Access to Mathematics: “A Possessive Investment in Whiteness”


  • The phrase “A Possessive Investment in Whiteness” is taken from George Lipsitz's (1995) seminal paper. Here I use it as a way to discuss mathematics education's role in perpetually advantaging whiteness.


While mathematics education gives access to elite universities, higher-paying jobs, and the accumulation of wealth, it continues to be framed as a neutral curricular domain. However, data continually show differential access provided to students of color and their White peers through tracking, the availability of Advance Placement courses, and counselor referrals. This article frames mathematics education within a broader racial context to show how it functions along the same dominant racial ideologies within society. I analyze national data sets in the United States to calculate the wage-earning differential attributable to differences in mathematics coursework by ethnic/racial groups across three time points: 1982, 1992, and 2004. This analysis projects advantages for Whites due to differential access to mathematics that total in the hundreds of billions of dollars. The article explores one way to see how color-blind ideology and whiteness produce material stratification through the institution of mathematics education. Drawing on the constructs of interest convergence and divergence, the article ends with envisioning ways to enact a more race conscious mathematics curriculum.