Whiteness as Currency: Rethinking the Exchange Rate

  • Emily M. Drew


For societies in which racism is an operating system, whiteness is a form of currency with a significantly high exchange rate. Its value is so meaningful, George Lipsitz argues, that it produces a false group solidarity and possessive investment1 in its continuation. For many white people in the United States, whiteness has provided a pathway to opportunities for acquiring society’s transformative assets: land, housing, jobs, and education. In this way, whiteness has been a tool for social mobility and intergenerational economic security.2 Put simply, it has material benefits that can pay a high economic yield. Yet, for most white people in the United States, the real dividend of whiteness comes in its symbolic value: its deeply felt power in shaping social status, group membership, and identity. In this way, whiteness provides a well-documented identity to buy into, one that promises a placement in the social hierarchy higher than people of color. For whites, who become what Charles Mills calls “signatories” in a racial contract, they will “live in an invented delusional world, a racial fantasyland, a ‘consensual hallucination.’”3


Racial Identity Restorative Justice White People Critical Race Theorist Racialized Society 
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Copyright information

© Ron Scapp and Brian Seitz 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily M. Drew

There are no affiliations available

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