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

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  747 ratings  ·  39 reviews
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.
Paperback, 296 pages
Published June 30th 1998 by Temple University Press (first published June 1st 1998)
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4.22  · 
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 ·  747 ratings  ·  39 reviews


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Myriam
Jul 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Robert Owen
May 31, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: inequality, race
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 ...more
Andrea
Dec 02, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: race
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
...more
April
Jun 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
J.P.
Feb 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 discrimina ...more
Tara Brabazon
Apr 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Patrick F
Sep 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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.

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).
BMR, LCSW
Dec 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Jennifer
Jul 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
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.
Xiomara
This work is an amazing assessment of white privilege! Lipsitz makes "racism" a phenomenon that can detected and tracked.
Jessica
Oct 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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.
Josh Brown
Dec 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
Quin Rich
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jamia
May 14, 2008 added it
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 “
...more
T. Smith
Jul 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
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 ...more
Lily
Apr 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Douglas
Jan 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Bridget
Jan 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mariah
Oct 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"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.
Lisa
Feb 22, 2016 rated it really liked 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?
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.
Andy
Oct 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing

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.
Claire Melanie
Sep 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Redpoet
Sep 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really thought the first two thirds of the book were good and looked at ( explained and documented well) the whole notion of white skin privilege, of the real material advantages white people receive by being classified as white. The last third, less so, though you might enjoy it.
Jordan
Dec 22, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're already well-versed in white privilege, then you only need to read the first couple chapters-- and those are well worth the read.
emi
May 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
not the sexiest title or cover design, but nonetheless one of my favorites. a wonderful resource!
Kyle
Aug 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It's worth knowing the ways in which power and privilege are implicitly written.
Matthew
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Excellent job detailing the institutionalized racism black people face (with discriminatory housing laws during the mid-1900's explaining a lot of the current problems).
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