Friday, July 10, 2015

I'm White, Oh So White by Patty Larkin (1990) Offers Humor to Address the Representation of Whiteness

With good reason, we talk (and joke) a lot about what it means to be Black, or Native American, or Hispanic or Asian, or a member of any given historically disadvantaged racial or ethnic group in the United States. But how often do we explore what it means to be white, in humor or in social studies?
Folk singer Patty Larkin laments being "a bit uptight... on account of I'm white."

One punch line answer to that question is, “All the time,” of course, since history and popular culture in America are dominated by white privilege. However, it’s rare to call out being white as an identity with its own stereotypes, group commonalities and limiting expectations—and rarer to do it in a funny and self-deprecating way, as (white) folk singer Patty Larkin does in this 1990 live track. An analysis of this song could make an interesting opening activity for a unit on racial and ethnic identity in a high school or college media class for mostly white groups of learners as well as for mixed groups or groups with mostly one other ethnicity (perhaps a welcome change to see a white person aware, and mildly critical, of her whiteness).

Click on highlighted lyrics above for discussion ideas, or sign in to Genius to add your own comments to the annotation.

[AFTER THE JUMP, some backstory on how this song came up recently, and a brief reflection on the importance of studying media representations of white identity]