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

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  451 ratings  ·  110 reviews
As America becomes more and more racially diverse, Rich Benjamin noticed a phenomenon: Some communities were actually getting less multicultural. So he got out a map, found the whitest towns in the USA--and moved in.

A journalist-adventurer, Benjamin packed his bags and embarked on a 26,909-mile journey throughout the heart of white America, to some of the fastest-growing a
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by Hachette Books (first published January 1st 2009)
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3.63  · 
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 ·  451 ratings  ·  110 reviews

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Mar 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: social-issues
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
What a mixed bag but in truth; better than expected.  This book was first published and has been on my shelf since 2009.  At first print, Obama had been elected the first African-American President in history but had not yet begun "Presidenting".  Benjamin shares his journey through several white enclaves (>90% white) which he call "Whitopias" in various places in the US.  I was a bit put off initially by Benjamin's intro in which he says
"I am black. Let me warn you by saying: The “black-wh
May 22, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Aug 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 19, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Shellie (Layers of Thought)
Oct 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Jim Marshall
Sep 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
May 13, 2010 rated it did not like it
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
Apr 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, non-fiction
This is an interesting subject and the writing is very engaging, but it's written to be as inoffensive as possible (much like the author describes himself) and that attitude of "oh, these people were perfectly pleasant to me, an upperclass black man with typically upperclass interests like golf and real estate, so they're not really that racist" was annoying.

I probably would have given this a 3.5 if there were half-stars on GR, but when pressed to choose between a three and a four, three seems
Oct 03, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Sanjay Varma
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
I glanced at a few chapters of this book. I think the author's point is very superficial. He points out that the regional migration of white people to rural states, with an already high percentage of white people, is analogous to the "white flight" that has taken place in cities.

The author’s method is to move to a state like Utah or Idaho, embed deeply into the community, and interview many random citizens. The author quotes them as saying that they found that the cultural diversity of places li
Published back in the neolithic era, but this article in the New Yorker sparked my curiosity: What it was liked being a left-wing pundit on “The O’Reilly Factor”. .
Sep 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Ellen Christian
Oct 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Sophisticated West Indian journalist infiltrates white flight destinations like St. George UT and Sandpoint ID (note to self: stay out of gas station parking lots at 2am) by the simple expedient of renting a McMansion on the golf course. He finds that he is embraced by his neighbors as a linen suit wearing, Queen's English speaking, Lexus driving, paella cooking bon vivant and told outright that he's okay, but more quantity, or teenagers with a basketball hoop and things "turn into Compton."
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.
Mar 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-non-fiction
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.
Elizabeth 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.
Mar 30, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Michael Andersen-Andrade
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
In the aftermath of the election, I find myself scrambling to understand just who are these white Americans who so overwhelmingly voted for Trump. "Searching for Whitopia" was written early in Obama's second term, but it presciently describes just the type of whites who supported Trump in 2016. This book focuses on middle and upper-middle class whites who live in predominantly white exurbs, and who self-segregate into areas that are characterized by strict zoning and gated communities. The autho ...more
Sandy D.
Very thought-provoking book on white flight, re-segregation, real estate, race, and politics, though reading this in November 2016 was more than a little depressing. The book was published in 2009, in the early years of Obama's presidency - but it was more than a little prescient when it came to population trends and politics.

I really enjoyed the mix of research (historical and then-current, about 2007-2009) and anecdote on "white utopias", and Benjamin - an African-American scholar - writes gr
Kirsten Hawkes
Apr 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics
This was a fascinating read. African American journalist Rich Benjamin spent two years traveling and living in the whitest, fastest growing counties in the US trying to figure out what makes white communities tick. Benjamin is a great raconteur - he befriends everyone - retired teachers, poker players, fisherman, cops, and even spends a few days at a white separatist church camp. Benjamin doesn't judge the people he meets but tries to understand them. Benjamin's quest is driven by his sense of u ...more
Actual Rating is 3,5 Stars

This book is a difficult one to rate accurately. A lot of things happened since it's first publication in 2009. It is still informative, hull of well-done humor and on point on many issues. The author has done a good job structuring the material and making it accessible to people of different opinions and views. I would say that it is best not to skim through this book, as many very important statements are just in between the paragraphs. It is better to pay attention i
Elizabeth Gabhart
May 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Benjamin explores racial segregation in America through his case studies of mostly-white suburbs. Interesting book!
while the book covers super white enclaves in America, the reasoning and financial aspects from pre-2008 only give some introductory views on what led to the 2016 elections.
Jun 18, 2018 rated it it was ok
Was great until the concluding chapter, while he flirted with respectability politics and actually used the term “reverse racism.”
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting and not too political, good read.
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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