tax money is going and do you know what your city council rep is doing and do you support him or her? I don't know how I feel about calling it "privileged adventurism" (from my perspective it was more "I need to live someplace where I can actually find a job") but I do notice that city issues look a lot different for people who own property and are raising children and if you understand and follow what is happening from that perspective vis a vis city government, that's one way to build connections.
posted by citron at 11:24 PM on July 28, 2012

Hi, I'm the person above who mentioned I'm mixed-race Mexican & have social anxiety as well before.

I do find myself bristling a little bit over ladies in Modcloth dresses & heels waiting in line for brunch, or feel awkward sometime that the people of color in my immediate social group are like the Burger King kids, one of each. Being one of the two token brown people at a party.

You still in MPLS? I'm from Chicago (which is marvelously diverse, if a bit segregated) and I know living in a neighborhood where the majority of people on my block are Latino is better for my mental health than when I lived in Columbus, where I used to smuggle dried chiles back in my suitcase from California because there was only one mercado on the other side of town. I don't need my people to be the only voices in the chorus-I would be ok with my neighborhood having a different make-up-I just want to feel represented. Minneapolis is pretty diverse, but if you've moved to a neighborhood that's very white that could be a reason why you're stressed.

But listen; I can identify both as a person of color and a slacker twentysomething city dwelling hipster. I can both be super white (French pressed coffee from locally roasted beans, fancy craft beers, just enough money that I don't have to spend all my life in constant stress about paying the rent, speaks only English with a stoner So Cal skateboarder in junior high accent) & hella Chicana (a childhood spent being asked if I was hungry every five minutes until I accepted a plate of beans & stack of tortillas, a ridiculous ass, a reverence and acceptance of death).

Worrying about "white people problems" & the dumb twenty something irresponsibility that they make mumblecore movies about is a waste of your valuable time. Concentrate on the life you want to be living, and maybe you shouldn't spend so much time shitting on people for living the lives they want to be living.

I agree with The AV Club on why it's time to stop using white as a pejorative.  People of color like Pinterest too, people! They eat cupcakes and own iPhones and whatever, I've run out of stereotypes because who cares.

Just concentrate on being happy and ok with yourself, dude. You'll come through alright.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:51 PM on July 28, 2012 [15 favorites]

I'm focused in on a really small part of your question. You're happy that some of your friends make art, but aggravated that others of them are starting to like "fine things" and furniture. This strikes me as -- not exactly contradictory, but wrongheaded. One of the major purposes of art (and craft, draw the line where you wish) is to make beautiful things for people to enjoy, to be inspired and soothed and challenged and upset and energized by. Is your friends' art supposed to be viewed and destroyed, like Buddhist sand paintings, or just go out into the void to never be seen again? Or is it meant to be kept and loved and enjoyed? Because loving artists but hating art patrons is ... well, I know it's not exactly uncommon, but it's a very strange orientation towards the world and towards art, that the purpose of art is only in the making of it, and that those who enjoy art are bad people.

Anyway, "fine things" are a part of the same material culture as art. Why is it okay to enjoy material culture if you're making art, but not if you're buying furniture? If your friends who are into "fine things" are trying to surround themselves with things that are beautiful and useful, what is that wrong? I mean, I looked at it this way, when I spent some effort picking out dishes that I find beautiful: I have some wonderful art on my walls, and I love it, but the fact is that I spend more time every day looking at and caring for those dishes than any individual painting. Shouldn't my dishes also be beautiful? Shouldn't they also be something that pleases me to look at?

I, and many of my friends, are terribly bourgeois (and mostly white) people who have chosen to live in "unsteady" urban neighborhoods, in a struggling, poverty-stricken older city. And that, too, is an act of social justice, because your very privilege allows you to say, "You can't ignore my neighborhood. I insist on police patrols, I insist on schools, I insist on code enforcement. I insist my Congressional representative not get away with pretending my neighborhood doesn't exist. I insist on sewer repairs, I insist on sidewalks, I insist on street paving." One way to fight for a community you believe in is to live in it, being as dull and middle-class and 2.5-children-y as possible, making it impossible for city leaders to say, "Oh, that's just a poor neighborhood" or "that's just an immigrant neighborhood." (And while I realize gentrification is a fraught issue (although not one we have in my city ... yet, anyway), most middle-class families who insist on living in a decaying urban area are not trying to turn it into the suburbs or they would have gone there to start with).

