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The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics

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Probes into the ways that race determines life chances and structures experience in the contemporary United States. Addressing the common view that whiteness is a meaningless category of identity, this book aims to show that public policy and private prejudice insure that whites wind up on top of the social hierarchy.


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Probes into the ways that race determines life chances and structures experience in the contemporary United States. Addressing the common view that whiteness is a meaningless category of identity, this book aims to show that public policy and private prejudice insure that whites wind up on top of the social hierarchy.

30 review for The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics

  1. 4 out of 5

    Myriam

    This is a readable, engaging look at more than "whiteness" as a social construct but the ways in which those who benefit, presently and historically, from the construct possessively cling to its social currency, to the point, often, of delusional revisions of historical facts. Should be a must-read for anyone vested in progress in the USA, and in the erasure of "race" divides in the favor of respect for cultural diversity and social health. This is a readable, engaging look at more than "whiteness" as a social construct but the ways in which those who benefit, presently and historically, from the construct possessively cling to its social currency, to the point, often, of delusional revisions of historical facts. Should be a must-read for anyone vested in progress in the USA, and in the erasure of "race" divides in the favor of respect for cultural diversity and social health.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Robert Owen

    In the first century AD, the Greek astronomer Ptolemy devised an ingenious mathematical model for predicting planetary movements that was so remarkably accurate that its underlying assumptions became axioms of astronomical science for over a millennium. His status as the supreme master of Western astronomy ended only after Copernicus demolished the cornerstone of Ptolemy’s theoretical edifice by demonstrating that that the Earth was not, as Ptolemy had assumed, the center of the solar system and In the first century AD, the Greek astronomer Ptolemy devised an ingenious mathematical model for predicting planetary movements that was so remarkably accurate that its underlying assumptions became axioms of astronomical science for over a millennium. His status as the supreme master of Western astronomy ended only after Copernicus demolished the cornerstone of Ptolemy’s theoretical edifice by demonstrating that that the Earth was not, as Ptolemy had assumed, the center of the solar system and that the planets did not, as Ptolemy had insisted, dance courses of obediently orbiting pirouettes around our planet. Ptolemy’s model is a metaphor for the allure of self-aggrandizing theory and the extent to which even the most absurd nonsense can appear reasonable when it becomes inextricably and yet erroneously linked to a body of undeniable truths. Which leads me to George Lipsitz’s “Possessive Investment in Whiteness” – self-aggrandizing nonsense that takes on a sheen of reasonableness by virtue of it being brought into close proximity to a body of undeniable truths. Lipsitz’s basic approach to explaining black disadvantage is to recount the litany of means by which African American’s have been systemically short-changed within American society and, at the end of each uncontestably rotten thing done to them, state as a fact that the reason for this abuse is attributable to white American’s “possessive investment in whiteness”. Residential segregation resulting from the manipulation of real estate markets and the race conscious channeling of federal loan support available through the FHA and other government agencies towards white Americans and away from otherwise qualified black Americans – possessive investment in whiteness. Indifferent regard for environmental safeguards, concentration of toxic waste storage and the weak remediation efforts made in black communities – possessive investment in whiteness. Appallingly poor educational infrastructure made available to black children – possessive investment in whiteness. Limitations on career opportunities due to globalization, systems of mass incarceration designed to round up young black men and make them into felons, regressive taxes in the form of fees and fines visited disproportionately on black citizens living in segregated communities of color – each, the possessive investment in whiteness. This possessive investment in whiteness sounds like a pretty awful thing. Someone should get after that….y’know…..put a stop to it. The trouble is, of course, that because Lipsitz doesn’t quite go so far as actually explain precisely what this possessive investment in whiteness is or how it actually works, one is left, after finishing his book, at a loss for practical answers. Oh, to be sure, he explains with exceptional clarity and fidelity to the truth the litany of horrible things that have been, and continue to be done to blacks within American society; yet to correctly identify an effect is not the same thing as explaining that effect’s cause. By consistently linking a true effect to a posited cause without actually explaining the nature of that cause and the means by which it supposedly actuates its obnoxious effect, what he in essence does is engage in argument by the “if it walks like a duck” variety of self-aggrandizing innuendo. The crazy thing is that he could, of course, be correct; after all, if it walks like a duck, maybe it is a duck. My point is, however, that without presenting a fully fleshed out explanation of what this possessive investment is and how it works - one that is vetted through, among other means, a thorough analysis of all of its inevitable consequences if it should, indeed, be true as well as an honest consideration of at least superficially plausible alternative explanations - the incessantly quacking creature that we both see hissing at small children as it waddles down the street is as likely to be a duck as it is my loud and very unpleasant Aunt Loraine, right? If Lipsitz is going to set about positing theories of why things are as they are, he is (if he is to be believed) obliged to explain why his theory is correct and competing alternative theories are not. This, regrettably, maddeningly, he categorically fails to do. With this said, there is much about Lipsitz’s book that is worthwhile. In particular, he truly does a masterful job of cataloging and explaining the litany of awful things that are routinely done to communities of color. The enduring error of our time is that the bad sociological outcomes that are disproportionately visited upon American blacks are the result of black cultural pathologies and not the product of actual harmful things that have been routinely done to the members of those communities over the course of multiple generations. Lipsitz’s well explained catalog put the lie to this obnoxious fiction. Sadly, his rejoinder to specious claims of pervasive black cultural pathologies is an equally specious claim of pervasive white racial mendacity. Like the appearance of certain planets at certain places at certain times in the nighttime sky, the things that have been done to American communities of color over the course of generations are immutable, undeniable truths which must be acknowledged and thoroughly understood. Yet like Ptolemy, Lipsitz has linked undeniable truths to self-aggrandizing nonsense in a way that obscures, rather than illuminates, paths to true and meaningful progress. The truths are worth knowing, yet Lipsitz leaves it to others to make sense of them in any way that is helpful.