September 29, 2011
“The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: Racialized Social Democracy and the “White Problem”
George Lipsitz makes the point in his article that “whiteness” is a problem facing the United States. “Whiteness” is everywhere, affecting other racial groups and some poorer whites who do not fit into the typical “white” demographic of middle-class. “Whiteness” can be seen in many aspects of daily life, including politics, culture, and the economy (383).
To make this claim, Lipsitz cites many different sources. Richard Dyer makes a supporting point of how “whiteness” is heavily embedded in the American culture, that it is not even noticed. Further, when people think of Americans, they think of white people (369). Lipsitz also uses Richard Wright’s quote about how whites see blacks as a “problem,” rather than viewing their attitude of supremacy and entitlement as the “problem.” This is known as racial polarization, a key term in the article (369). Another key vocabulary term from the Wright is “presence of mind,” referenced to demonstrate a “precise awareness of the present moment more decisive than foreknowledge of the most distant events.” “Whiteness” is another term used to describe the white people and the power and the role they have that often goes unspoken, but is a huge factor in social and cultural aspects of American (369). “White supremacy” is used to also speak of the power that whites have and the attitude that white people often display towards other races. Finally, “social life,” which is a way of defining our individual racism through the way we define activities. This term also serves as a supporting point for the argument to further demonstrate how “whiteness” affects and influences the way people carry out daily activities and how they view themselves and others.
Lipsitz looks at history, population, economy, politics, the housing market, and demographical statistics to make his claim. By looking at these data from different time periods and locations, he is able to demonstrate how white people and “whiteness” can be problematic. For example, Lipsitz uses qualitative analysis on page 375 to make points about housing and living arrangements more realistic.
Sources that Lipsitz uses positively contributed to his overall article. His sources are scholarly and he uses articles, qualitative, and quantitative data. In the notes, he also gives credit to specific people that contributed to his article. For example, in the notes, he gives credit to Michael Schudson for clarifying an issue. This is a good example of scholarly and reputable sources.
I liked the article overall, though it was difficult to understand at some points. I think the issue of whiteness is real, especially because of my Palestinian-American background. Sometimes I find myself saying I wish I was white because it would be easier to deal with issues like what box to check on forms (“other”?), and for familial practices and beliefs. My white friends often say in response they wish they had a culture. My question is does being “white” count as a culture, or is it like the color, the lack there of? Also, does being at a diverse university make people appreciate their culture and diversity?