Searching for Whitopia
An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America
By Rich Benjamin
(Hyperion, Hardcover, 9781401322687, 368pp.)
Publication Date: October 2009
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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).
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.
In his book, Searching For Whitopia, Rich Benjamin lists every city in the U.S. that is "whiter than the nation, its respective region, and its state." He explains why "whitopias" are growing, and what it means for the U.S. More at NPR.org
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"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."
"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 country--and 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