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The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How…

The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from… (edition 2006)

by George Lipsitz

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Title:The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics, Revised and Expanded Edition
Authors:George Lipsitz
Info:Temple University Press (2006), Edition: Rev Exp, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics, Revised and Expanded Edition by George Lipsitz



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In The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics, Revised and Expanded Edition, George Lipsitz “argues that public policy and private prejudice work together to create a ‘possessive investment in whiteness’ that is responsible for the racialized hierarchies of our society” (pg. vii). He further argues, “White Americans are encouraged to invest in whiteness, to remain true to an identity that provides them with resources, power, and opportunity” (pg. vii). He contends, “The artificial construction of whiteness almost always comes to possess white people themselves unless they develop antiracist identities, unless they disinvest and divest themselves of their investments in white supremacy” (pg. viii). Lipsitz writes, “Race is a cultural construct, but one with deadly social causes and consequences. Conscious and deliberate actions have institutionalized group identity in the United States, not just through the dissemination of cultural stories, but also through the creation of social structures that generate economic advantages for European Americans through the possessive investment in whiteness” (pg. 2). Finally, he argues, “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 and the social wage. It fuels a discourse that demonizes people of color for being victimized by these changes, while hiding the privileges of whiteness” (pg. 18).
Lipsitz writes, “Whitness has a value in our society. Its value originates not in the wisdom of white home buyers or the improvements they have made on their properties, but from the ways in which patterns of bad faith and nonenforcement of antidiscrimination laws have enabled the beneficiaries of past and present discrimination to protect their gains and pass them on the succeeding generations” (pg. 33). Discussing the memory of war, Lipsitz writes, “The deployment of memories about World War II as a ‘good war’ also rested on nostalgia for a preintegration America, when segregation in the military meant that most war heroes were white, while de jure and de facto segregation on the home front channeled the fruits and benefits of victory disproportionately to white citizens” (pg. 76). Turning to neoconservatives’ like Charles Murray and Dinesh D’Souza, he writes, “Their efforts to portray the victims of racism as the beneficiaries of unearned privileges given to them because of their race hide the history of the possessive investment in whiteness and invert the history of racial politics in the United States” (pg. 96). He continues, “Whitness does its work in the United States as a structured advantage, as a built-in bias that prevents hard-working people from securing just rewards for their labor and ingenuity. It produces unfair gains and unjust rewards for all whites, although not uniformly and equally. As a matter of justice, whites should be interested in abolishing it, in relinquishing the unfair gains and unearned enrichments that flow from it” (pg. 106). Further, “The neoconservatism of our time has not only widened the gap between rich and poor, between whites and communitites of color, but it has also encouraged the growth of a vigilante mentality, as violent and sadistic as the crimes it purports to oppose” (pg. 145). Viewing the consumption of minority-produced as a form of romanticism, Lipsitz writes, “This romanticism contributes to the possessive investment in whiteness by maintaining the illusion that individual whites can appropriate aspects of African American experience for their own benefit without having to acknowledge the factors that gave African Americans and European Americans widely divergent opportunities and life chances” (pg. 120). ( )
  DarthDeverell | Jan 3, 2018 |
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