Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America
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Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America

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3.58 of 5 stars 3.58  ·  rating details  ·  272 ratings  ·  74 reviews
Between 2007 and 2009, Rich Benjamin, a black journalist-adventurer, packed his bags and embarked on a 26,909-mile journey throughout the heart of white America--some of the fastest-growing and whitest locales in the nation. Benjamin calls these enclaves "Whitopias" (pronounced: "White-o-pia"). This is his story.

Benjamin's journey to unlock the mysteries of Whitopia took h...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by Hyperion (first published January 1st 2009)
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Melki
Imagine living in a wonderful community where you know your neighbors. Your children attend good schools. Everything is clean and safe, and if you leave your doors unlocked, the worst thing that will happen is that someone may sneak in and leave some surplus zucchini on your kitchen counter.

It sounds like paradise, doesn't it? A veritable utopia, if you will.

Does it make you happy or uncomfortable to learn that only white people live there?

"White flight" from the cities to the suburbs is nothing...more
Shellie (Layers of Thought)
May 11, 2010 Shellie (Layers of Thought) rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those interested in current racial issues
Recommended to Shellie (Layers of Thought) by: FSB Media
Actually 4.5 stars

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 “revers...more
Meg
I enjoyed reading this book. The author refused to focus on personal racism as the problem in America today, and really insisted on looking at structural racism instead, while still spending a lot of time describing people and personalities.

A couple of things that didn't sit right with me: First, I really got a kick out of the author's laidback, open-minded personality and ability to connect with people in all sorts of venues, from a white separatist retreat (did I mention he is African American...more
David
Searching for Whitopia is, as you could probably guess from the title, a book about race. To be specific, the author, Rich Benjamin, visited three different extremely white communities for three months each, to interview the people living there and get a sense of the place. Oh, and he's black.

There are essentially two main "themes" that run through this book. One is Benjamin relating his experience in the "Whitopias." He relates details of the people he met, while also delving into the history a...more
Tripp
Every once and again, a friend will mention some great new place they have discovered. Usually it is on a beautiful beach, near gorgeous mountains or on some amazing fishing river. Out here in Oregon, Bandon is getting as hot as the overheated Bend. Back east, Florida panhandle developments like Seaside in Florida keep getting hotter. After you note the great places to eat, the natural beauty, and the nicely ordered streets, you will note the people. They will be quite open and friendly and, alm...more
Jim Marshall
With the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in 1963, the Civil Rights Movement has been getting a lot of attention lately, at least in the PBS/NPR world many of us inhabit. Remembering the March, and the Freedom Riders, and the dogs in Birmingham gave reading this book now a sharper edge. Rich Benjamin is an African American journalist with a Ph.D. from Stanford and a sociological bent. His project is to explore those communities that have shown the largest proportional increase in thei...more
April
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.
Read the rest of my review here
Ellen Christian
Rich Benjamin writes about his travels through White America. During his travels, he pretends to be interested in purchasing a home in three of the whitest areas in America. He lives in these areas and gets to know the people who live there and their opinions and ideas.

The areas he visits include a gated community in Utah, a separatist retreat in Northern Idaho and an exclusive area north of Atlanta, Georgia. All are white dominant areas that are growing more white despite the tendency toward gr...more
Elizabeth
First, let me say I don't think there's anything worth reading in this book. What struck me the hardest was that this guy is a member of a think tank. You know, those people that are supposedly the brainiest of the brainiest? This book was no brains. This book was about 300 pages of fluff and should have been a 3 page magazine article. About 100 pages were about real estate that he couldn't afford, another 100 pages about him cooking for and eating with white people, and the other 100 pages was...more
Susan
This book was different than I thought it would be from reading the review and jacket, but I still loved it. I thought it would be more humorous or more in-depth/academic. It wasn't funny, but it was very kind and gentle. Most books I read on topics like this sound angry and judgmental. Mr. Benjamin, the author of this book, seemed to genuinely like the people he encountered in "Whitopia," which, I think, will make people who read his book take his criticisms of the policies and ideas that have...more
Barbd
Thank goodness the author had the patience anfd compassion to go on this anthropological expedition into whitopia. How else would those who live in less manufactured, more reality-based environments be able to understand this growing area of the population? I just read Benjamin's op-ed in NYT about the fearful, bunker mentality in gated-communities and how it leads to tragedies like the Trayvon Martin shooting. My response to reading the book was to feel sad for people who voluntarily chose to l...more
Matt
Bend, OR - you've been called out. Coeur d'Alene, ID - called out. Structural & institutional racism + if there's no one to be racist against / toward, you can't be racist, right? Preaching to the choir, I suspect, for the bulk of his readers but still: Benjamin does a nice job of presenting people as, well, people. He doesn't indemnify or villainize individuals, but rather bits of group think. We've all got family members that want to live in a Whitopia; were it not for their lacking divers...more
Bob
I picked this up knowing that it would challenge me...and it did. Funny and entertaining, this though provoking work is something that anyone living in the suburbs or exurbs should read.

