Friday, April 4, 2008

Friday Five: 5 “American” terms that are code for “white”

I know that we said that we are reserving Wednesdays to post on White History Month, but I just couldn't resist. Like most black people, I am very aware of race and language in popular culture. To kick of White History Month, I have decided to celebrate one of white people's rich cultural traditions, namely, white language. I've compiled a list of five terms that use “America” but are actually code for “white people.”

1.) All-American

Any time this word is used as an adjective and it isn’t in the context of high school or college sports, you can rest assured that it’s describing a white person.

e.g. All-American girl, All-American boy, All-American family.

2.) America’s sweetheart

While it is supposed to signal beauty and innocence, it is reserved for young white women.

e.g. “Oh, Jennifer Aniston, we love you! You truly are America’s sweetheart.”

3.) Middle America

This and its cousin “The Heartland” (which brings to mind Nazi Vaterland), rests upon the idealization of such noble “middle American values” as maintaining peaceful towns, promoting family values, and educating children. These pathologies are not limited to white people or those in the Midwest, of course, but whiteness as ideological, practical purity is definitely a subtext of the term “Middle America.”

4.) Red-blooded American male

This one is supposed to signal fierce heterosexuality and manliness, but it almost always signals popular straight white male desire.

e.g. “What red-blooded American male doesn’t find the Olson Twins hot?” Uh, maybe ones who aren’t into the stick figure junkie troll look?

5.) Americana

I have a handful of rules about cultural critics: never trust one who 1) attaches the prefix “post” to musical genres; 2) romanticizes “the golden age” of anything, or 3) uses the word “Americana” with a straight face. Technically, jazz falls under the Americana rubric, but it’s usually the toothless, bastardized forms performed by inoffensive white artists. It is Bob Costas’ bullshit about the purity of baseball before it was fully integrated. It is bland, suburban-approved art. But “Americana” is at root, a product of condescending pseudo-intellectuals who try to advertise their appreciation of common “folk art” (sound familiar?)

Bonus: U.S.A.! (chanted)

If you hear white people chanting “U.S.A.” and you’re not at a sporting event, you are assed out!



Thank you for this post!

This is sooo very true! I have a few more to add to that list.

"is from a good neighborhood"
(code for white neighborhood)

"educated in private schools"
"educated in exclusive schools"
(code for white schools)

I could go on and on! LOL

Lisa Vazquez

Pamalicious said...

Wheww Wee you hit this on the head!

badass brown girl said...

well damn.

and here i was thinking that since i now reside in the cornfields of the heartland that i had finally been integrated into americana.

thanx for keeping it real for me!