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    An important subject and a good intro. I like when books begin This book argues that public policy and private prejudice work together to create a 'possesive investment in whiteness' that is responsible for the racialized hierarchies of our society. ... Whiteness has a cash value: it accounts for advantages that come to individuals through profits made from housing secured in discriminatory markets, though the unequal educational opportunities available to children of different races, through ins An important subject and a good intro. I like when books begin This book argues that public policy and private prejudice work together to create a 'possesive investment in whiteness' that is responsible for the racialized hierarchies of our society. ... Whiteness has a cash value: it accounts for advantages that come to individuals through profits made from housing secured in discriminatory markets, though the unequal educational opportunities available to children of different races, through insider networks that channel employment opportunities to the relatives and friends of those who profited most from present and past racial discrimination, and especially through intergenerational transfers of inherited wealth that pass on the spoils of discrimination to succeeding generations. I argue that white Americans are encouraged to invest in whiteness, to remain true to an identity that provides them with resources, power, and opportunity [vii]. So there it is in a nutshell – except I really must note that the above listed advantages are as lacking to poor white folks as folks of colour, so there is clearly more going on to provide all whites regardless of class more resources, power and opportunity (and he gets to that, but I can’t help but feel that this tardiness underlines the privilege he assumes in his audience). But if you're already on this page in life generally, some of this book might just get a little repetitive. If you're not, you should read it. Though I think I prefer Roediger. What this does is bring together a lot of people writing about this in a very narrative style that reads pretty easily. The first two chapters are my favourites in terms of theory roundup. Just in Chapter 1 you get an intro to racial hierarchies, that race is a cultural construct, that racism isn’t just a residue from the old days that is slowly eroding but is constantly being created anew, the devastation caused by environmental injustices and mass displacement of communities of colour through urban renewal and property valuation. Chapter 2 – a rundown of civil rights legislation and the way it has been eroded: ‘At every stage over the past fifty years, whites have responded to civil rights laws with coordinated collective politics characterized by resistance, refusal and renegotiation’ [25]. Yep. It continues to look at immigration, the connections between white masculinity and war, a more in depth look at the ways that (some) whites have inherited wealth and health. I do think it is worth distinguishing the ways in which all whites benefit from the system by virtue of skin colour without downplaying the other ways in which poor whites don’t. The cultural side I didn’t find so useful, and some of it really rubbed the wrong way. In looking at the ways that blues singer Robert Johnson has been mythologised and appropriated he discusses Walter Hill’s film Crossroads (in which Ralph Macchio is initiated into blues – not even a Karate Kid joke about this poor kid actor consistently cast as an appropriator of other cultures), Eric Clapton’s claiming of Johnson as spiritual ancestor (let me throw up in my mouth just a little there) and Walter Mosely’s RL’s Dream. Wait, hold on you say, Walter Mosely, a self-identifying-as-Black (there’s not much room for bi-raciality or even more intertwined identities in the book despite the introduction of hierarchies) writer of mostly ghetto life and crime in South Central and NY? You’re going to put Mosely in the middle of this messed-up-white-people-appropriating-Black-culture list? He did it though. I learned a lot about Dizzie Gillespie's run for office that was real cool, but then he goes on to talk about how Chester Himes tells a story about his family buying the first private automobile in the county, which provoked white folks so much they got his dad fired and forced the family to leave the state (! Jesus Christ. You can bet that involved a blacklist and also some threats and some guns and sheets in back of them, but we don't find out more about that). Moral of the story according to Himes is a Black man gets a big car, white men will hate him for it. Lipsitz writes ‘By translating an idiographic incident into a nomothetic generalization…Himes mischievously appropriates the language of social science to make a dramatic point’. Really? I don’t think there is anything mischievous about the moral of this story – which is still true as far as I can see – or about Himes himself, who writes fiction of bleakest humour and despair with almost no real hope of redemption for either race. He doesn’t need the language of social science to make that point any more dramatic. I also learned that Marcus Garvey and Ho Chi Minh were friends. Awesome. But really, what this book is best at is giving you the shape of arguments being made and where to go to further delve into them. The biggest absence is prisons, the criminalisation of young peoples of colour (and some poor white people but them not so much), police brutality and control...that surely is key to an overview such as this? So read Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow for that. I don't believe you can understand the privilege of whiteness without understanding the harassment, injustice and brutality (too often fatal) that peoples of colour have learned to expect from cops and the judicial system.