I didn't agree with everything here, but it opened my eyes to some new ways of looking at racism and poverty. The book focuses on systematic (unintentional) racism while showing that it's different than personal (intentional) racism. Benjamin shows that personal racism was bascally absent from rich whitopia, but...more
Veleda
I feel a little bad about giving this book two stars. It's more like a 2.5, and I was tempted to be generous and give it three. But while the writing is clear and entertaining, Searching for Whitopia suffers from lack of analysis and follow through. Benjamin touches on some really intriguing ideas, but then lets them go or glosses over them. Some of of his topics deserved much more lengthy and in-depth examination. I confess, I was hoping for something more hard hitting.
Sabiel
I am now really, really sad after reading this book, and it was totally the wrong thing to read on my Sick Day.

Whitewashed racism is bad enough, but coupled with urban sprawl, which makes me even sadder, was just too much sadness; I haz a VERY BIG SAD right now.
Liz Gillingham
I think this book could have been condensed to a New Yorker-length article and been far more effective. Some great passages, but I don't need detailed descriptions of home decor.
Susan Bazzett-griffith
This book took longer than it should have to get through, and I admit, I skimmed a couple of duller chapters (hence the 2 star rating). The premise is interesting-- when population diversity is at an all time high, and people claim they are all for integration, why are white people moving to economically and geographically segregated neighborhoods in higher percentage droves than at any point before in history? The fact that the author is an upper-class black man himself who inserts himself as a...more
Jessica Keltz
I don't know where to begin, I had so many reactions to this book. I put it on my "to read" list after seeing Benjamin moderate a panel discussion at the Brooklyn Book Festival last year and one thing he seems to discount when he talks about rarely encountering personal racism is that he has a very unique presence that makes you feel comfortable right away. Someone else out exploring the fastest-growing whitest counties in American may have had a different experience,
On whole, I loved this book,...more
Elliot Ratzman
This strange but excellent book explains the fastest growing areas of nearly-all-white upscale exurbs, boomtowns and planned communities. Our tour guide through the “whitopias” of Utah, Georgia and elsewhere is the black cosmopolitan Rich Benjamin—sociologist and impeccable dresser who can golf, gun and get along with everyone from exurban anti-immigrant activists to white supremacists to Park Avenue billionaires. Benjamin’s adventures and interviews alternate with some serious sociological stat...more
Faith
This book is not (just) about white flight, and not (just) about "Whitopias": cities and counties that are 85% to 90% white and had population growth of 7% to 10% after 2000, with at least 2/3 of that growth attributable to white people. It's a guide for all people, but especially white people, who hope to be alive in 2042, when people of color are expected to become the majority in the United States.

For example, Benjamin explains:

* Why society as a whole pays a heavy price for the private roads...more
Melissa
I never ended up finishing this one. I think I spent the whole time reading it thinking 'yup, this is just what I was expecting...' To me it felt like he went into rich, white areas 'undercover' and then read racism into every minute detail of what his new 'friends' would say to him.