I'd also ask, what are you social-justicing for? I'm pretty involved in various social justice activities, and at the end of the day, I like to go home to my family and putter in the garden and watch Modern Family and make some dinner and enjoy my pretty plates, because that's what it's for, right? So that everyone has the opportunity to make a safe and happy home for themselves and their families. Denying myself what I'm working so hard to give to others doesn't seem like it helps anyone.

All of that said, I know that there are irritating people out there who are like "I AM A GREAT ARTIST" who are making art that's entirely self-indulgent (which is okay) but who think it's about Grand Truths (which makes it aggravating). And there are irritating people out there who are like, "I am going to thoughtlessly participate in mass consumer society and furnish my house with Pottery Barn* and then act snooty and shocked when you come to my house and don't know the difference between a chardon-NAY and a pin-OOOOH because I have just learned these words and they are wealthy people words and if I don't perform my classiness how will people know I have it?" who don't even realize they're mostly signaling class anxiety. (*Don't get me wrong, I have some serious love for Pottery Barn, but you know these people who buy themselves catalog houses whole and complete.) It's okay to be annoyed with these people, either set, and to either let them go as friends, or hope they grow up. I found my early 20s in particular was lousy with people attempting to perform adult roles in very strained ways, which is really just an extension of teenagerhood and its chameleon selves as you try to find which one you are. It's okay, and most people outgrow it and settle down and stop going on and on about their "wine collection." (Except the ones who become actual wine collectors, who, unless they are natural bores, now become INTERESTING about their wine collections because they are enthusiastic and not using it as a way to show off.)

Also, I can't help but think that "discovering your roots" is also a form of "privileged adventuring," but one that's not likely to hurt anything. But it will seem very hypocritical if you then look down on others for similarly harmless excavations of their desired selves.

tl;dr, social justice and the beautification of the world (physical and metaphorical) can take a lot of forms and aren't limited to one kind of person doing things one kind of way.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:35 AM on July 29, 2012 [8 favorites]

Hey, I'm white, but I remember having similar feelings sometimes in my early twenties. Someone mentioned this upthread, but you really shouldn't underestimate the possibility that part of this might be post-collegiate depression/ennui. These transitional parts of life are so hard because you've started to outgrow your old life (and the social circle that came with it) but nothing else has replaced it yet - so the things and activities and people you used to enjoy just chafe.

I really think you need to find a new scene. You say your activist-y friends aren't connected "with POC or specific dug-in activist groups" - I think it could be great for you to do exactly that. If you are indeed in Mpls, then you're set because that is an amazing city for grassroots activism. Get involved with some community organizations, or even work on the campaign of a young person of color running for city council or something like that (I realize electoral politics might sound kinda lame, but it can be really satisfying to help a good person get elected so they can do good things for the community). The great thing about activism like that is that you will meet ALL KINDS of people, all ages, races, economic situations, which will be refreshing. You'll probably care less about the "adventuring" of your peers when that's not your only social milieu.

And it might be helpful to remember that your friends are all just trying to figure shit out like you. The twenties are a time when people try on different personas, lifestyles and social scenes to see what fits for them. And young-white-people-in-the-city are FAR from the only group of people who don't look outside their own sphere - you'll find that everywhere. I mean, that's one thing I like about grassroots activist types, but even they're just human and spend most of their time thinking about their own families, friends, etc.
posted by lunasol at 9:13 AM on July 29, 2012

This is a thought rather than a diagnosis, so please take as a possibility to consider and nothing more, but I've found myself playing up the negatives about other people in social situations that make me uncomfortable. Like the discomfort is the thing driving the negative labeling, as opposed to the other way around. And there's always a way to go negative (and positive) on a person or situation. Depending on one's own mood, you can look at a lawyer as a yuppie dickwad or someone who really loves the intellectual challenge of law; a musician can be a creative person pursuing their talent and passion, or a flake with his head up his ass. You get the idea.

