Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White Americaby Rich Benjamin
Between 2007 and 2009, Rich Benjamin, a journalist-adventurer, packed his bags and embarked on a 26,909-mile journey throughout the heart of white America, to some of the fastest-growing and whitest locales in our nation. By 2042, whites will no longer be the American majority. As immigrant populations--largely people of color--increase in cities and suburbs, more and more whites are moving to small towns and exurban areas that are predominately, even extremely, white. Rich Benjamin calls these enclaves "Whitopias" (pronounced: "White-o-pias"). His journey to unlock the mysteries of Whitopias took him from a three-day white separatist retreat with links to Aryan Nations in North Idaho to the inner sanctum of George W. Bush's White House--and many points in between. And to learn what makes Whitopias tick, and why and how they are growing, he lived in three of them (in Georgia, Idaho, and Utah) for several months apiece. A compelling raconteur, bon vivant, and scholar, Benjamin reveals what Whitopias are like and explores the urgent social and political implications of this startling phenomenon. The glow of Barack Obama's historic election cannot obscure the racial and economic segregation still vexing America. Obama's presidency has actually raised the stakes in a battle royale between two versions of America: one that is broadly comfortable with diversity yet residentially segregated (ObamaNation) and one that does not mind a little ethnic food or a few mariachi dancers--as long as these trends do not overwhelm a white dominant culture (Whitopia).
[Benjamin] offers in the end a chilling vision of the future for progressive values."Daily Kos"
Benjamin examines the history, politics, economics, and culture of race and class as seen in the growth of these 'whitopias,' racially and therefore socioeconomically exclusive communities from the exurb St. George, Utah to the inner-city enclave of Carnegie Hill in Manhattan. . . . This is a thoroughly engaging and eye-opening look at an urgent social issue."Booklist starred review"
The revelatory chapters about New York City made me want to cry . . . Generous and understanding to all of its subjects, Searching for Whitopia is a eulogy for an unsustainable America lifestyle."Christian Lander, creator of Stuff White People Like"
A courageous book that holds a mirror up to our countryand the reflection is one we can no longer afford to ignore."David Sirota, author and syndicated columnist"
Rich Benjamin's Searching for Whitopia will be a major publication, widely read and discussed. Its influence is likely to be enduring."Andrew Ross, author of The Celebration Chronicles: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Property Value in Disney's New Town"
I've always found it easy to dismiss exurban gated communities, so it didn't bother me too much when Rich Benjamin showed them in a less than flattering light, but the revelatory chapters about New York City made me want to cry. . . . Generous and understanding to all of its subjects, Searching for Whitopia is a eulogy for an unsustainable lifestyle that flies in the face of a changing America."Christian Lander, creator of Stuff White People Like"
An essential tool in questioning, appreciating and better understanding these most historic times. As we move forward in a brand new America, Rich Benjamin's Searching for Whitopia gives us clues as to how our population might resettle and regroup, on our way to becoming a more (or less) perfect union."Edwidge Danticat, author of Breath, Eyes, Memory and Brother, I'm Dying"
Rich Benjamin goes where no (sane) black man has gone before into the palest enclaves, like Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, to those places where white Americans have fled to escape from the challenges of diversity. The result is a daring feat of 21st-century exploration that will have you laughing and shuddering at the same time."Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America"
An account of a black man's journey through the whitest communities of America is bound to be thought-provoking, especially when the voyager is as observant and articulate as Rich Benjamin. A very entertaining read with a message worth pondering."Robert D. Putnam, professor of public policy, Harvard, and author of Bowling Alone"
Exploring the identity, inhabitants, and social and political implications of...small towns...is the premise of Benjamin's provocative new book."The Daily Beast
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Meet the Author
Rich Benjamin is a well-connected scholar, lecturer, and commentator on contemporary American politics and culture. His commentary is featured on NPR, FOX radio, newspapers and the blogosphere, including The Huffington Post, Tom Paine, Afronetizen, and Talking Points Cafe). He has PhD from Stanford University in Modern Thought and Literature; in 2001/02, he was a visiting scholar at Columbia Unviersity Law School, and he is currently a senior fellow at DEMOS,a progressive national think tank based in New York City.