Ok, that's probably more harsh than I meant it to be. There was one part in particular that I found quite interesting. That is the section where he talked about Carnegie Hill on the upper east side of NY. I thought I...more
Lori
I fled the nascent Whitopia of my childhood back in 1984 and, although I knew absolutely nothing else about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I was firmly convinced that I did not want to spend another minute of it living in a plastic bubble with clueless white people. I know that sounds harsh. But Whitopia was a place filled with lawn jockeys and trickle down snake oil and paranoid snobs. It would be a therapy exercise for me to write a book about Whitopia. But you have come here to...more
Danielle
By reading the first sentence of this book, I honestly thought it was going to be way better than it was.
That said, this wasn't a horrible read, but it did have some rather obnoxious qualities: the organization was horrible (a chapter defining "exurbs," the basis of the whole novel, is put close to the end), sometimes so many people are mentioned that is is hard to keep up with, he doesn't always explain himself fully, and I'm not even sure he really talks about each city he says he is going to....more
Ryan Mishap
"White Flight" no longer applies to non-Hispanic (to use the book's favored term) whites fleeing urban areas for the suburbs, but applies to the growing number of (mostly) conservative whites who are moving to smaller communities where whites consist of 90% or more of the population. Benjamin lived in or visited some of these places--St. George, UT, Coeur D'alene, ID, a New York neighborhood, and Forsyth County, GA--while researching demographics, immigration, history, and more. He calls these e...more
Peacegal
Rich Benjamin is an African-American journalist studying the phenomenon of "white flight" in America. In the post WWII-world, that meant Caucasians herding themselves out of the cities into the "little boxes" of surbubia. Today, it means upper-class whites fleeing the suburbs and setting up hearth in semi-rural, exclusive communities known as "exburbs."

The author's discoveries as he mingled among the "young money" and their spotless, sprawling homes and golf courses are both surprising and sadly...more
Kennedy
Searching for Whitopia has an interesting premise: a black man decides to live in several whitopias. Rich Benjamin, the author, defines a whitopia as place that is "whiter than the nation, its respective region, and the state. It posted at least a 6% population growth since 2000. The majority of that growth (often upward of 90%) is from white migration. And a whitopia has a je ne sais quoi--an ineffiable social charisma, a pleasant look and feel."

One of the reasons I was excited to go to China w...more
Mateo
This isn't exactly White Like Me, but it is a kind of "Purloined Letter" undercover work. African American scholar and writer Rich Benjamin goes out to some of the whitest communities in America, like Couer d'Aline, Idaho; St. George, Utah; Forsyth County, Georgia; and the exclusive Manhattan enclave of Carnegie Hill, where he golfs, shops for real estate, attends church, and otherwise throws himself head-first into his surroundings. In between recounting his adventures, he provides several chap...more
Socraticgadfly
Rich Benjamin goes to a number of Whitopias (the concept is defined, demographically, in appendices) and actually lives in three of them. He approaches his subject without apparent bias aforethought, and with excellent research eyes.

In his research he distinguished between different types of Whitopias, whether the reasons for their development are more conscious or unconscious. Beyond that, he extensively interviews individual residents, to give the different Whitopias an individualized profile....more
Gina
Thoughtful examination of the white suburban mindset. I live in an extremely integrated inner suburb of Boston and frequently feel there is a chasm of lifestyle and value differences between me and my more exurban coworkers. My favorite part may have been one of the early chapters, where he explores a very white exurban community by going on a fake (also vaguely depressing, but illuminating) house hunt with a realtor. The author brought a light tone to important issues of race, culture, and the...more
David
The author, an African American man, spends some time living in some of the whitest areas in America. Descriptions of individual people he meets, dinner parties he hosts, etc. are mostly generous, even-handed, and sometimes interesting. Analyses of and lamentations about the overall phenomenon of white flight are mostly predictable and familiar if you've followed this issue at all in recent decades.

He went to Churchill HS and grew up in Potomac, and his description of getting lost trying to fin...more
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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 in newspapers nationwide, on NPR and Fox Radio, in the blogosphere, and in many scholarly venues.

Rich earned his BA in political science from Wesleyan University and his PhD in Modern Thought and Literature fr...more
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