The Issues of White Privilege and Its Policy and Propaganda in George Lipsitzs The Possessive Investment in Whiteness
In his article, “The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: Racialized Social Democracy and the ‘White’ Problem in American Studies”, George Lipsitz dives into the idea that the norm of whiteness has plagued people of color through policy and propaganda. He challenges the idea of whiteness and the origins in the U.S. context. Lipsitz also attempts to assess those who were able to access whiteness which leads to the most perplexing, which is the way this access constructs the idea of white privilege throughout America. Contemporary issues as well as historical ones continue to perpetuate this system that allows one to easily benefit if they invest their time, energy and effort into the system. Lipsitz spends time explaining the idea of whiteness being almost invisible.
“Whiteness is everywhere in American culture, but it is very hard to see” (Lipsitz, 369). This phrase immediately sticks out in the article, due to his abruptness and his honesty about white privilege. I have always known that there was a place in society reserved for a certain group of people, a place that I never felt I had access to no matter how far I stretched. This place belongs to Whites in society, a space where they are able to access mobility and deviance in ways people of color cannot, therefore reaching a level of invisibility. I have never really realized or understood the unfairness until recently, my first year of college, where I learned about white privilege. My actions would receive completely different consequences compared to white students.
On my own, I learned that white privilege equates to the ability to receive bad grades, show up late to class or even disrespect teachers but those actions not reflecting on your race. Lipsitz really forces his readers to seek out why this is the way it is. Most upsetting and eye opening were the public policies deliberately excluding people of color from benefitting from the “American Dream.” “By channeling loans away from older inner-city neighborhoods and toward white home buyers moving into segregated suburbs, the FHA and private lenders after World War II aided and abetted the growth and development of increased segregation in U.S. residential neighborhoods” (373).
Institutionalized racism, like the GI Bill that allowed for home loans to strictly Whites, halted the progress for people of color and paved a way for not just whites but also those who invested themselves in the idea of whiteness. Many assume that the ability to access white privilege through these policies and propaganda are exclusive to whites. That is not the truth for our nation’s society. Those who invest in whiteness, gradually become closer and closer to accessing that privilege.
They may not access it completely, but they will benefit from it if they devote their everyday actions and rhetoric to support white supremacy. This part of Lipsitz argument resonates with me personally, where I have seen many friends and family succumb to the idea whiteness. One way people of color participate is with “code-switching,” where one veers from one dialect to another dialect to gain personal benefit. It is not just through policies and propaganda, but also small contributions like code-switching, perpetuating stereotypes and so on can support the mission of white supremacy. Whether in favor of it or not, the easy way to become successful in the U.S. context is to invest in the scheme of whiteness, whether it is an illusion or not.