TED Speaker and Author of Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America
Rich Benjamin is a sharp observer of modern society and politics, speaking thoughtfully to the state of social change in the US. In his first book, Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America, Benjamin embarked on a 27,000-mile, two-year voyage through America’s whitest communities. Selected as an Editor’s Choice by Booklist and the American Library Association, Searching for Whitopia asks America to imagine itself in 2042, when whites are no longer the majority.
Anxious America: Hope, Resentment, and Social Relations in All-White Enclaves
American neighborhoods and politics remain polarized—and are increasingly segregated according to race. White flight, dreams of upward mobility, exclusionary zoning, and racial anxiety have created more and more ‘whitopias’ across the country—places where safety and wholesomeness are often implicitly associated with ‘whiteness’ itself. In order to learn about the hopes and concerns of these enclaves, Rich Benjamin embarked on a 27,000-mile, two-year journey to the whitest, fastest-growing communities in America. What he found were largely friendly places that nevertheless conceal an underbelly of hostility: against immigrants, Muslims, coastal elites, and central government. These are places made up of people who felt pushed out by what they perceived to be broken institutions: think ‘the nuclear family,’ the classroom, the ‘Border,’ the economy, and urban culture.
Leaving behind speculation or sensationalism—and without grievance—Rich Benjamin explores the future of race relations in an increasingly multicultural nation (after all, whites will no longer form the majority by 2042). He speaks thoughtfully to the state of social change in the US, helping diverse audiences navigate contemporary social relations, democracy, and demographics. Perfect for corporate organizations seeking to address workplace diversity, or for college audiences wanting to understand how today’s battles over reproduction, work, taxation, and immigration are waged, Benjamin offers customized, original, and revealing keynotes for anyone seeking a deeper investigation of America today.
Santa Clara University
â€œRich Benjaminâ€™s visit to Santa Clara University was a huge hit. Benjamin gave a terrific talk. He has a knack for raising very sensitive issues in a way that gets beyond tired polarities but that doesn't muffle the key issues of justice and the common good. Plus, he's a great story-teller and he's got a great story to tell.â€
â€œRich Benjamin gave a thought-provoking and compelling presentation of his odyssey through â€œWhitopia.â€ It drew a large audience of Stanford faculty, students, and community members. Benjaminâ€™s talk was followed by a lively question and answer period, and he also met with undergraduates at a special lunch meeting, which generated an in-depth conversation. Benjaminâ€™s visit to our Research Institute was one of the best-attended and highly regarded talks of the academic year.â€
Facing History and Ourselves
â€œRich Benjamin spoke on the last day of our seminar for middle and high school teachers. He did a phenomenal job. I could not have imagined a better summation of our week, since his talked helped guide the difficult conversations that followed. In the evaluations, participants said his talk was one of the highlights. One participant wrote: â€˜I am so thankful that Facing History introduced us to Rich Benjamin, his book, and his research. This was eye opening for me personally and also will become an important element of my teaching.â€™â€
â€œRich Benjamin offered a trenchant and compelling exploration of contemporary white flight. Bridging this trend with current political movementsâ€”e.g., the Tea Partyâ€”Benjamin facilitated a lively and meaningful discussion on the nuances of unconscious racism that continue to shape the American landscape. The audience responded with genuine and palpable appreciation.â€
â€œDr. Benjaminâ€™s speech at the Powell School at The City College of New York was inspirational. He seamlessly tied his thought-provoking work to the everyday lives of our students, and reminded them to live courageously in the face of adversity. His encouraging and open remarks about his career path and personal journey towards a life of activism and civic engagement reinforced our studentsâ€™ commitment to public service and affecting change.â€
Searching for Whitopia
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.
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).
- Exclusives What Are You Reading?: Shetterly, Jackson, and Anand
- Politics When Donald Meets Hillary: James Fallows’ Pre-Debate Atlantic Cover Story
- Innovation Watch: Tech’s Top Innovators Shine on Amber MacArthur’s Bloomberg North
- Authors Margaret Atwood’s Latest? The Stunning Graphic Novel Angel Catbird