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Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White Americaby Richard Benjamin
"[Richard Benjamin's] foray into enclaves of wealth and comfort might seem a mere vacation if it weren't also a sociological study. 'Statistics can tell you only so much,' he explains at the outset. 'Understanding the spirit of a people and the essence of a place requires firsthand experience.'" Darryl Lorenzo Wellington, The Wilson Quarterly (read the entire Wilson Quarterly review)
Synopses & ReviewsPlease note that used books may not include additional media (study guides, CDs, DVDs, solutions manuals, etc.) as described in the publisher comments.
A prediction that made headlines across the United States ten years ago is fast becoming reality: By 2050, whites will no longer be the American majority. A related, less-reported trend is that as immigrant populations — largely people of color — increase in cities and suburbs, more and more whites are moving to small cities and exurban areas that are predominantly, even extremely, white. Journalist Rich Benjamin calls these enclaves Whitopias.
To learn what makes them tick and why and how they are growing, Benjamin — a black American — packed his bags and lived for several months in three such communities: Forsyth County, Georgia; Coeur d'Alene, Idaho; and St. George, Utah. He became familiar with the landscapes and social structures; he got to know and sometimes grew fond of the residents; and through his reporting, he reveals the psychological, political, and cultural implications of this phenomenon. Economics drove previous American migrations — pioneers heading west, blacks moving north, farmers fleeing the Dust Bowl. But what is the cause of this new shift? Whitopia uncovers the real reasons some Americans are happy to leave the rest of us behind.
"Starting in 2007, Benjamin, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan think tank Demos, and, more significantly, an African-American, spent two years traveling through America's whitest communities — patches of Idaho and Utah and even pockets of New York City — where, according to his research, more and more white people have been seeking refuge from the increasingly multicultural reality that is mainstream America. There's plenty of potential in this premise, but Benjamin writes without any sense of purpose, alternating between undigested interviews with policy experts, self-indulgent digressions on the pleasures of golf and real estate shopping and sketchy portraits of his subjects. Despite Benjamin's countless conversations with everyone from Ed Gillespie, former head of the GOP, to a drunk in an Idaho bar, he never offers any fresh insights or practical suggestions. He concludes by barraging the reader with a series of unearned 'musts': 'we must revitalize the public sector,' 'we must work hard for a new universalism.' If his time in the nation's whitest enclaves gave him any specific thoughts about how those ideals might be achieved, he would have done well to share them." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Thoroughly engaging and eye-opening." Booklist (starred review)
"A courageous book that holds a mirror up to our country. The reflection is one we can no longer afford to ignore." David Sirota
"It sounds like a recipe for a riot: an inquisitive black writer journeying into some of the most segregated neighborhoods in the country. But Benjamin...pulls off his quest with good cheer."
"[Benjamin] offers in the end a chilling vision of the future for progressive values."
"Exploring the identity, inhabitants, and social and political implications of...small towns...is the premise of Benjamin's provocative new book."
--The Daily Beast "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
"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 the challenges of diversity."
--Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed
"An essential tool in questioning, appreciating, and better understanding these most historic times."
--Edwidge Danticat, author of Breath, Eyes, Memory
"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
"Searching for Whitopia will be a major publication, widely read and discussed."
--Andrew Ross, author of The Celebration Chronicles
"A courageous book that holds a mirror up to our country--and the reflection is one we can no longer afford to ignore."
--David Sirota, author and syndicated columnist
"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
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).
About the Author
Rich Benjamin likes to entertain, read, travel, golf, and eat.
Currently, he is Senior Fellow at Demos, a nonpartisan, multi-issue think tank. His social and political commentary is featured on television, on radio, in major newspapers and magazines, in the blogosphere, and in many scholarly venues.
Rich's background is in academia, politics, and media. He has held teaching and research positions at Stanford University, Brown University, and the Columbia University School of Law. He lectures on contemporary American politics and culture in the US and Europe.
Rich's public service includes serving as founding Executive Director of Why Tuesday?, a bi-partisan grassroots campaign to increase civic participation. He also serves on the Advisory Board of The Roosevelt Institution.
Rich earned his BA in political science from Wesleyan University and his PhD in Modern Thought and Literature from Stanford.
He is a member of the Authors Guild and the National Book Critics Circle.
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