  4. 5 out of 5

    April

    Another book from my college days that I wanted to read in full before donating to declutter my collection. It's written in the 1990's, so demographics and issues were a little different back then compared to now. But not much, especially with Trump running for President now. This book gives insight into the history behind white privilege and how the possessive investment in whiteness does not serve us as a society that wants to progress. Things have changed enough that we elected our first (hal Another book from my college days that I wanted to read in full before donating to declutter my collection. It's written in the 1990's, so demographics and issues were a little different back then compared to now. But not much, especially with Trump running for President now. This book gives insight into the history behind white privilege and how the possessive investment in whiteness does not serve us as a society that wants to progress. Things have changed enough that we elected our first (half) black President, but 1960's Mississippi style race issues are definitely still prevalent today, especially being highlighted by police brutality against blacks. Interethnic collaboration remains important in progressing the agenda of all people. "The increased possessive investment in whiteness generated by disinvestment in U.S. cities, factories, and schools since the 1970s disguises as racial problems the general social problems posed by deindustrialization, economic restructuring, and neoconservative attacks on the welfare state. It fuels a discourse that demonizes people of color for being victimized by these changes, while hiding the privileges of whiteness by attributing the economic advantages enjoyed by whites to their family values, faith in fatherhood, and foresight--rather than to the favoritism they enjoy through their possessive investment in whiteness." pg. 18 "But the possessive investment in whiteness always affects individual and group life chances and opportunities. Even in cases where minority groups secure political and economic power through collective mobilization, the terms and conditions of their collectivity and the logic of group solidarity are always influenced and intensified by the absolute value of whiteness in U.S. politics, economics, and culture." pg. 22 "Our policies in the realm of antidiscrimination law conform to the analogy offered more than thirty years ago by Malcolm X. Challenging a reporter who suggested that the passage of civil rights legislation proved that things were improving in the United States, Malcolm X argued that it did not show improvement to stick a knife nine inches into someone, pull it out six inches, and then call that progress. Pulling the knife all the way out would not be progress either. Only healing the wound that the knife had caused would show improvement. 'But some people,' Malcolm X observed, 'don't even want to admit the knife is there.'" pg. 46 "Blaming the state's fiscal woes on immigrants rather than taking responsibility for the ruinous effects of a decade and a half of irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthy coupled with disinvestment in education and infrastructure enabled the state's political leaders and wealthy citizens to divert attention away from their own failures. They knew full well that Proposition 187 and the many schemes that surfaced in its wake to deny social services, health care, and education to undocumented and even documented immigrants would have no effect on the numbers of migrants coming to the United States, most of whom migrate in order to escape even greater austerity in their home countries. They knew that the state would lose more money in federal aid (to education based on school enrollment, for example) than it would save by cutting off benefits to undocumented workers and their families, that denying medical treatment to people in need of care would cause more financial and social damage to the state through unchecked epidemics and untreated diseases than such measures would save in tax revenues." pg. 48 "The advocates of surrendering national sovereignty and self-determination to transnational corporations rely on cultural stories of wounded national pride, of unfair competition from abroad, of subversion from within by feminists and aggrieved racial minorities, of social disintegration attributed not to systematic disinvestment in the United States but to the behavior of immigrants and welfare recipients. Thus we find ourselves saturated with stories extolling American national glory told by internationalists who seek to export jobs and capital overseas while dismantling the institutions offering opportunity and upward mobility to ordinary citizens in the United States." pg. 73 "But the state also creates those very family and gender roles in a myriad of ways: the state licenses marriages and legislates permissible sexual practices, regulates labor, commerce, and communication, and allocates welfare benefits, housing subsidies, and tax deductions to favor some forms of family life over others. Just as the state uses gender roles and family obligations to compel behavior that serves its interests, powerful private interests also use the state to create, define, and defend gender roles and family forms consistent with their own goals." pg. 76 "This strategy [of viewing all subsequent problems in U.S. society through the lens of the Vietnam War] not only prevents us from learning the lessons of Vietnam, but even more seriously, it prevents us from coming to grips with quite real current crises--the consequences of deindustrialization and economic restructuring, the demise of whole communities and their institutions, and the social and moral bankruptcy of a market economy that promotes materialism, greed, and selfishness, that makes every effort to assure the freedom and mobility of capital while relegating human beings to ever more limited life chances and opportunities." pg. 82 "Stagnation of real wages, automation-generated unemployment, the evisceration of the welfare state, threats to intergenerational upward mobility, privatization of public resources, and polarization by class, race, and gender have altered the nature of individual and collective life in this country. At the same time, the aggrandizement of property rights over human rights has promoted greed, materialism, and narcissism focused on consumer goods, personal pleasure, and immediate gratification." pg. 83 "...for communities of color in the United States, the Vietnam War (like previous conflicts) sharpened contradictions and accelerated demands for civil rights from soldiers who saw themselves asked to fight and possibly die overseas for freedoms that they did not enjoy at home." pg. 94 "[Robert Johnson] was humiliated because of both his class and his race in a context where brutal police officers, lynch mobs, and labor exploitation combined to shape the contours of his existence. He may not have met the devil at a crossroads at midnight, but he certainly met the devil every morning at six A.M. when he had to say 'Good morning, boss.' Leaving home for him was not a romantic venture into the lonely life of the artist, but a way out of the constraints of a racialized class system." pg. 125 "In the face of the most brutal forms of repression and the most sinister measures of surveillance, [the enslaved Africans in the American South] kept part of Africa alive in America. African retentions helped them understand their captivity as a crime; it encouraged them to resist the European American ideology that defamed them as less than human, that attributed their subordination to their own nature rather than to the historical actions of their oppressors." pg. 130 "How does a country that has spent most of the past twenty years exploiting its poor children in order to feed the greed of the rich justify itself to itself? How do politicians and public relations flacks who promise to return us to family values explain their participation in the construction of a casino economy that brings an apocalypse on the installment plan to inner-city families? The answer to both questions is to blame the victims, to channel middle-class fears into a sadistic and vindictive crusade that racializes the poor and then blames them for their powerlessness." pg. 144 "Most important, the most sophisticated social scientific studies show that while neither poverty nor racial discrimination alone cause crime, aggressive acts of violence are more likely to emanate from people under conditions of poverty, racial discrimination, and inequality. As Judith and Peter Blau observed nearly twenty years ago, '[A]ggressive acts of violence seem to result not so much from lack of advantages as from being taken advantage of.'" pg. 147 "The significance of marginalized peoples to cultural studies does not lie in their marginality, but rather in the role that marginalization (not to mention oppression and suppression) plays in shaping intellectual and cultural categories that affect everyone. . .these books turn to the perspectives of aggrieved individuals and communities not because of who such individuals and groups are, but because of how they have been treated and what they have learned in the process." pg. 179 "It makes every moment a moment of danger, not just because of the potential for explosions of violence like the Los Angeles rebellion of 1992, but because of the ruined lives, wasted talents, and corrupt interpersonal and social relations that racism causes. But the very danger that racism represents can serve constructive ends if it motivates us to create new ways of knowing and acting." pg. 182 "'[M]any a Negro throughout the country felt a sense of apprehension always experienced in the face of oppression: Today them, tomorrow us. For once the precedent had been established of dealing with persons on the basis of race or creed, none of us could consider ourselves safe from future 'security' measures. This interethnic solidarity among aggrieved racial groups was one of the main products of the World War II experience and one of its most important postwar legacies." pg. 198 "Minority students with slightly lower test scores or grade point averages are often better students than those who score above them because they achieve results under more difficult conditions. Minority student are concentrated in the schools with the least funding, the fewest experienced teachers, and the sparsest resources. They are less likely than their white counterparts to have the money to enable them to take standardized tests over and over again so that their scores improve, to purchase the expensive courses that private entrepreneurs offer to boost scores on standardized tests, and to be in schools that offer advanced placement and other enrichment courses that colleges value in making decisions about admissions." pg. 222 "With one stroke of the pen, the regents turned the state's best law school into a provincial place unable to offer its students a cosmopolitan and diverse atmosphere. 'That's the bad news, yes,' conceded Ward Connerly, who then protested that '[n]o one talks about the good news, that fourteen black students were admissible and, if they had chosen to attend, no one would have questioned their right to be there.' He expressed no concern over the loss to all of the students incurred by learning the law in a segregated environment, no concern over an admissions policy that demands that minority taxpayers subsidize the educations of those who successfully discriminate against them, and no concern that the $3.6 million that Connerly and his allies spent on Proposition 209 to protect the possessive investment in whiteness might have been better spent on improving the educational opportunities and resource available to minorities if better education had actually been their goal." pg. 226 "If inner-city minority student drop out of school, take drugs, join gangs, and commit crimes, the state is willing to spend huge amounts of money on prisons for them. But if they work hard, succeed in school, and have ambition, the state is willing to hand them the equivalent of Moms Mabley's Chinese newspaper [increasing obstacles to being successful]." pg. 228 "But we know better. The problem with white people is not our whiteness, but our possessive investment in it. Created by politics, culture, and consciousness, our possessive investment in whiteness can be altered by those same processes, but only if we face the hard facts openly and honestly and admit that whiteness is a matter of interests as well as attitudes, that it has more to do with property than with pigment. Not all believers in white supremacy are white. All whites do not have to be white supremacists. But the possessive investment in whiteness is a matter of behavior as well as belief." pg. 233

