The “white people are square and bland” gag is an old one, and for the most part, it’s both harmless and healthy.
But increasingly, people aren’t sniping about “whiteness” to be funny, or even defiant—at least not entirely. They’re using the term as a form of criticism, meant to be dismissive. “That movie looks very white,” or, “That sounds like music for white people,” is another way of saying, “That can’t be any good.” And I do have a problem with that.
Noel Murray of The Onion’s A.V. Club, in his article “Our ‘white people problems’ problem: Why it’s time to stop using ‘white’ as a pejorative.”
He’s wrong. The old gag he describes is neither harmless nor healthy, and that’s not because it gives short shrift to white people.
The problem with the equation of whiteness to blandness is that it rests on the privileged position of whiteness as the default, invisible ethnicity/race/cultural orientation. Assigning the values of “cool” and (always embarrassingly) “street cred” to non-white ethnicities on a scale that posits darkest Blackness as the apex of ineffable, inscrutable hipness and palest whiteness as known, comfortable, and dull (and other visible ethnicities arbitrarily here and there between the two) is part of keeping white skin normalized, safe, and implicitly trusted. It’s like how you think it’s dorky of your dad to make a joke in front of your friends. You aren’t othering your dad - your dad embarrasses you because he represents you.
Jokes about white people being nerds by default are not anti-white. They are white supremacist.
(Except when Richard Pryor makes them, but guys we are not all Richard Pryor out here I’m sorry to say.)