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Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable…

Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White… (2009)

by Rich Benjamin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1128165,682 (3.62)4
An examination of a recent migration of white Americans to small, predominantly white cities describes the author's visits to "whitopias" throughout the country, where he met white citizens from myriad walks of life, learned the causes of the migration, and familiarized himself with each neighborhood's landscapes and social structures.… (more)



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Until this book, I didn't realize how critical it is to check publication date before you start reading! This one came out in 2009 and already seems very dated. However, the premise still works: some white people find their needs met only in all-white communities. The timing of the author’s research into these “Whitopias” is kind of terrible too, re: the Great Recession and the election of Barack Obama. Benjamin, black and a Stanford PhD, visited a bunch of racially isolated locales, including - surprisingly enough - Carnegie Hill in NYC. Where he found common ground in most of the communities, exurb or small city, was 1. golf love 2. no blatantly racist words spoken, though plenty of what we now call "dog whistling". No surprise that the author also found enmity towards Latinx immigrants particularly strong in California, resulting in an influx of former LA area police officers to the whitelands of Utah and Idaho. Now, of course, Trump has enabled racists to parade around with tiki torches set to white supremacy, where during the late Bush 2/Obama years that was hardly acceptable. It would be interesting to see what Benjamin would find in these insular communities now.


"In Dixie, people essentially ask of community outsiders, "Why can't you be more like ME?" Ostracism doubles as self-congratulation."

"The headline was "By 2050, White People Will No Longer Be the Majority." Why not: "by 2050, People of Color Will be a Majority."?

"When, at last, did I realize what explosive emotions Latino immigration triggers?"

"Our only endangered species is the white Christian landowning male", said Idaho Representative Helen Chenoweth-Hage. "

"The tenderhooks latching millions of white to subdivisions depend on two things: backward-looking nostalgia and forward-looking aspiration." ( )
  froxgirl | Mar 27, 2019 |
Searching for Whitopia by Rich Benjamin is not about the interactions between blacks and whites. It is about the phenomenon of white flight. White Flight occurs when white people move out of a neighborhood because people of color are moving in. What Rich Benjamin did was move into predominately white neighborhoods (97% white) to see what it's like.I felt that Searching for Whitopia was very thought-provoking. I actually had to have a conversation with my boyfriend about it since I no longer have traditional college classes to fill that void. We spoke of race and our perceptions, since we were both raised in Whitopias. I know, I know, who cares I had a convo with my lover, big deal. Well, normally Tony and I normally talk about our roommate (he's a pain in the ass), our days at work, and the Simpsons, not serious things. For a book to inspire conversation between my boyfriend and I about social justice is pretty big.I found the people Rich met to be fairly interesting. He met some fairly diverse people, rich people, poor people, Democrats, Republicans. Skin color is not the only means of diversity. I liked his anecdotes about the people he came across.Searching For Whitopia wasn't too politcizing. I won't state my political leanings, as this is not a politics blog, but it was nice to see some kindness portrayed on both sides of the two main political parties.I thought Rich Benjamin's conclusions definitely made sense. Life is enriched after living near and interacting with people of different backgrounds. Those of you who have been to college should know exactly what I am talking about, when you share a dorm with people from all over the world, it absolutely broadens your horizons and I think you become a better person for it. I think he is correct in concluding that white flight truly is bad for the communities, as that takes much needed tax dollars out of a community, plus certain opportunities to learn are missed out on.I would say read this book if you are interested in social justice issues. Personally, social justice is a bit of a pet topic to me, I've taken a few courses on diversity, women's studies, and poverty. I love learning about this sort of thing. This book is non-fiction. If you enjoyed Nickel and Dimed, you'd most likely find this book interesting too! ( )
  booksandwine | Oct 7, 2010 |
It is a book about one big nasty prejudice- Racism.