  5. 5 out of 5

    Isaac Velazquez

    Recommend by one of my professors. There’s a good balance of testimonials and research. I think the author has a very thorough understanding of the dynamics of black culture and universal truths that go without question or evaluation in the black community the depth of his insight actually was quite impressive.. buttt while I definitely think his insight is applicable he didn’t convince me of his main point which is that white privileges are held as priority over allocation of economic resources Recommend by one of my professors. There’s a good balance of testimonials and research. I think the author has a very thorough understanding of the dynamics of black culture and universal truths that go without question or evaluation in the black community the depth of his insight actually was quite impressive.. buttt while I definitely think his insight is applicable he didn’t convince me of his main point which is that white privileges are held as priority over allocation of economic resources and opportunities in predominantly black communities. I think with a subject as sensitive as this he needs to highlight the economic aspects of his message and rely less on tearjerk testimonials. Also by the end I was hoping for a plan of action but I was let down by the all to often rehearsed “this is a problem with society that we need to bring awareness too” end of the book. George Lipsitz is a professor that has practically centered all of his published work around racial inequality soooo idk I just expected more by the end of the book. Also it wasn’t a long enough book. I sort of take this into account only when dealing with subjects that require an overwhelming amount of research to convince any politically polar opposite readers.

  6. 4 out of 5

    J.P.