As I've gotten older, I've gotten way better at socializing with people that I have profound intellectual and political incongruences with, and in general I'm a way happier person for it. Don't sell your own values short in the process, but brunch and pbr and everything in between can be a lot of fun if you can find ways to enjoy the people your with.
posted by jimmysmits at 4:07 PM on July 29, 2012

People are gfoing to make lifestyle choices. None are any better or worse objectively than any other. This is about you making your own choices while fundamentally respecting the right of others to make lifestyle choices that differ from yours.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:06 PM on July 29, 2012

I can relate, as a fellow always-the-outsider type person: sometimes it feels like people don't appreciate the particular weird challenges that come with being the Other and how that can affect the way you relate to the world (in my case it's often bureaucratic) and you not immediately fawning over the same things they are is seen as an affront. Only in my case I have noticed that the radical/social justice/activist milleau people like Frowner talk about aren't immune to such fuckery either - it's just that when they reveal hypocrisy or misjudgement they claim "BUT THAT CANNOT BE! I AM A LEFTY/RADICAL/POC/QUEERMO/etc!" as some sort of magic shield.

What I've found helpful is to pick and choose my people regardless of their identification or communities.I've found great, respectful, loving, accepting people that transcend collective identities, even some that are supposed to be my "enemy". (The person who accepts me and my queer POC kinky artsy weirdo self the most out of ANYONE is a straight white vanilla IT guy. Go figure.) Actions speak louder than words - especially in worlds that are more concerned about "proper language" but not about what they are saying. It's a hard process, and takes a lot of time (and irritation and suspicion sometimes) but there are people out there that are worth your time no matter what they're up to.
posted by divabat at 10:25 PM on July 29, 2012 [2 favorites]

I agree with The AV Club on why it's time to stop using white as a pejorative.

Just as a clarifying comment again (this stuff is pretty tricky to discuss online among strangers, I find): I feel like there's a difference between

1. using "white" as an observation ("white people [tend to do this thing and not that thing]";

2. using "white" as sort of an aesthetic pejorative, whether from a hipster standpoint ["oooh, [unhip thing] is so white and I am so perceptive to realize this!"] or from an observational standpoint ["white people and their ugly-ass fashions"]; and

3. using "white" as a critical observation ["white people are often socialized to believe that wealth is based on merit, not on luck or class background'; "white-dominated art forms tend to be more respected than art forms dominated by POC"]. Note that there's some overlap with 2 here, as in "white people and their obsession with all that ugly antebellum 'plantation' fashion, what the hell?"

I think the Onion is mostly concerned with "Pinterest is so white, amirite fellow hipsters?" and I think that what they describe acts as a really stupid kind of racial/cultural policing...that's often gendered as well. A lot of the things that are labeled as "so white" in hipster racial discourse are actually either not all that white, contested spaces (science fiction, for instance), or fairly harmless (Irish dance). A lot of those things are also either things that women like or things that nerdy white kids like. Things that macho, mainstream white kids like don't get interrogated as much even if there's a lot of racist crap there (like the kind of racist crap that certain white hip-hop fans have been known to engage in).

I think that "white" as a hipster pejorative insult is unhelpful and that "white" as an observational insult is probably most useful as satire, venting, bringing people together in criticism of white supremacy. (By which I mean that if someone is all like "white people are such godawful dancers, just look at those people!" it does not keep me from going dancing). But talking about what whiteness is and how it works - seriously or via comedy and satire - is extremely important. I think a lot of folks feel like that's rude, or that it's insulting instead of analytical to say that something is white.* One of the ways that science fiction has become less white (to take an example near to my heart) has been through discussion of whiteness in fandom, science fiction works and sort of the cultural assumptions of science fiction.

*And I think a lot of white folks confuse "the genetics that make one have pinky-beige skin" with "the way white people are socialized as White People in a racist society".
posted by Frowner at 2:56 PM on July 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

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