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How racism shapes urban spaces and how African Americans create vibrant communities that offer models for more equitable social arrangements

How Racism Takes Place

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George Lipsitz

"George Lipsitz’s new book, How Racism Takes Place, has a great deal to teach Americans—especially white Americans—about the devastating effects of contemporary racism. Lipsitz utilizes the best research and brilliant arguments to demonstrate how racism continues to fester in racially segregated neighborhoods, workforces, suburbs, schools and country clubs. He demonstrates convincingly that contemporary racism did not emerge accidently but by historical and contemporary designs of white Americans whether they know it or not. How Racism Takes Place is a must read, for it challenges us to grapple with our racial demons and, in the process, become a people truly representing the democratic claims we broadcast throughout the globe."
Aldon Morris, Leon Forrest Professor of Sociology, Northwestern University

White identity in the United States is place bound, asserts George Lipsitz in How Racism Takes Place. An influential scholar in American and racial studies, Lipsitz contends that racism persists because a network of practices skew opportunities and life chances along racial lines. That is, these practices assign people of different races to different spaces and therefore allow grossly unequal access to education, employment, transportation, and shelter.

Revealing how seemingly race-neutral urban sites contain hidden racial assumptions and imperatives, Lipsitz examines the ways in which urban space and social experience are racialized and emphasizes that aggrieved communities do not passively acquiesce to racism. He recognizes the people and communities that have reimagined segregated spaces in expressive culture as places for congregation.

How Racism Takes Place not only exposes the degree to which this white spatial imagining structures our society but also celebrates the black artists and activists who struggle to create a just and decent society.

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Excerpt

Read the Introduction (pdf).

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Reviews

"How Racism Takes Place is a brilliant, timely, and much needed book about racial segregation—how it is produced and reproduced, how white privilege and the subjugation of people of color have a clear spatial dimension, and how the racialization of space and the spatialization of race shape, and are manifestations of, the political and cultural economy of the United States. Beyond unveiling the mechanics of structural racism, Lipsitz also draws out what he calls a ‘Black spatial imaginary,’ the site of expressive culture where aggrieved and displaced peoples have waged a struggle to resist and survive policies of racial segregation and conceived a different future."
Robin D. G. Kelley, Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at University of Southern California

"How Racism Takes Place is a very powerful, but sobering book that makes important connections with historical trends and new injustices as racism morphs into new forms when conservative courts and neo-liberal practices make the struggles of people of color and White allies difficult. Lipsitz pulls readers in with rich descriptions of communities—the energy of the sights, sounds, smells, music, and the rhythm of real people in a place. Then he moves to the macro level to explore the nature of disadvantage, providing a context for the struggles and resistance. In the end, Lipsitz pulls the many threads together, leaving us with a call to action."
Elizabeth Higginbotham, Professor of Sociology at the University of Delaware

"Veteran scholar Lipsitz provides another deeply probing look at US racism...Lipsitz provides original analyses of urban development in St. Louis (a football stadium) and a television series (The Wire) on Baltimore to show how such activities obscure links between institutionalized racism and urban space--including urban poverty and predatory lending--in front of unreflective observers.... Summing Up: Highly Recommended."
Choice

"This book strengthens Lipsitz’s position as one of the major contributors to theoretical and historical works on race.... In powerful and compelling writing, Lipsitz examines the problems...and provides insights into the broad context and multiple factors that shape the ways race continues to work in society."
Journal of American History

"This big-hearted and incisive book reveals how policies and practices related to the demarcation, commodification, and valuation of urban space reinforce hierarchies of race and class.... This work both painstakingly documents the ways in which the white spatial imaginary excludes people, and particularly women, of color, even as it seduces them with promises of upward mobility and consumer citizenship.... [T]he book mounts a powerful challenge to the recent justifications of racialized inequalities through revanchist scientific racism or the various 'culture of poverty' concepts."
Contemporary Sociology

"[P]rovocative essays.... The writing is lively and accessible, and the book’s three opening chapters in particular provide an invaluable introduction to a wide range of literature on race, space, and the metropolitan form."
Pacific Historical Review

"Lipsitz has synthesized a substantial literature into a coherent, convincing, and richly formulated picture.... Lipsitz completes his picture of the white spatial imaginary with two compelling case studies.... highly readable."
Journal of American Ethnic History

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Contents

Introduction: Race, Place, and Power

SECTION I: Social Imaginaries and Social Relations
1. The White Spatial Imaginary
2. The Black Spatial Imaginary

SECTION II: Spectatorship and Citizenship
3. Space, Sports, and Spectatorship in St. Louis
4. The Crime The Wire Couldn’t Name: Social Decay and Cynical Detachment in Baltimore

A Bridge for This Book Weapons of the Weak and Weapons of the Strong

SECTION III: Visible Archives
5. Horace Tapscott and the World Stage in Los Angeles
6. John Biggers and Project Row Houses in Houston

SECTION IV: Invisible Archives
7. Betye Saar’s Los Angeles and Paule Marshall’s Brooklyn
8. Something Left to Love: Lorraine Hansberry’s Chicago

SECTION V: Race and Place Today
9. New Orleans Today: We Know This Place
10. A Place Where Everybody Is Somebody

Notes
Acknowledgments
Index

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About the Author(s)

George Lipsitz is Professor of Black Studies and Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. His previous books include The Possessive Investment in Whiteness: How White People Profit from Identity Politics and A Life in the Struggle: Ivory Perry and the Culture of Opposition (both Temple). Lipsitz serves as President of the Advisory Board of the African American Policy Forum and as a member of the Board of Directors of the National Fair Housing Alliance.

Subject Categories

American Studies
African American Studies
Urban Studies

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