    This book is all about how the U.S. protects whiteness & elevates it above all else. It is a demonstration that racism is more than lynching & calling someone a nigger. It shows how subtle, abstract & pervasive racism is & why it is so difficult for almost everyone to grapple with. It is not something that is static, it changes, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes in obvious ways, but it is always changing, which adds to the difficulty of eradicating it. The history of discrimination in housing This book is all about how the U.S. protects whiteness & elevates it above all else. It is a demonstration that racism is more than lynching & calling someone a nigger. It shows how subtle, abstract & pervasive racism is & why it is so difficult for almost everyone to grapple with. It is not something that is static, it changes, sometimes in subtle ways, sometimes in obvious ways, but it is always changing, which adds to the difficulty of eradicating it. The history of discrimination in housing is explored, showing that while racists words were never explicitly written into laws that were supposed to be about making the acquisition of housing fair, restrictive covenants outside of the law, both written & unwritten, were enforced & were not unknown to the proper authorities. The far reaching effects of this, such as social programs to benefit those not so well off, money for schools & investment & how all of that were steered away from minorities is made painfully clear. Civil Rights laws had instant backlash & many of them were made to benefit the very people who made them necessary in the first place, white people. Lipsitz points out the hypocrisy of using minorities to fight in wars against people who have done no wrong to them & the supposedly give them the same rights & freedoms that they themselves cannot enjoy in the same country that they are supposedly fighting for. Minority soldiers were denied health benefits & opportunities for jobs & housing that were supposed to be for soldiers returning home from war. In all of this, various minorities who encounter white supremacy & racism in various ways can & were used against one another & other times were made to come together. Each situation differed & depended upon who perceived what as a benefit. Some groups fought to be identified as white, understanding the value of it in this society as opposed to fighting to eradicate racism & prejudice. This dismantles the very tired argument about other groups once considered minorities who have encountered fewer obstacles to upward mobility. If they could pass as white, they would fight for the benefit of being labeled as such, be they Asian, Jewish, Irish, Hispanic, etc. There is a chapter dedicated to how whiteness, being valued in this society, translates to land & property that can be transferred to future generations, allowing some families to prosper & since minorities face discrimination in this regard, are unable to move their families up & give them the means to stay there & possibly continue to move up in society. There is time given to the notion of "reverse racism" via things like Affirmative Action & how this is somehow misconstrued as an undue benefit as opposed to a way to combat exclusion. In addition to that, attention is given to how holding such a view while ignoring how many benefit from school or job opportunities because a parent or other relative attended a place or knows someone is hypocritical to say the least. In the latter chapters especially, there is much attention given to cultural appropriation & how the narrative around a popular black artist or performer or certain aspects of black culture & other cultures are taken & distorted in ways that allow them to be commodified & comfortable consumed. There is a chapter on identity politics & how certain images are chosen in the media that are only ostensibly combatants to racism & sources of pride but when one probes deeper they really only reinforce racism & assuage liberal guilt. Time is also given to how black people especially, have in their own creative ways, been able to communicate their realities via music, poetry, film etc., since they were excluded from other professions that would allow them to do so. The culture & history of California & New Orleans, the latter in light if Hurricane Katrina, are given two separate chapters to show recent events that clearly demonstrate that the assault on minorities & the poor never waned. Overall, this is a good book. It demonstrates the reality of race in this country. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to understand how racism is abstract & evolving.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tara Brabazon

    Five Stars. No doubt. Five Stars. To understand why Obama was replaced by Trump, this monograph provides the answer. I've taught theories of whiteness for twenty years. The key to grasp in understanding whiteness, is that white people gain from being the unmarked sign. We gain from being an academic, a writer, a speaker or singer, rather than a black academic, a black writer, a black speaker or a black singer. We move through life without question. That is the 'possessive investment' in whitenes Five Stars. No doubt. Five Stars. To understand why Obama was replaced by Trump, this monograph provides the answer. I've taught theories of whiteness for twenty years. The key to grasp in understanding whiteness, is that white people gain from being the unmarked sign. We gain from being an academic, a writer, a speaker or singer, rather than a black academic, a black writer, a black speaker or a black singer. We move through life without question. That is the 'possessive investment' in whiteness. If whiteness is critique then the scaffolding of power and cultural value collapse. So whiteness re-establishes its 'natural' order. The black president - rather than the president - was the 'oddity.' Read this. Feel the horror. Fell the humiliation. Think about whiteness, rather than displacing the discomfort onto blackness.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Patrick F

    This book is one of the best books I've ever read. If you want to dive into a historical, academic, and nuanced look into racial relations and institutional racism throughout the history of the U.S.A. - with an intense focus on post-WWII all the way up until post-Katrina Americ - pick up this book. I must say that this book makes me upset regarding school curriculum. This book is one of the best books I've ever read. If you want to dive into a historical, academic, and nuanced look into racial relations and institutional racism throughout the history of the U.S.A. - with an intense focus on post-WWII all the way up until post-Katrina Americ - pick up this book. I must say that this book makes me upset regarding school curriculum.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Genesee Rickel

    I read chapter 1 for a book club. I think this book pairs well with "White Trash" and provides succinct points and evidence of systemic racism. Good info for folks who deny privilege! I plan on reading it cover to cover (hence no stars right now). I read chapter 1 for a book club. I think this book pairs well with "White Trash" and provides succinct points and evidence of systemic racism. Good info for folks who deny privilege! I plan on reading it cover to cover (hence no stars right now).

