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Possessive Investment In Whiteness Paperback – June 30, 1998

3.5 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"If we could only take one book with us into the 21st century, this is the one I would choose. With lucidity and passion, George Lipsitz reveals that so-called 'color-blind' public policy actually contributes to the maintenance of racism; that white privilege and the demonizing of colored people are two sides of the same coin; and that whiteness is both a huge subsidy as well as a noose around the necks of working-class white folk. His insights into how the color line works in the realm of public policy, politics, and culture, and what we must do to destroy it, can save our lives." --Robin D.G. Kelley, author of Yo' Mama's Disfunktional! Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America "George Lipsitz is one of the few historians of the U.S. who commands an audience eager to read what he writes on virtually any subject. What sets his work still more remarkably apart is the discipline never to abuse that trust...This book is a case in point. As rigorous as it is creative, this collection combines a firm grasp of the material roots and consequences of white supremacy with striking cultural criticism. Its extensive treatment of Asian-American and Latino/a experiences breaks decisively with the tendency of studies of whiteness to reduce race to a black-white binary. Few works on whiteness discuss past and present together with such subtlety, care and passion." --David R. Roediger

From the Publisher

In this unflinching look at white supremacy, George Lipsitz probes into the ways that race determines life chances and structures experience in the contemporary United States

Outstanding Books Award, Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: How White People Profit from Identity Politics
  • Paperback: 296 pages
  • Publisher: Temple University Press; 1st edition (June 30, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566396352
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566396356
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #608,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on May 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
How often have you walked around thinking about an issue, thinking how helpful it would be if you could only articulate those thoughts? And, one day, you pick up a book and find that the author has spoken for you, clearly defined those issues and provided a history that explains the causes of your disquietude? George Lipsitz has done just that in "The Possessive Investment In Whiteness... ." Why is affirmative action under attack and by whom? How do Euro-Americans benefit from skin privilege whether they are racist or not? Why is California "the Mississippi of the 1990s"? What was the real agenda of Mr. Bakke in launching a legal battle against "reverse racism"? Who was Bill Moore? What are the roles of Clarence Thomas and Ward Callender in claiming and perpetuating a conservative agenda that supports skin privilege? Lipsitz answers these questions and more. While Lipsitz speaks from a decidedly liberal stance, he supports each of his contentions with a shopping list of facts to support them.
This is a valuable contribution to American discourse on the issue of race and how it affects, still, American society. More importantly, it is one of the few books I have read that seems intended for the education of Euro-Americans who, as Lipsitz makes clear, are also victims of racism and can only benefit from its elimination as well as the elimination of benefits based solely or largely, and certainly historically, upon skin privilege. But how can institutionalized racism that permeates the entire history of this country be fought? The first step must be to recognize what the possessive investment in whiteness is and why and how it is perpetuated. Lipsitz has offered a remarkable primer for that first step to every American citizen who longs for the day that we will all be, truly, just Americans who are judged only by the content of our character.
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By A Customer on January 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
I can't disagree more with the negative reviews of this book. I found it to be thorough, nuanced, and thought provoking. Lipsitz's thesis about the possessive investment in whiteness is an intriguing one and frames the issue of whiteness is a helpful manner. Particularly impressive to me is the range of his work, which truly meets the challenge to do interdisciplinary work (a challenge that we too often fail at or neglect). He incorporates and integrates analyses of the economy, of the law (such as housing law) and policy with studies of culture and the media. Dozens of books have been published under the rubric of "whiteness studies" in the past decade (some of it of mediocre quality). This book, though, should go on the "must read" list of anyone interested in this growing field.
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Format: Paperback
Lipsitz's book not only informs (with one of the best summariesI've seen of the social, economic and political impact ofinstitutionalized white supremacy throughout the twentieth century) heoffers hope that humanity will heal the deep wounds of white racism. The book insightfully explores the reasons why so-called "white" people continue to be complicit in racist oppression, how whiteness and white privilege are used by politicians, and how the psychology of whitness functions. His willingness to relinquish and critique his own white privilege in the name of social justice is the healing message that humanity needs in the wake of so many "white" atrocities.
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One reviewer, below, seems utterly outraged at the notion that there could be a white "culture" of possessive investment, although he is entirely comfortable throwing around terms like "culture of success" and "inherited culture" when referring to non-white groups. Talk about skinning a cat another way. Lipsitz may occasionally overindulge his tendency to psychologize, but to dismiss his account of whiteness as an "organizing principle in social and cultural relations," as L. puts it, would be in error. An excellent introduction to the topic. Lots of other good stuff out there, too: Roediger, Frankenberg, et al. Dive in.
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Format: Paperback
Professor Lipsitz has written non-fiction that reads like a novel about America's most unfortunate issue. He wastes no time in declaring that "Whiteness has a cash value..." He skillfully takes the reader through an economic, historic and psychological saga that demonstrates the value of white identity in a variety of areas. What makes this book so interesting is that Professor Lipsitz goes beyond the black/white binary. He pays particular attention to European immigrants who were initially not part of "white" society until it served a purpose. Discussions on Asian and Latino Americans are informative and fresh. He is fearless in his discussion of white supremacy/privilege and throws a huge monkey wrench into the debate surrounding so-called affirmative action. This book is a must read for anyone starting an investigtion into the new discipline of White Studies or as a adjunct to Black Studies.
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As a white male, I have witnessed the mechanics of white privilege all my life. I have become increasingly aware of the unfair advantages open to me for no reason other than race, thus I have been hoping to find an academic assessment of this phenomenon. This book covers the topic well, though sometimes the author's polemic detracts from his compelling data. Those who want to pretend the problem doesn't exist will undoubtedly use the author's passion as an excuse to dismiss the book.

But there are compelling examples that deserve our attention. For example, Jennifer Gratz successfully sued the University of Michigan for "reverse discrimination" because a few dozen non-white students were admitted ahead of her despite having lower SATs and grades. What went unreported at the time is the fact that more than 1,400 white students -- students whose parents were alumni or who happened to live in areas favored by the school's board -- also were admitted ahead of her despite having lower scores and grades. The implicit assumption is that it's OK to accord special privileges to white students whose parents are alumni, or who live in politically advantageous areas; but it's an abomination to extend similar privileges to a handful of non-white students.

Incidents like this point to a systematic oppression that has little to do with violence and much to do with subtle manipulation. It may not even be conscious. The author correctly observes that it is a kind of investment that began centuries ago when white people took possession of our country's land through programs such as the Homestead Act and who made fortunes at the expense of slaves and indentured servants.
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