Peacegal's Reviews > Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America

Searching for Whitopia by Rich Benjamin
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Feb 02, 2010

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Read from March 30 to April 03, 2010

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 predictable. Most are not overtly racist, but they are convinced diverse communities are unsafe. They rail against immigration, but are all to happy to hire Latino immigrants to do menial household labor. They want to return to a 1950s fantasy neighborhood, but since when did Mayberry require a digital access code to enter?

The part of the book I found most compelling was discussion of the touchy subject of class; it seems all is not as calm as it seems in Exburbia:

Driving through Forsyth's subdivisions, I can smell the class anxiety, the unmistakable whiff of people straining to compete in the socioeconomic arms race. There's a striver's complex, that social insecurity unnerving those with something to prove, those desperate not to appear "less than."

And, for what it's worth, that seems to be something affecting us all to a certain degree in this consumer-based economy--black and white, liberal and conservative.

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