  10. 4 out of 5

    BMR, LCSW

    This book is FIRE! I read a lot of non-fiction, and I read a lot about race, class, gender, ethnicity, etc. I learned SO MUCH from this book, that I never knew previously. It really is genius. James Baldwin is quoted before nearly every chapter, and perfectly sets the tone for the next topic. This book is a perfect companion to Dr. Carol Anderson's book White Rage. Too little attention is paid to racism not of the White/Black variety. Other ethnicities are mentioned, there is a fantastic chapter This book is FIRE! I read a lot of non-fiction, and I read a lot about race, class, gender, ethnicity, etc. I learned SO MUCH from this book, that I never knew previously. It really is genius. James Baldwin is quoted before nearly every chapter, and perfectly sets the tone for the next topic. This book is a perfect companion to Dr. Carol Anderson's book White Rage. Too little attention is paid to racism not of the White/Black variety. Other ethnicities are mentioned, there is a fantastic chapter on Latinx concerns, but not enough of it throughout the book. The Chinese Exclusion Act(s) and Executive Order 9066 are mentioned, but there is SO MUCH more that could have been included, which lost it one star. Recommended for everyone who doesn't understand that racism is not limited to individual acts or what's in someone's heart. People don't have to be racist, or even support racism, to benefit from entrenched, structural racism.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jenn "JR"

    Comprehensive, thorough, well documented -- "The Possessive Investment in Whiteness" is a very detailed examination of the mechanisms in US culture that keep racism in place and deprive us of the compassion so many of us might claim to possess. White people are trained to stop hearing when what other people are experiencing threatens their own reality. Lipsitz provides so many examples across history, and even of examples where people of color have acted to serve white supremacy. "Malcolm X used Comprehensive, thorough, well documented -- "The Possessive Investment in Whiteness" is a very detailed examination of the mechanisms in US culture that keep racism in place and deprive us of the compassion so many of us might claim to possess. White people are trained to stop hearing when what other people are experiencing threatens their own reality. Lipsitz provides so many examples across history, and even of examples where people of color have acted to serve white supremacy. "Malcolm X used to say that racism is like a Cadillac : they make a new model every year . The racism of 2018 differs from the racism of 1964 , and consequently needs to be analyzed , interpreted , addressed , and redressed accordingly."

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Interesting analysis of the ways that white people benefit from their whiteness and work hard to protect it. So many challenge affirmative action as unfair but do not bat an eye at legacy admissions and property and tax policies that benefit whites. Very important book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Xiomara

    This work is an amazing assessment of white privilege! Lipsitz makes "racism" a phenomenon that can detected and tracked. This work is an amazing assessment of white privilege! Lipsitz makes "racism" a phenomenon that can detected and tracked.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    AMAZING. I thought I had a clue, but reading this... *fans self* ... I learned SO much. Fifty years of American institutional racism just laid right out there. From unenforceable laws to refusal to enforce the laws that did exist; government agencies, universities, police forces, Realtors, banks; this system works from the top, down, and back up again.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jon Wlasiuk

    Lipsitz is best in using his own voice to communicate the UN acknowledged privileges of whiteness to a general audience. Unmasking the hidden workings of whiteness is perhaps this book’s greatest contribution. The necessity of providing evidence to preempt critics unfortunately buries the reader in an avalanche of statistics and dulls Lipsitz’s best points.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Josh Brown

    Full review here: http://www.originalpositions.com/2017... Full review here: http://www.originalpositions.com/2017...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Argues policy and individual prejudice combine to create value in whiteness through a series of essays. Uses a variety of sources including law and pop culture

  18. 5 out of 5

    Katherine Watkins

    A must read! Really opens your eyes! White fragility is a good start, but this goes even deeper. Lots of good quotes to use.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Quin Rich

    In The Possessive Investment in Whiteness, George Lipsitz sets out to chart the historical development and contemporary maintenance of white supremacy in the United States. Focusing on the specific ways in which whites enrich themselves through processes of racial oppression, discrimination, and exploitation, the Possessive Investment in Whiteness reveals the mechanisms of white racial domination, such as segregated housing, and places them in their appropriate historical context. The book also In The Possessive Investment in Whiteness, George Lipsitz sets out to chart the historical development and contemporary maintenance of white supremacy in the United States. Focusing on the specific ways in which whites enrich themselves through processes of racial oppression, discrimination, and exploitation, the Possessive Investment in Whiteness reveals the mechanisms of white racial domination, such as segregated housing, and places them in their appropriate historical context. The book also links US domestic white supremacy to US imperialism abroad. Lipsitz further continually returns to the efforts people of color to challenge white supremacy. A wide-ranging text, Lipsitz engages with fields from sociology and history to cultural studies to address a number of topics. The book does an excellent job of linking racial formations and white supremacist politics to the political economy and the shifts in transnational capitalism. In this way the book has a vaguely Marxist inflection, which at times I appreciated and at others I found to distract from Lipsitz's analysis of white supremacy. Beyond this I have three quibbles with the book: 1. It often lapses into a universalist humanism that feels distinctly out of place in a book about white supremacy. Lipsitz repeatedly makes the point that not all adherent to white supremacist ideology are white themselves nor are all white people adherents to such ideology. While this is true as far as it goes, Lipsitz sometimes talks in broad generalities about "hatred" and "fear," which (if read by a particularly ungenerous audience) could seem to be advocating for a kind of race neutral approach to ending white supremacy (quite the paradox indeed). I think this is in part linked to the aim of the book to appeal to (potentially) anti-racist white folks and to the Marxist "working class" analysis favored by Lipsitz. Thankfully, Lipsitz more than makes up for the rhetorical maneuvers, but this is still worth highlighting. 2. This book offers a wide ranging overview of a number of topics in anti-racist thought, but doesn't always explore them in the depth I would have liked them too. For example. while Lipsitz does an admirable job of explaining the role that housing segregation plays in maintaining white supremacy, he doesn't go into the detail I was hoping for. Thankfully, Lipsitz is always careful to direct the reader to other works that (I assume) offer greater depth and detail on a given topic. In this way, this book is a good starting point for navigating the vibrant and engaging field of antiracist political and social scholarship. 3. Some chapters in this text simply felt out of place. At points, I felt like I was reading a collection of essays generally organized around the theme of white identity politics and (resisting) white supremacy, yet the book makes no indication that it is an anthology. Some chapters feel out of place, others seem to wander wildly from topic to topic, only loosely tying things up at the end. While the book was certainly interesting and insightful, I was expecting (from the Goodreads description at least) something akin to a structural/political economic analysis of contemporary white supremacy, or perhaps a historical account of the same. While this book includes elements of both of those, it also discusses a number of other (important!) topics, and from several theoretical perspectives. Thus, if you are looking for a political economy of contemporary white supremacy, this book is an excellent introduction to that field of scholarship. However, you will have to follow up on the many wonderful book suggestions made within, as Lipsitz only provides a comprehensive overview of such. In Sum: An excellent introduction to a number of different theoretical perspectives on US white supremacy and resistance to it, offering numerous helpful sugggestions for further reading. But it feel somewhat introductory or lacking in depth at times. Worth a read for all interested in challenging racism and fighting for social justice and equality.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jamia