In Searching for Whitopia, Rich Benjamin relates the two-year journey he took across what he calls "white America." He lists every city in the U.S. that is "whiter than the nation, its respective region, and its state," and he lives in three of them for roughly three months apiece- St. George in Utah, Coeur d'Alene in Idaho, and Forsyth County in Georgia. He shows what these places, "Whitopias" he calls them, are like, why they are actually growing not shrinking (as I naively expected) and he explains the implications of this phenomenon. What makes this all the more interesting? Benjamin is African American.

So the question I most wanted answered by reading this book is why are people moving towards whitopias and not away from them like I am inclined to do. Well, Benjamin discovers the reasons are not cut and dry.

"Most whites are not drawn to a place explicitly because it teems with other white people. Rather, the place's very whiteness implies other perceived qualities. Americans associate a homogenous white neighborhood with higher property values, friendliness, orderliness, hospitability, cleanliness, safety, and comfort. These seemingly race-neutral qualities are subconsciously inseparable from race and class in many whites' minds. Race is often used as a proxy for those neighborhood traits. And, if a neighborhood is known to have those traits, many whites presume--without giving it a thought--that the neighborhood will be majority white."

This is absolutely fascinating to me. Because in my line of work I have met just as many whites that I wouldn't touch with a pole vault pole than people of any other race. If I am prejudice in any way it is probably against lazy people (lazy by choice, not because they are physically or mentally unable to do something) and dirty people (don't mistake this for homeless- they are not interchangable)- no matter if they are rich or poor, black or white or purple. In fact, I am repulsed by the idea of Whitopias. Perhaps because of my age or my life experiences or where I was raised or went to school or the fact my family is now racially diverse, but people who are all the same bore me to tears. I didn't even enjoy working in a small town that was right outside of a city because everyone thought the same way and mostly acted the same way. I could never live in a small town away from a large urban area or out in the country and be truly happy. But that is just me.

If you are looking for a truly engaging look at this new sociological phenomenon, then I really recommend Benjamin's book. It is very enlightening and will have you re-evaluating your own sets of prejudices.

So what about you, readers? What do you think of these "whitopias?" Do you live in a predominately white area? What do you like or not like about it? (In case you are wondering whether you live in what is considered to be a "whitopia", click here to visit Benjamin's website where he offers up a short list. A longer list is available at the back of the book.) ( )
  thisismebecca | May 5, 2010 |
Don't be scared off by the title. An interesting book, but depressing. It recommends a direction, but the solution seems so far out of reach that it's really just a hope. ( )
  remikit | Dec 5, 2009 |
I loved this book and I'm so glad Rich Benjamin was brave enough to go on this journey and then write about it, he even threw some humor in. This is truly a must read for everyone. It may change the way you think. ( )
  VickiLN | Nov 23, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Rich Benjaminprimary authorall editionscalculated
Giardino, PatrikCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mulligan, BrianDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rembert, DanielCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Jacqueline and Will, beloved godchildren,
that you may inhabit a better world
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Imagine moving to a place where you can leave your front door unlocked as you run your errands, where the community enjoys a winning ratio of playgrounds to potholes, where you can turn your kids loose at 3 p.m., not to worry, then see them in time for supper, where the neighbors greet those children by name, where yuour trouble-free high school feels like a de facto private school, where if you decide to play hooky from work, you can drive just twenty minutes and put your sailboat on the water, where the oudoor serenity is shattered only by each seagull's cry, where you can joyride your off-road vehicles (Snowmobiles! ATVs! Mountain bikes! Rock crawlers!) on Nature's bold terrain, where your family and abundant friends feel close to the soil, and wehre suburban blight has yet to spoil your vistas. (Introduction)
Drive an hour and a half northeast of Las Vegas, through epic desert vistas, and St. George, Utah, a town of 65,000, glints on the horizon.
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Utah's Dixie -- The Latino time bomb -- Golf as it was meant to be -- Almost heaven -- Privacy is an attribute of good living -- The geography of homogeneity: or, what's race got to do with it? -- Land of the free, home of the braves -- Exurb nation: from the hard right to the marshmallow center -- Potomac 20854 -- Conclusion: toward the common good.
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