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Mini Synopsis: By the year 2042 white people will be a minority in the United States. With this in mind, Rich Benjamin takes a trip around the country where he explores the areas of the US where the majority of the population, curiously, is not a blend of color. He then strives to define these enclaves, which he terms "Whitopias". They are popping up in spots all over the country for reasons which he questions in his book. As he does his personal research in this sort of "reverse ethnography", he boldly goes into the territory to interview, live with, and experience the life style which defines these areas and the population. My Thoughts: Rich Benjamin is a very intelligent, highly educated, and extremely articulate individual. His writing is lyrical, satirically humorous and sensitive, and he has a very advanced fashion sense which adds some levity to the book. He is thorough and backs up his findings with statistics and references - be aware this book is somewhat academic in nature. But most significantly he's brave, and goes into areas which for me as a white person would even be scary; areas where there are known connections with extremists who may threaten violence to people of color and/or their supporters. He is welcomed warmly within these "white enclaves", and what he finds is interesting, enlightening, and often quite difficult to swallow. It was for me. Although Benjamin specifically states that as a culture we have moved mostly beyond blatant personal racial discrimination, racism still exists within most static bureaucratic structures within the country. He also supports the adage that classism and racism are intimate partners. Knowing that both also exist among these "Whitopias" he further supports their link within the text. This is a great book. My only negative thoughts around it is that it is so information packed it will probably not be a quick or easy read for most. It wasn't for me. More importantly the subject matter is emotional and difficult, and one which many people do not want to deal with. Although the author does a brilliant job of attempting to making light of some situations, how can it be? Sadly, and most significantly, I also do not believe it will actually reach his intended audience. Considering myself for example, although white, to me I believe he is "preaching to the choir" - albeit I am the white kid in the back, who doesn't quite know the words, and whom annoyingly sings a bit off key, but I certainly won't stop singing. I give this excellent yet difficult book 4.5 stars.
" By 2042, whites will no longer be the American majority. As immigrant populations -- largely people of color -- increase in cities and suburbs, more and more whites are moving to small towns and exurban areas that are predominately, even extremely, white. Rich Benjamin calls these enclaves "Whitopias" (pronounced: "White-o-pias"). His journey to unlock the mysteries of Whitopias took him from a three-day white separatist retreat with links to Aryan Nations in North Idaho to the inner sanctum of George W. Bush's White House -- and many points in between. And to learn what makes Whitopias tick, and why and how they are growing, he lived in three of them (in Georgia, Idaho, and Utah) for several months apiece. A compelling raconteur, bon vivant, and scholar, Benjamin reveals what Whitopias are like and explores the urgent social and political implications of this startling phenomenon. "- from the publisher I received this book on Friday, and fully intended to put it on the bottom of my TBR pile, since I have a few books to review first, but I found that after reading the blurbs, and the above quote, I just fell into this book. Rich Benjamin, is a black journalist who ventured into the wilds of "Whitopia" where white folks seem to be escaping the problems found in a more urban setting. From the sounds of the huge and expensive houses, many on golf courses, Benjamin visited, most folks could not afford to live there, black, brown or white. As someone who lives in a "Stepford" community, I was so surprised to discover the lack of diversity, that I wanted to move back to my old urban neighborhood. No older folks, few Blacks, or Hispanics or openly Gay folks to be found. I thought I was just getting a larger house, with a whole bunch of strings attached (covenants). I was not shocked to see my county listed as a very white area. Rich Benjamin heads where few black men would fear to tread, the whitest of the white communities, to determine just why/what they are running from/to. Very well written, and full of scary facts, this book made me ashamed of my race (white), and some of the folks that share my skin color (you know who you are). I must be living in some sort of bubble, since I had no idea some of these things were still happening. Shame on us! This is a book that will make you think, and maybe make you feel a little uncomfortable. It is worth a read, no matter what feelings it invokes. We need to be reminded that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Thanks to Caitlin Price at FSB Associates for sending me this book. From Life Happens While Books are Waiting
The author looks every where liberals claim racism exists and finds only friends. He claims they are racists because they only liked him because he was affable. What an evil person!