    Lipsitz contests the idea that white supremacy exists only in the minds of extremists on the margins. He acknowledges racism’s insidious and persistent nature, explaining how systems of oppression impose barriers to political agency for people of color on a daily basis stating: Whiteness emerged as a relevant category in American life largely because of realities created by slavery and segregation, by immigration restriction and Indian policy, by conquest and colonialism. A fictive identity of “ Lipsitz contests the idea that white supremacy exists only in the minds of extremists on the margins. He acknowledges racism’s insidious and persistent nature, explaining how systems of oppression impose barriers to political agency for people of color on a daily basis stating: Whiteness emerged as a relevant category in American life largely because of realities created by slavery and segregation, by immigration restriction and Indian policy, by conquest and colonialism. A fictive identity of “whiteness” appeared in law as an abstraction, and became actualized in everyday life in many ways. American economic and political life gave different racial groups unequal access to citizenship and property while cultural practices including wild west shows, minstrel shows, , racist images in advertising, and Hollywood films institutionalized racism by uniting ethnically diverse European American Audiences into an imagined community—one called into being through inscribed appeals to the solidarity of white supremacy. (370) George Lipsitz’s intervention into the whiteness studies dialogue challenges the conventional notion that whiteness lacks meaning as an identity grouping. Lipsitz demonstrates how covert inequality and public policy work together to guarantee white hegemony. Lipsitz explores how legislation has been historically formed to exclude people of color from gaining access to what is commonly considered valuable in America including asset accumulation, workplace protection, social capital, political empowerment, and housing and educational equity. He also shows how people of color have been historically disempowered in the telling of their own narrative, robbed of their right to give their candid account of history without consequences. Lipsitz challenges widely accepted notions of reified meritocracy, pointing to how white privilege exists and thrives based on institutionalized unearned allocations of resources and privileges. He argues that simply revealing the existence of these inequalities falls short; he insists that individuals benefiting from their undeserved privilege should be responsible for dismantling the system.

  21. 5 out of 5

    T. Smith

    Overall, great material and cultural analyses. Clearly and engagingly written. My only major concern is that at times the author comes close to subsuming race to class, although elsewhere he makes clear that race is its own thing. I had minor quibbles with a couple of his non-central contentions. For example: p. 83, "as capital becomes more...mobile, people have become less...mobile." The experience of mobility in the US is not monolithic. Yes, the federal government has cracked down on cross-bor Overall, great material and cultural analyses. Clearly and engagingly written. My only major concern is that at times the author comes close to subsuming race to class, although elsewhere he makes clear that race is its own thing. I had minor quibbles with a couple of his non-central contentions. For example: p. 83, "as capital becomes more...mobile, people have become less...mobile." The experience of mobility in the US is not monolithic. Yes, the federal government has cracked down on cross-border mobility of poor people (particularly Latinos) seeking job opportunities in the US. And, more to his point in that section, many poor people do not have the means to move to areas of greater opportunity - a point Massey and Denton drive home in their book, American Apartheid (which Lipsitz cites elsewhere). On the other hand, stats seem to indicate that people here are less likely to live in one place all their lives than previous generations. Rural economic depression pushes young people to move to cities. (The same is true for Mexican agricultural workers whose livelihoods were devastated by NAFTA and other so-called free trade agreements, explaining why so many now seek service-industry and other low-wage jobs in the US.) A volatile white collar labor market (downsizing, outsourcing) forces middle class professionals to follow jobs from one city to another. So his assertion is true for some segments of the country, but is not true as a blanket statement. Again, the points that I take issue with in the book are not central, and do not significantly detract from the book's overall usefulness for anyone interested in learning about how race operates and the institutions and systems that perpetuate it.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I first read this book in 2006 or 2007 and just re-read it this week. It's better than I remember it being--and also a bit more caustic than I remember. Many of the chapters would be very good for teaching a course on race and racism in America. However, they would need to be supplemented with something like Black Wealth/White Wealth, as Lipsitz doesn't spend a lot of time going over how whites profit from structural racism and identity politics. He demonstrates that whiteness and white supremac I first read this book in 2006 or 2007 and just re-read it this week. It's better than I remember it being--and also a bit more caustic than I remember. Many of the chapters would be very good for teaching a course on race and racism in America. However, they would need to be supplemented with something like Black Wealth/White Wealth, as Lipsitz doesn't spend a lot of time going over how whites profit from structural racism and identity politics. He demonstrates that whiteness and white supremacy pervade our culture--but a bit more of the focus (for my taste) should be on the institutions that benefit whites and their white supremacist results. I would have preferred a bit more of that and a bit less of the pop-culture/art chapters. But that's just me. Overall a wonderful book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lily

