Wednesday, November 11, 2009

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

People have always built barricades to keep out "others." Forts, castles with moats, the Great Wall of China come to mind. Today, we lock our doors, punch in security codes, set up video cameras--and many white Americans choose to live in predominantly white communities.

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. The result was Searching for Whitopia.

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).

A sought after speaker, Rich Benjamin lectures on contemporary American politics and culture in the U.S. and Europe and has spoken at esteemed venues such as University of Pennsylvania Law School, Stockholm University, Sweden, the Fulbright Program/Institute for International Education, Brown University, the Exeter Academy, Seattle’s Town Hall, and California’s Commonwealth Club. To book Benjamin for a speaking engagement, contact Jamie Brickhouse via email or by phone (212 207 7136).

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