The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics (Revised and Expanded Edition)

The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics (Revised and Expanded Edition)

Temple University Press
March 2006
312 pages
Paper ISBN: 978-1-59213-494-6
Cloth ISBN: 978-1-59213-493-9
Electronic Book ISBN:  978-1-59213-495-3

George Lipsitz, Professor of Black Studies and Sociology
University of California, Santa Barbara

Outstanding Books Award, Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America, 1999

In this unflinching look at white supremacy, George Lipsitz argues that racism is a matter of interests as well as attitudes, a problem of property as well as pigment. Above and beyond personal prejudice, whiteness is a structured advantage that produces unfair gains and unearned rewards for whites while imposing impediments to asset accumulation, employment, housing, and health care for minorities. Reaching beyond the black/white binary, Lipsitz shows how whiteness works in respect to Asian Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans.

Lipsitz delineates the weaknesses embedded in civil rights laws, the racial dimensions of economic restructuring and deindustrialization, and the effects of environmental racism, job discrimination and school segregation. He also analyzes the centrality of whiteness to U.S. culture, and perhaps most importantly, he identifies the sustained and perceptive critique of white privilege embedded in the radical black tradition. This revised and expanded edition also includes an essay about the impact of Hurricane Katrina on working class Blacks in New Orleans, whose perpetual struggle for dignity and self determination has been obscured by the city’s image as a tourist party town.


  • Introduction: Bill Moore’s Body
  • 1. The Possessive Investment in Whiteness
  • 2. Law and Order: Civil Rights Laws and White Privilege
  • 3. Immigrant Labor and Identity Politics
  • 4. Whiteness and War
  • 5. How Whiteness Works: Inheritance, Wealth, and Health
  • 6. White Desire: Remembering Robert Johnson
  • 7. Lean on Me: Beyond Identity Politics
  • 8. “Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac”: Antiblack Racism and White Identity
  • 9. “Frantic to Join . . . the Japanese Army”: Beyond the Black-White Binary
  • 10. California: The Mississippi of the 1990s
  • 11. Change the Focus and Reverse the Hypnosis: Learning from New Orleans
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgments
  • Index
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