    Again, a glimpse into a whole nother genre. This time race and ethnic studies. My favorite chapter was the first one, which shared the same title as the book. It was about racism in housing discrimination, urban development, and economic restructuring. The last few chapters-- no, the entire second half of the book-- just started to cover very discrete topics. Still it was good to touch on each of them. Again, I didn't know at times what the main subject was, so it was kind of abstract to me. But Again, a glimpse into a whole nother genre. This time race and ethnic studies. My favorite chapter was the first one, which shared the same title as the book. It was about racism in housing discrimination, urban development, and economic restructuring. The last few chapters-- no, the entire second half of the book-- just started to cover very discrete topics. Still it was good to touch on each of them. Again, I didn't know at times what the main subject was, so it was kind of abstract to me. But now I'll pay attention of I ever intersect with blues by Robert Johnson or art by Renee Stout.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Douglas

    This text would be required reading in my racism course! It reveals a history of the sociocultural structures of white supremacy and privilege in ways that are appropriately disturbing for members of this dominant culture. Lipsitz's social, historical and cultural analyses are well researched and his work shows that the U.S. is a long way from being the egalitarian society in which race does not determine one's life chances and choices. If I was not retired from the classroom, my students would This text would be required reading in my racism course! It reveals a history of the sociocultural structures of white supremacy and privilege in ways that are appropriately disturbing for members of this dominant culture. Lipsitz's social, historical and cultural analyses are well researched and his work shows that the U.S. is a long way from being the egalitarian society in which race does not determine one's life chances and choices. If I was not retired from the classroom, my students would read this text.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Bridget

    This is an excellent place to begin if you want to expand your knowledge of how institutionalized racism has gone undercover, yet is still incredibly prevalent in the U.S. Very informative and enraging, but an important read especially for white people who continue to remain invisible and wonder why we can't just all get along. This is an excellent place to begin if you want to expand your knowledge of how institutionalized racism has gone undercover, yet is still incredibly prevalent in the U.S. Very informative and enraging, but an important read especially for white people who continue to remain invisible and wonder why we can't just all get along.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    Molly Ivins once wrote of George W. Bush that he was a man who thought he hit a home run when he was born on third base. Lipsitz shows how this mindset has permeated the white, middle class and is central to the reproduction of systemic racism in the post-Civil Rights era US. This book will get you angry in productive ways.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Loreldonaghey Donaghey

    Adriana says this is a must read for over-privileged white people and that social service workers have to know about and acknowledge this concept. It's a screed for sure - not bedtime reading. So far I don't disbelieve him, but I'm not convinced about the amount of deliberate motivation involved. I finished it and he still didn't convince me of the motivation. Adriana says this is a must read for over-privileged white people and that social service workers have to know about and acknowledge this concept. It's a screed for sure - not bedtime reading. So far I don't disbelieve him, but I'm not convinced about the amount of deliberate motivation involved. I finished it and he still didn't convince me of the motivation.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mariah

    "The possessive investment in whiteness has its origins entrenched in racialized U.S. history by exterminating native Indians, enslavement of black people, segregation and discrimination policies to keep resources away from anyone who did not fall into the category of American definition of White". Lipsitz, George Wow I love history. That sums up my review. Must read. "The possessive investment in whiteness has its origins entrenched in racialized U.S. history by exterminating native Indians, enslavement of black people, segregation and discrimination policies to keep resources away from anyone who did not fall into the category of American definition of White". Lipsitz, George Wow I love history. That sums up my review. Must read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Lipsitz inverts many of the existing studies of racism in America to look at the role of whiteness. Interestingly, his new (and very much an afterthought) chapter on New Orleans is titled "Change the Focus and Reverse the Hypnosis" and goes on "shift the focus from the richest to the brokest." Is this his task? Does he succeed in it? Lipsitz inverts many of the existing studies of racism in America to look at the role of whiteness. Interestingly, his new (and very much an afterthought) chapter on New Orleans is titled "Change the Focus and Reverse the Hypnosis" and goes on "shift the focus from the richest to the brokest." Is this his task? Does he succeed in it?

  30. 5 out of 5

    Claire Melanie

    This is a fantastic book which clearly explains how white privilege has been constructed and how it maintains its hegemony. Very well-written, very convincing and intelligent. Also loved the occasional moments of sarcasm he worked in. Cannot recommend this enough.

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